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Three-Day Chan Retreat at Dharma Drum Vancouver Centre

This retreat just passed was my third with Dr. Rebecca Li. To date I have attended two three-day retreats, including this one, and a ten-day retreat she co-lead with Dr. Simon Child. As has always been in the past, this Three-Day Chan Retreat was well run, insightful and moving.

As usual the volunteers and Monastics were instrumental in making this retreat possible. As usual it ran like clockwork, and most importantly the food was great. The level of commitment in Dharma Drum never ceases to amaze me.

Three-day retreats are a great vehicle for busy people in these busy times who can’t get away for a longer retreat. They are also good stepping stones for beginners; a way to prepare for longer more intensive retreats. Dr. Li was particularly sensitive to the needs of this audience. We got to sleep in!!!! Until 5:30!!! Instruction was detailed and comprehensive. There is a technology to sitting, and time was set aside to make sure that technology was well understood by those new to Chan.

As for those more experienced, going over the details of sitting; the details of posture and attitude, is always helpful. For me it’s less a review than a deepening of insight. There are levels of understanding. It never ceases to amaze me how some detail that I thought I understood and internalized thoroughly, seen in a new and different light, can lead to deepened insight and positive changes in practice.

One of the themes of this retreat was bringing Chan into our day to day life. We often get caught up in words like Karma, Nirvana and Enlightenment. It all becomes ethereal and otherworldly. We forget that Siddhārtha Gautama’s quest was to find the end of the common human condition of suffering. It was this quest that took him down the road to Buddhahood. Chan has always looked to make Buddhism ordinary, but still these old writings can seem to come out of a distant and less than relevant past.

Dr. Li is both a sociologist and a second generation Dharma Heir of Chan Master Sheng yen. She is also well versed in both eastern and western cultures. This makes her uniquely capable in bringing the Dharma to life in our modern world. We examined relationships, first with ourselves through our sitting, and then our relationships with those around us. We looked at ways of bringing our practice into our day to day lives in an effort to help others as well as ourselves. The three days were full of ways to make our practice relevant and continuous in our day to day lives.

My hope is that we will see Dr Li again next year. I wonder what it would take to convince her to do a 7-day retreat?

Written by Tom Kaczmarski

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