At the completion of the first round of Monthly Online Dharma Study with Rebecca Li on May 13, 2020, practitioners answered the call from Rebecca to contribute to a donation pool to support Rhonda Roland Shearer’s effort to bring quality Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for healthcare workers in NYC on behalf of Chan Dharma Community. Details of Shearer’s effort can be found here and Rebecca’s talk on Shearer’s effort can be found here. This is CDC’s first collective effort to share the benefits of our practice with the surrounding community in a concrete way.
The following was written by Rebecca Li to answer the inquiries regarding the online retreat fee:
Many years ago, someone asked Master Sheng Yen why they charged a retreat fee because the Dharma should be free. Master Sheng Yen responded, “The Dharma is free. But what it takes to offer the retreat is not free. The food and heating and cooling of the facility is certainly not free.” What was left unsaid in Master Sheng Yen’s response is all the costs of supporting the living expenses of Dharma teachers so that they can do the work of sharing the Dharma and all the costs incurred to make it possible for even an online retreat to take place. I only came to know of these costs when I started handling the operation of the retreat center years ago and when I started teaching. For most, these costs remain invisible and thus the question “why charge for retreat.”
I would like to explain why we are charging $50 for the one-day retreat, the same rate charged by DDRC for the online one-day retreat. Participants can pay on a sliding scale based on their financial situation. I don’t want anyone who wants to practice to be turned away because of lack of fund due to job loss or other financial difficulties. So the sliding scale will start from $10 and anyone can give more than $50 if they want. I have given a lot of thought to this topic over the past 2-3 years. This pandemic has brought the financing of Dharma teaching into sharper focus. Many Dharma and retreat centers are in financial difficulty due to the stay-at-home order that resulted in retreat cancellations, depriving them of revenues while the costs to support the teachers and maintain facilities are fixed. The many online opportunities to practice has been offered to support everyone in times of great suffering. I am very concerned that it will breed the belief in practitioners’ minds that making the Dharma available is cost-free. Without the understanding that financially supporting Dharma teaching is crucial, there will be no viable institution to sustain Dharma teaching to be shared with the future generations.
So far, I have been able to finance my Dharma teaching with my own income because I am fortunate enough to have a job and the moral support of my husband and other family members. It is not the case with many Dharma teachers. Since DDRC and many Dharma teachers are also offering online day-long retreats for a fee, I do not feel it would be right for me to offer a retreat for free as I would be inadvertently undermining the survival of many retreat centers and Dharma teachers by so doing. It is important to cultivate the understanding among Dharma practitioners that it is our responsibility to help make it possible for future generations to benefit from Dharma practice, the way past generations of practitioners have done for us in their support of the continuation of Dharma practice, financially and otherwise. Cultivating this understanding and doing our part in fulfilling our responsibility is part of the giving rise to the great Bodhi Mind.
The retreat fees will be used to pay for the costs of operating Chan Dharma Community and the remainder to be donated to a worthwhile cause on behalf of the Chan Dharma Community. Please check out this effort we will be supporting and I have spoken on it in a Dharma talk. A report will be made available for the sake of transparency.
Dr. Rebecca Li started this weekly online practice gathering on March 27, 2020 to support practitioners during the Covid-19 pandemic. The group meets weekly on Friday from 8:30-10 pm E.T. Practitioners has also been invited to share their practice reflections during the the pandemic. You can view the practice reflections here. For inspiring words shared with or found by Rebecca Li, click here. For resources compiled to support practitioners, click here.
8:30-8:50 Guided meditation
8:50-9:15 Participants check in to share the week’s experience
9:15-9:45 Dharma talk and discussion
9:45 Checkout thoughts sharing
9:55 Chanting practice
10 Closing offering
Dharma talk recordings:
4/3/2020 Open our Heart to our Whole Self
4/10/2020 Unconditional Kindness to Ourselves
4/24/2020 Practicing to Suffer Better
5/22/2020 Restoring Meaning to Our Lives
The founding members of our community, a small group of long-time practitioners, began meeting regularly with Rebecca to explore various aspects of Chan practice in Fall 2017. We would agree to read an article or listen to a Dharma talk or research a topic and then reflect on it by practicing with it. We then shared our experiences and reflections and raised questions to be discussed in our gathering on zoom.
Setting our minds in the right direction
The first topic our community studied was the Bodhisattva Path. Having established a proper orientation in our practice, we reflected on and practiced with two of the six paramitas: patience/endurance and generosity. After weeks of meaningful and heartfelt discussions, we were inspired to deepen our understanding of the Four Great Bodhisattva Vows.
Examining our biases and privileges through Chan practice
The early part of 2018 has been devoted to exploring how we can use Chan practice to examine our blind spots that, when remained unacknowledged, can result in thought patterns and actions that cause harm to ourselves and others. We started off with reading the article on Chan Practice and Contemplation on Race and practicing with what resonated with us. We then practiced with Charlene Leung’s “cultural humility” (published in Buddhadharma Spring 2018) to explore the origins of associations we habitually make with various categories to familiarize ourselves with how they arise in our mind. We have been exploring privilege, belonging vs. fitting in while digesting Thanissara’s piece on privilege and power (“Dismantling the Master’s House,” Buddhadharma Spring 2018). In the second quarter, we explored the role of money in our lives and how to practice with it, and this topic brought us to examining our experiences with social class. We are currently working with the precepts.
Dr. Rebecca Li has invited practitioners who have participated in her retreats and expressed interest to deepen their practice to join her in an upcoming series of online Dharma courses. The first course, “Giving Rise to the Bodhi Mind,” began in September 2018. In 2019, Monthly Online Dharma Study with Rebecca Li began in December.