Global Buddhist Community Everlasting Master-Disciple affinities

Learning Chan methods and propagating the teachings of the dharma

Rebecca Li, a disciple of the late Master Sheng Yen, learnt Chan Practices from Master Sheng Yen in the US and served as a translator for the Master in many international conferences. Initially skeptical of Buddhism, she is now devoted to the practice of the Path of the Bodhisattva and to the propagation of Chan Buddhism. What causes this change? Below is her story:

“The first 7-day retreat I attended was led by Master Sheng Yen (Shifu). This retreat was amazing and memorable; I couldn’t stop crying during the interview session as I realized that I have finally found the true Chan Master. ”

On January 10, Professor Rebecca Li from the Sociology Department at The College of New Jersey was invited by Dharma Drum Special Lectures to share the story of her journey in embracing Buddhism, titled “Master-Disciple Affinities: Master Sheng Yen and I”.

Rebecca took refuge in the Three Jewels under Master Sheng Yen in 1995. In addition to serving as a translator, she assisted in the publication of the books “Footprints in the Snow” and “Chan Comes West”; she also received dharma transmission from Simon Child in 2016 (Simon Child is one of the Western Dharma Heirs of Master Sheng Yen ) then established the Chan Dharma Community (禪法共修會) dedicated to the propagation of Chan Buddhism.

Altruism is essential to Chan Practice

In order to be closer to Master Sheng Yen in New York as well as to practice Chan and volunteer every weekend at the Chan Meditation Center, Rebecca applied for a teaching position in New Jersey. Her happiest moment was when Master returned from Taiwan every three months. “Every time Master returned, he will ask: How should we spread the Chan method to the Western society?” She was deeply moved by Master’s unceasing effort to promote Chan Methods so that more people could benefit from the practice of Chan.

It was also after learning the Chan Method from Master that she realized that the key to Chan practices is altruism. “Altruism has become a very important part of my life and Chan practices.”

In order to excel as a translator to Master Sheng Yen, Rebecca put in tremendous effort to master Mandarin and to be familiar with Master’s accent, in addition to being conversant in Buddhism and Chan Method; she achieved all these by listening to Master’s dharma talks repeatedly. “This is the greatest blessing; I learnt a lot from Master in this way and it is a great help to my practice.”

Her task as a translator requires her to fully comprehend the precise meaning of Master’s dharma talks, and applies Chan practices accordingly. “I have come to realize that altruism is the key in the practice of a Bodhisattva. Prioritizing the well-being of others reduces our own vexation, which benefits us in return.”

To contribute from our compassionate aspiration

Rebecca recalled that before she travelled to Bangkok to attend the World Council of Religious Leaders, she told Master that she could not sleep on the plane. Master only replied: “Practice”. She followed Master’s instruction, and was fully rested and could immediately attend to her translator tasks upon disembarking.

“This made me realize that the idea of “I couldn’t do it” is just an illusory thought, a constraint formed by our habitual tendency. Therefore, we need to persevere in our practice to overcome such tendency and to be free from illusory thoughts. This valuable lesson is extremely useful, especially at difficult times in my life.”

“Great compassion is the most important thing I learnt from Master.” Master was often ill at the period when the construction of DDM was in full swing; yet, he still fulfilled all the requests and demands made by those in need. In order to build mutual trust and familiarity with other religious leaders, Master was willing to learn to embrace and be embraced. Although such actions did not come naturally, many were touched by Master’s willingness to compromise. It is for these reasons that Rebecca was greatly inspired by Master’s compassion.

Subsequently, Rebecca put an end to her inclination to decline invitations; instead, she started thinking of the benefits that she could bring to others, leading to her taking the initiative to contribute more to society.

Texts: Venerable Yan Hua (釋演化), Dharma Drum Monthly

More info of Dharma Drum Monthly

Photos: Venerable Yan Hua (釋演化); Hu, Li-Gui (胡麗桂)
Translation: Elenda Huang (頤嵐達)
Editing: DDM Editorial Team; Leefah Thong

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