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In Tibetan Buddhism and Bön, Zhitro (Tibetan; Wylie: zhi khro, alternate phonetic transcription: shitro, xitro) or Karling Zhitro (kar gling zhi khro, after Karma Lingpa, the treasure-revealer who (re)discovered it) is the name of a genre of scripture and associated tantric practices primarily concerned with the "Hundred Peaceful and Wrathful Deities". The best-known (though by no means only) example of this genre is "The Great Liberation by Hearing in the Intermediate State," better known in the West as "The Tibetan Book of the Dead".
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A prominent sadhana, or practice text, is part of a group of bardo teachings which are held in the Nyingma tradition to have originated with Padmasambhava in the 8th century and were rediscovered as terma, or 'treasure teachings' in the 14th Century by the tertön Karma Lingpa. The Zhitro mandala teachings were found in the same terma collection as the Bardo Thodol, a text well known in the West as The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
The Dzogchen practice of Zhitro involves viewing the body as a mandala of both peaceful and wrathful deities, the inclusivity promoting awareness in the practitioner of the universality of Buddha-nature. As a subtle body practice using yogic practices to manipulate the lung, or subtle-winds, of the body, this is a completion stage practice of the Inner Tantras. The Lion's Roar Tantric Glossary describes the Zhitro mandala practice:
Zhi-khro is a practice of Tibetan Buddhism involving visualizing the body as a composite of the 108 peaceful and wrathful deities. In the practice, the deities are first visualized in mandalas of 58 peaceful and 42 wrathful deities centered in the heart, throat and crown chakra, and then in all the channels and nadis of the body.
The zhi-khro, which translates as the peaceful and wrathful deities, is considered part of the inner tantra. It is actually a condensed teaching based upon the essential meaning of the Guhyagarbha Tantra combined with the views expressed in the anu and ati yoga teachings. Many great masters have said that the zhi-khro teachings are the inner tantra of the inner tantra. In this case we're not making distinctions among the various inner tantras, nor between the creation and completion stages, but joining them all together. This is the union of rigpa and emptiness, the oneness of birth, death, and life experiences. There is no basis for discriminating because all are aspects of one true nature. Nothing is rejected or exclusively accepted. This teaching is known as the one that unifies everything into a single state.
After succeeding in a variety of feats, including beheading a tiger, she gains access to an elaborate palace where she receives esoteric initiations from several vidyādharas and buddhas. She returns to Chingpu and after a year is robbed by seven bandits whom she then converts to Buddhist practice. She proceeds with the bandits on a magic carpet to the place Oḍḍiyāna where they all receive peaceful and wrathful deity practice (zhitro) initiations from a vidyādhara, who gives her the secret name Kharchen Za and cavorts in bliss with her.
- Coleman, Graham; Padmasambhava, Guru; Jinpa, Thupten; Dorje, Gyurme (2006). The Tibetan book of the dead [English title]: the great liberation by hearing in the intermediate states [Tibetan title]. New York: Viking. ISBN 0-670-85886-2.
- Lion's Roar Tantric Glossary
- Shugchang, Padma (editor); Sherab, Khenchen Palden & Dongyal, Khenpo Tse Wang (2000). A Modern Commentary on Karma Lingpa's Zhi-Khro: teachings on the peaceful and wrathful deities. Padma Gochen Ling. Source: Zhikhro (accessed: December 27, 2007)
- Gyatso, Janet (2006). A Partial Genealogy of the Lifestory of Yeshé Tsogyel. Harvard University. JIATS, no. 2 (August 2006), THDL #T2719, 27 pp. Source: A Partial Genealogy of the Lifestory of Yeshé Tsogyel (accessed: November 16, 2007)
- Shitro 100 Deity Practice: Prayers for the Dying and Understanding the Bardo
- The True Foundation of Practice: By Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche
- Significant detail and listing of the Hundred_peaceful_and_wrathful_deities with their Wylie transcription
- The death ritual as guidance through the Bardo. "Secret Doctrienes of the tibetan book of the dead", Detlef Ingo Lauf, Shambala 1977