Posted in Tibetan Buddhism

Spirit Rock Retreat 2008, Day 3

9:45 AM

Notes from Lama Tsultrim’s talk [Tsultrim Allione]

Jna – ancient Indian goddess of inner knowing. Same root at gnosis. Old Testament Sophia – mentioned in proverbs. Her influence was felt in Europe at the time of Christ, when Prajna Paramita appeared in India. Eruption from the collective unconscious? (Note to self: Look up Sophia; who was this chick?) [Female embodiment of wisdom in Hellenistic philosophy and religion, Gnosticism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholic mysticism, and Protestant mysticism.]

Prajna Paramita is the mother, or source, of all Buddhas. She is the wisdom that we all pass through en route to Buddhahood.

She represents non-dual truth. Her sutra grew to 100,000 lines. People realized it was out of control, and by 500, it was reduced to one sound: Ah…! Later it become the Heart Sutra.

Buddhist deities are symbolic embodiments of enlightened qualities.

We practiced assuming the body positions the goddess is represented in, visualizing the different things she holds.

Notes, Con’t.

The Gnostic gospels state that Christ’s teachings were the transmission of gnosis: inner wisdom, no clergy required.

Vajra: masculine symbol, frequently held by Prajna Paramita. Upper 5 points are the 5 skandas [form, feeling, perceptions, impulses, consciousness]. Lower 5 points are 5 wisdoms (or 5 male Buddhas). Ball in the center is emptiness, where the transformation occurs. The vajra represents masculine skillful means and compassion.

In her other hand, Prajna Paramita holds the Prajna Paramita Sutra, representing the feminine. Her other hands are in the mudra of teaching: relative truth & absolute truth, both hands around the wheel of dharma.

She sits on a lion throne – like Buddha, & Neolithic images of the earth mother goddess.

Dharmakaya – a class of deities who are formless, even though Prajna Paramita is shown as embodied. She is an abstract principle, the feminine matrix.

Other “deities,” like Tara, are not archetypes. They are energy fields we can attune to. They exist whether we believe in them or not, because they made a commitment to be.

Prajna Paramita is golden; south; earth; transformation of pride to wisdom and equanimity.

Namo: Sanskrit for homage.

2:15 PM
Backing up a bit – I got in a run today, right after breakfast. Nearly 2 miles of hills. I walked past the turkeys, just like I do dogs, so they wouldn’t chase me! Also, I passed 3 gorgeous horses several times as I ran out & back twice.

I went back to the bookstore. Nothing speaks to me for Michael. But I did get myself a pendant with White Tara on one side and Green Tara on the other. It was affordable, & the nice lady gave me a cord for it. It turns out I didn’t need her assistance: purchases are on the honor system. Put your credit card info on the form & slip it in the slot! Amazing.

5:07 PM
I took a nap this afternoon! I kept dozing off during the 2:30 sit, I had a headache, & my legs hurt even though I moved from the floor to a chair earlier today. (Too late on the chair, apparently.) So I let my body & mind rest.

6:30 PM
I’m looking at the handout from Lama Tsultrim, and her center – Tara Mandala – is in Pagosa Springs, CO. I spend a week in Pagosa Springs once. What are the odds? The wheel of karma, perhaps?

6:50 PM
Notes from Lama Tsultrim’s talk

Prajna Paramita is no thing in herself, but has the potential to “give birth” to everything.

“Womb of totality” – awareness of the vastness of space.

Meditation: turns the universe around – by stopping our habitual, destructive, grasping behaviors, & turning them around.

Instinct is karmic patterning. The body we end up with is important. Cats want to kill. “As soon as you get a cat body, you’re going to want to kill things.”

The bodhisattva vow can never be accomplished. The work never ends. “It’s like working in the Post Office.”

9:11 PM
Tsultrim finished giving us transmission of the Prajna Paramita practice. It has the potential to be very powerful in my life.

I’m wearing my new Tara talisman to bed tonight. I want to infuse it with the energy of the sacred feminine, like charging a battery. When I got here, I was wearing a wonderful pendant Ron & Julie gave me, covered in symbols of many faiths. I was drawing energy from it, as it came charged with their love, when I got to this new place. But I’m home, here, now, and comfortable. For a while this afternoon, I was wearing both. Now it’s just Tara.

It is a widespread Buddhist custom to stand when senior teachers come in & out of the room. In Zen, we do it for Zen Masters. Tibetans do so for Lamas. I had stood for both Zen Masters and Lamas before – all of them male. It occurred to me today that Tsultrim is the first woman teacher I’ve stood for. I have very confusing emotions around this [that it’s never happened before], so I’m not going to make anything by thinking about it. I have noted it & will move on.

I feel a strong kinship with the different teachers in training here. They keep time during meditation, serve their teachers water, record the talks, & follow their teachers into group interviews. Some of the duties are similar to what I do at my Zen Center. These women will be my contemporaries in teaching the dharma, if we all stay the path.

I had a snack after work meditation in the kitchen today. (How did they get purple cauliflower, anyway?) I had a thin corn cake with organic peanut butter and 1/2 cup soymilk. I’m hungry constantly here, & I’m hoping this will keep me from waking up hungry. I don’t think the food is very well nutritionally balanced. They are trying to accommodate people’s allergies, and with only about 100 people to feed including staff and teachers, they can’t offer a lot of options. If I work on getting some protein snacks during the day, I think I’ll be okay.


Ven. Dr. Myodo Jabo (Sandy Gougis) is a Zen Master and Priest in the Five Mountain Zen Order. She began studying Theravâdin Buddhism in 1998, adding Zen in 2003, and Vajrayana Buddhism in 2008. She currently practices in both the Zen and Tibetan traditions. Her Zen teacher is Most Ven. Wonji Dharma of the Five Mountain Zen Order, and her Tibetan guru is Lama Tsultrim Allione of Tara Mandala. In her free time, Myodo enjoys painting, jewelry making, and other creative endeavors.

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