Posted in Tibetan Buddhism

Non-Duality (Or, A Cool Thing I Learned on Retreat)

I’ve been doing Prajna Paramita practice and Feeding Your Demons practice since my return from a retreat at Spirit Rock. Maybe I’m a little slow, but it’s taken me until recently to figure out how they work together.

Both are Tibetan meditation practices that I learned from Lama Tsultrim Allione. Both involve visualization. I think of Prajna Paramita practice as “tantric” because the body position is very precise. Demon Feeding involves moving around. None of this was familiar to me as a Zen practitioner.

Prajna Paramita means “perfection of wisdom.” It is a mantra, an ideal, and, it turns out, an Indian goddess. The practice involves absorbing and becoming the goddess, or in more practical terms, getting in touch with your own inner knowing. Or your Buddha nature. Or your Christ consciousness. Or your subconscious mind. In my personal experience, the practice is teaching me to listen to the still, small voice within and trust it. It’s much easier to follow your intuition when you’ve been channeling a wisdom goddess.

Demon Feeding is a more “feminine” approach to dealing with what ails you. “Demons” are our inner forces that try to undermine us. Examples include depression, addiction, and disease, or global demons like war. They can be anything that stands between us and liberation. The practice of feeding our demons rather than fighting them accomplishes two main goals. It saves the energy we would have spent in the fight. It also turns the demon into an ally.

Lama Tsultrim taught both practices on the retreat, but I really didn’t get how they fit together until I’d been doing them at home for about two and a half weeks. Then it hit me how much I’m willing to trust the process of Demon Feeding because I trust myself more in general as a result of the Prajna Paramita practice.

Resting in my own innate, inner gnosis at the end of Prajna Paramita practice, I’m open to listening to the “large I” (as we say in Zen), and let go of the “small i.” Jung might call it the collective unconscious. For myself, I’m learning to make better decisions. And part of that better decision making has been to listen, really listen, to the voices of my demons and allies during Demon Feeding. I see patterns emerging that I had never noticed before, and I’m a fairly introspective person.

At last, I see the wisdom of learning – and practicing – these two meditation traditions together. When I viewed them as two separate practices, I was grateful to have learned each of them. Now, though, I’m finally getting to the heart of the lesson:

Nothing is separate.


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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