Interview: Author of Allow Joy into Our Hearts, Chan Dharma Teacher Rebecca Li, Ph.D.

Feature Contents

    Rebecca Li, Ph.D. is a Chan Buddhist Dharma teacher and founder of the Chan Dharma Community. In her new book Allow Joy into Our Hearts she takes on the question of how to “find ways to allow joy, kindness, and generosity to fill our hearts in the midst of suffering.


    BW: What lead you to the Dharma and meditation?

    RL: I became interested in the Dharma and meditation when I was in graduate school. I came across Eric Fromm’s Escape from Freedom in which he mentioned that some people loved to read a lot in order to escape from freedom and suggested that one should do some meditation instead. I was intrigued by what he said.

    When I met a fellow graduate student who told me that he was practicing meditation, I asked him to recommend a book and to teach me how to meditate. He recommended Mindfulness in Plain English which was a very good first book for me. He taught me how to use the breath method to meditate and I started meditating an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening at that time and found it very helpful.


    Buddha Weekly Rebecca Li Photo Teaching Buddhism
    Rebecca Li, author of Allow Joy into Our Hearts, teaching in Vancouver.


    I also started reading Master Sheng Yen’s Chinese Dharma books. I was able to resonate with his teachings and took refuge with him when he visited Los Angeles a few months after I started meditating and reading his books. I started traveling to New York from California to attend his seven-day intensive retreats in the following year. When I started looking for an academic position, I looked for one near New York so that I could practice with Master Sheng Yen more often and I ended up in New Jersey.

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    BW: You recently released ALLOW JOY INTO OUR HEARTS. Please share a bit about the book. What inspired you to write it? What teaching is your favorite or most helpful to you personally?

    RL: The book is a compilation of Dharma talks given in the weekly Dharma practice sessions I started when the pandemic began in March 2020. Each week, we would meditate together on Zoom, shared the week’s experience in our practice and I would give a Dharma talk at the end addressing what practitioners have been struggling with. When things began to open up in May, we brought the weekly session to an end. One of my students, Lee Harrison, found the talks quite helpful and would like to transcribe the talks in the summer as his practice while our Dharma class was on summer break. We then floated the idea of turning the transcripts into a book, and we did with the help of another student, Beth Adelman, who is a professional editor. The two of them worked with the transcripts to turn them into a book and I asked them to co-author the introduction. It was very much a co-created book.


    Buddha Weekly Allow Joy front cover Final HR Buddhism
    Front cover of Allow Joy into Our Hearts — Chan Practice for Uncertain Times, by Rebecca Li, Ph.D.


    The teaching most helpful to me personally is the teaching of dependent origination. Remembering that each moment is the coming together of many causes and conditions allow us to appreciate how every moment is brand-new and unique and reminds us to be fully present to experience each emerging present moment fully. This helps us unlearn the unhelpful habit of taking the present moment for granted which causes us unnecessary suffering.


    BW: What do you want readers to take away with them after reading ALLOW JOY INTO OUR HEARTS? 

    RL: I would like readers to appreciate the importance of opening our heart fully to the present moment, especially when we are consumed by the fear of uncertainty and the desperate attempt to control that which is out of our control. When we remember to be clearly aware of each emerging present moment, we give ourselves the opportunity to touch the quiet joy of being here, regardless how challenging the situation may be.


    Buddha Weekly Rebecca Li Photo Teaching 2 Buddhism
    Rebecca Li Ph.D. teaching in Vancouver. Rebecca is the author of Allow Joy into Our Hearts and a Chan Buddhist teacher.

    BW: What advice would you give to someone who is curious about Buddhism, but does not know where to begin?

    RL: If you are curious about Buddhism, I suggest reading a couple of Dharma books on how the practice of Dharma teachings is related to our daily life to acquaint yourself with the Buddhist teachings and joining a Dharma practice group with a teacher who can guide you in cultivating Right View and learning to put the teachings into practice in your life circumstances.

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    Also available on Indiebound, Kobo and Barnes & Noble now.

        • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Winterhead Publishing (March 1, 2021)
        • Publication date ‏ : ‎ March 1, 2021
        • Language ‏ : ‎ English
        • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 142 pages
        • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1954564007
        • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1954564008

    About the Book and Author

    More About Allow Joy into Our Hearts by Rebecca Li

    When faced with an event that disrupts every aspect of our lives, how do we avoid succumbing to hopelessness, bitterness, and other destructive habits of the mind, and instead find ways to allow joy, kindness, and generosity to fill our hearts in the midst of suffering? Rebecca Li explains how we can, through the cultivation of clear awareness, transform challenging circumstances into fertile soil for wisdom and compassion to grow by facing each moment with tenderness, clarity, and courage.

    Critical Praise for Allow Joy into Our Hearts

    “You hold in your hands a rare, beautiful, and powerful gift of insight. Allow Joy into Our Hearts is a treasure right from the heart of one of the great teachers of our time. In bringing forth these powerful teachings at this challenging moment in time, Rebecca Li reminds us that each and every moment of our life is unprecedented. If we are willing and able to hold each moment skillfully, carefully, and lovingly; to, as Rebecca says so beautifully, “not have a problem with anything that is arising”,  then each moment becomes a moment in which healing, insight, and transformation is available.

    Allow Joy into Our Hearts feels like a series of warmhearted conversations with a kind and skillful friend who speaks right to the heart. You will want to return to it over and over again for its rich, deep and profound insights. I know I certainly will.”
    Brother Phap Hai, senior Dharma teacher in the lineage of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and author of The Eight Realizations of GreatBeings: Essential Buddhist Wisdom for Realizing Your Full Potential and Nothing To It: Ten Ways to Be at Home with Yourself

    “Rebecca Li shares kind, grounded wisdom for our challenges in Allow Joy into Our Hearts. Her compassionate, clear voice is a balm for our anguished moment. It is a gift to have access to her teachings, and her integrity shines through.”
    Anushka Fernandopulle, Insight Meditation Teacher & member of Teacher’s Council at Spirit Rock Meditation Center

    “Rebecca Li’s humane and down-to-earth teaching style is a balm for the heart. Allow Joy into Our Hearts provides an entirely realistic, easeful approach to practicing the Buddhist path with a smile.”
    Sumi Loundon Kim, Yale Buddhist Chaplain and author of Sitting Together, a Buddhist curriculum for families

    About Rebecca Li, PhD

    Rebecca Li, Ph.D., is a teacher of Chan Buddhism in the lineage of Chan Master Sheng Yen. She is the founder and guiding teacher of Chan Dharma Community, a Chan Buddhist practice and study community made up of individuals committed to cultivating wisdom and compassion for the benefit of all beings.


    Buddha Weekly RebeccaLiPhoto Buddhism
    Rebecca Li, Ph.D., author of Allow Joy into Our Hearts.


    She has two decades of Dharma and meditation teaching experience and has been invited to lead retreats or teach at Buddhist centers in North America, Europe, and Asia. Rebecca is one of the founding board members of The GenX Buddhist Teachers Sangha where she continues to serve as a board member. Rebecca has published and been featured in several Buddhist publications, including TricycleLion’s Roar, and Buddhadharma.

    Rebecca is a sociology professor and lives with her husband in New Jersey. Her talks, guided meditation, and calendar of events can be found at

    More About the book>>




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