Experience sharing

The Open Path to Liberation for Everyone

I recently attended a one-day online retreat, hosted by Vancouver Chan Meditation Centre (VCMC) and led by Dr. Rebecca Li. I first met Dr. Li during a residency at Great Vow Zen Monastery in Oregon in the summer of 2022 and was fortunate to be present for an evening dharma talk she gave. I deeply appreciated the clarity and simplicity with which she presented basic Buddhist teachings, particularly her presentation on Right View. When we had the opportunity to meet informally in the dining hall, Dr. Li's generosity in listening and responding to the students' questions was very moving to me. Right away it was apparent that I had met a genuine teacher of the Dharma, and I resolved to stay in touch.

I've known about VCMC since 2017, when I first met a man named Kwok Wing Lai while riding the bus in Victoria who had studied with Master Sheng Yen in Taiwan, and had since emigrated from Hong Kong to Victoria. He initiated a conversation with me when he saw that I was reading the Platform Sutra of Huineng. Having practiced exclusively with a local Zen community in a Japanese lineage, I had almost no exposure to contemporary Chan before meeting Wing. I was very interested to learn that VCMC was there and offered retreats, and have kept the intention to visit and practice with the community in the years since. Meeting Dr. Li at Great Vow, the causes and conditions finally came together.

The one-day retreat was a wonderful and enriching experience. Dr. Li's instructions to the group were consistent, clear, and practical, speaking to practitioners of diverse experience levels. What stood out to me the most was her strong encouragement to maintain clear awareness of subtle bodily sensations through all activities throughout the day, and her tireless reminders to "stay with the process" at those moments when participants' attention was most likely to scatter, such as during movement, work, or at the end of meditation sessions.

In her dharma talk, Dr. Li elucidated the connection between the practices taught in the morning's guided meditations and the fundamental Buddhist teachings of suffering, its causes and cessation. Dr. Li is gifted in communicating these basics of the Buddhist path in language that is easily understood. It was clear that she spoke directly from her own experience of each of these aspects of reality, which instills great confidence in me that this path is truly liberating and open to everyone.

In the days following this retreat, I feel thankful for my teachers and for the companionship of fellow practitioners on the path. I am grateful to the sangha at VCMC and Dr. Rebecca Li for offering this retreat, and I look forward to the next opportunity to practice together.

Written by Hoshin Benny Baird 2023.02.28
Photo: Vancouver Chan Meditation Centre 2023.02.28