Rebecca received full Dharma transmission from Simon Child and became the second-generation Dharma heir of Chan Master Sheng Yen in the Dharma Drum Lineage of Chinese Chan Buddhism that combines the Linji and Caodong lines received by Chan Master Sheng Yen. Her Dharma name is Zhi-deng Fa-chuan, Wisdom Lamp, Dharma Transmitting. The transmission ceremony was held after the 10-day Silent Illumination retreat co-led by Simon Child and Rebecca Li ended on June 5, 2016. Simon Child’s first Dharma heir, Fiona Nuttall, from the United Kingdom was also in attendance.
Below is the full transcript of the transmission ceremony held in the Chan Hall of Dharma Drum Retreat Center, witnessed by all participants of the 10-day Silent Illumination retreat, resident monastics and volunteers for the retreat in the Chan Hall as well as the Director.
Transcript of the Dharma Transmission Ceremony
Simon Child passing lineage transmission to Rebecca Li, making her his second Dharma heir
June 5, 2016 at the end of the Silent Illumination Intensive retreat at the Dharma Drum Retreat Center.
SIMON: In giving Dharma transmission to Rebecca, I’m appointing her as a fully authorized Chan teacher and I am passing the Dharma Drum Mountain Chan lineage to her. Not all of you understand about becoming a Dharma heir so I’ll explain in some detail. Shifu (Chan Master Sheng Yen) appointed two levels of Dharma heir; you can read his criteria for this in the book “Chan Comes West” 2nd edition. Regarding those two levels, to avoid any doubt I want to confirm that Shifu awarded me the full transmission which gives me greater authorization than might otherwise be the case, including the authorization to give transmission to Rebecca in this way. The transmission that I’m giving to Rebecca is also the full transmission, the same as mine. This level of transmission authorizes Rebecca to teach at the highest level. She could lead seven-day, ten-day, forty-nine day retreats, whatever she feels is appropriate for the practitioners she is teaching. This also authorizes her to assess people’s experience of practice and to verify their experience of seeing the nature. This also authorizes her to transmit the Dharma and the lineage to her own future Dharma heirs.
I’m able to give her transmission at this level on the basis of her own past experience of Chan. I was very pleased on one retreat here with Rebecca to be able to confirm her experience of seeing the nature, in this very hall, in the interview room several years ago. I was also maybe even more pleased that she did not attach to the experience; she simply continued her practice and has deepened and stabilized her insight over the years since then.
I think many of you know that she has a strong commitment to the Dharma. Over many years from the late nineties onwards she was a regular translator for Shifu on many of his retreats and also traveled with Shifu to conferences, including international conferences, to translate for him. She is a strong supporter of Shifu’s mission to transmit Chan to the West; as another small example she’s been a board member of this retreat center from the beginning of its incorporation. There are many other ways in which Rebecca has been a strong supporter of the Dharma and in particular of Shifu’s teaching.
As well as attending many retreats with Shifu, both as participant and as translator, she has attended over twenty retreats with either John Crook or myself, mainly at this center here in retreats we’ve been leading since 2001. She’s also traveled to the United Kingdom and to Poland to practice on retreat with us. She is a very experienced practitioner.
In terms of teaching she is one of the smallish group of people who received extra individual tuition from Shifu in teaching the Dharma and in giving meditation instruction. Based on that training, for many years she has already been teaching, giving meditation instruction and Dharma talks at the Chan Meditation Center and at the New Jersey chapter, and leading three day retreats here and elsewhere. These are just some examples; there are many of them. In addition, over a few years Rebecca has trained with me in giving interviews on retreat and in leading longer retreats, and as you can see her teaching is very effective. I am no longer supervising her interviews and teaching, she is doing it independently; we are co-leading this retreat. When I have observed her I have always been very impressed by her teaching skills and her sensitivity during interviews. I’ve received many good reports on her teaching; I’ve heard some good feedback just this morning, to add to the long list.
I’ve also known her well in a personal sense over the fifteen years I’ve been coming here, because very often she and her husband David invite me to stay at their home for a couple of days before or after a retreat and we might have some trips together. Eighteen months ago we went up to Vermont together for the Fall color. Also Rebecca came with us on one of our trips to China. So I’ve had many times to mix with Rebecca in a non-retreat context. One of Shifu’s criteria for someone to be a Dharma heir is that they have a stable personality and are an ethical person. Knowing Rebecca as well as I do I have absolutely no concerns at all, I have complete confidence in her suitability for receiving the transmission.
It is a simple ceremony – essentially I present her with the robe. The passing of the robe symbolizes the Dharma transmission. Along with the transmission I also give her a transmission name. This was created following the traditional method which is described in the book “Chan Comes West”; there’s a footnote there which explains how these names are created by taking words from a particular verse and so on. Her name in Chinese is Zhi-deng Fa-chuan, “Wisdom Lamp Dharma Transmitting.” So now I’ll pass Rebecca the robe and that will be the actual transmission.
REBECCA: In the year 2000 Master Sheng Yen, our Shifu, led a forty-nine day retreat here in what is now our dining hall. During the retreat I was one of Shifu’s two translators. I remember that one of the things that Shifu kept saying over and over again, sometimes joking but actually quite serious, was “I, too, want to be a lineage master.” What he meant was that he was trying to inspire all of us to give rise to the great vow and Bodhi mind – that we will vow to devote our lives to the practice for the benefit of all sentient beings. Later that year Shifu gave transmission to Simon. At that time Shifu had already given transmission to John Crook, his very first lay Dharma heir, giving him the responsibility to make Chan teaching accessible to people in the modern time who have been receiving a more westernized education and find it difficult to practice with the traditional instructions of Chan. John Crook took this responsibility seriously and had devoted his life to finding ways to make the practice accessible. In addition to his innovation of the Western Zen Retreat which makes huatou practice accessible for us moderns, he also worked tirelessly in collaboration with Simon over the years to find ways to present and teach silent illumination practice and huatou practice so that we can understand how to practice those methods effectively.
They also worked tirelessly together to figure out how to train a new generation of teachers (who very often live lay lives in the modern world in very different situations) so it is possible for us to carry on the practice and preserve the lineage. Simon has taken this responsibility seriously. He has identified suitable people to train with him; Fiona, my Dharma sister, his first Dharma heir, received transmission last year. With the transmission from Simon to Fiona, Shifu’s wish to become a lineage master has been fulfilled.
Because of his great vows and Bodhi mind Shifu devoted his entire life to share the benefits of Buddhadharma with all sentient beings, finding whatever way possible to teach the Dharma and also to find Dharma heirs who can pass on the lineage and teaching. Simon has followed Shifu’s example in practicing and teaching the Dharma but also trying to find suitable people and training them tirelessly. He even took on the arduous task of training someone with dull roots like myself and I’m deeply humbled by his patience and great vow and Bodhi mind. Like Shifu, Simon with his Bodhi mind and great vow has inspired many people to take on this path of practice. Without his tireless effort this practice that we have to rediscover over and over again may not continue and the lineage may not be passed on. So I’m deeply grateful for the work that Simon has done for all sentient beings and I’d like to invite everyone to join me to do three prostrations in deep gratitude, and one more prostration for Shifu. Thank you.