Illumination: A Guide to the Buddhist Method of No-Method (Paperback)

Illumination: A Guide to the Buddhist Method of No-Method By Rebecca Li Cover Image

Illumination: A Guide to the Buddhist Method of No-Method (Paperback)


Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
A modern guide to the transformative practice of silent illumination from Chan Buddhist teacher Rebecca Li.

Silent illumination, a way of penetrating the mind through curious inquiry, is an especially potent, accessible, and portable meditation practice perfectly suited for a time when there is so much fear, upheaval, and sorrow in our world. It is a method of reconnecting with our true nature, which encompasses all that exists and where suffering cannot touch us.

The practice of silent illumination is simple, allowing each moment to be experienced as it is in order to manifest our innate wisdom and natural capacity for compassion. It can be integrated into all aspects of daily life and is meaningful for secular and Buddhist audiences, new and seasoned meditators alike.

After guiding readers through the history and practice of silent illumination, Rebecca Li shows us how we can recognize and unlearn our “modes of operation”—habits of mind that get in the way of being fully present and engaged with life. Cultivating clarity on the empty nature of these habits offers us a way to unlearn and free ourselves from unhelpful modes such as harshness to self, perfectionism, quietism, striving for spiritual attainment, and more.

Illumination offers stories and real-life examples, references to classic Buddhist texts, and insights from Chan Master Sheng Yen to guide readers as they practice silent illumination not just on their cushions, but throughout their lives.
REBECCA LI, PhD, is a meditation and Dharma teacher in the lineage of Chan Master Sheng Yen and founder and guiding teacher of Chan Dharma Community. She gives Dharma talks and leads Chan retreats in North America and Europe. She is also a sociology professor and lives with her husband in New Jersey. Her talks, writings, and schedule can be found at
Product Details ISBN: 9781645470892
ISBN-10: 164547089X
Publisher: Shambhala
Publication Date: October 31st, 2023
Pages: 280
Language: English
“Rebecca Li’s teachings are deep, lucid, and accessible. She helps undo the habits blocking realization of our naturally radiant, awake being.”
Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance

“In Illumination, Rebecca Li offers a beautiful expression of the profound path of Chan Buddhism introduced to her by her root teacher, Chan Master Sheng Yen. These clear yet powerful teachings are for anyone looking to deeply engage in an authentic path of liberation. Li’s deep embodiment of these teachings along with her skillfulness as a teacher and lineage holder have produced a text that will be appreciated for years to come.”
Lama Rod Owens, author of Love and Rage

“Silent Illumination provides a way of delving into the thoughts and emotions that arise in us with a curiosity and acceptance that is spacious and freeing. Li guides readers through this practice with precision and grace, encouraging a deep appreciation for the humanity that exists in direct lived experience.”
Sharon Salzberg, author of Real Change

“An invaluable guide for both Dharma students and Dharma teachers. Dr. Li shares the insights she has developed as the Dharma granddaughter of, and longtime translator for, the renowned Chan Master Sheng Yen. With a lucid writing style, she clarifies the practice of Silent Illumination (shikantaza in the Japanese tradition) and outlines the potential snares that are encountered on the path to awakening, as well as the remedies. Each chapter illuminates mind habits that cause difficulty to earnest meditation students, including craving mode (striving for enlightenment), aversion mode (trying to eliminate thoughts completely), trance mode (cultivating a peaceful but foggy mind state), intellectualization mode (substituting concepts for direct experience), quietism mode (dwelling in a cave of no thoughts), and forgetting-emptiness mode (belief in someplace to arrive at and dwell in).This book is certain to have lasting value as Dharma practice continues to unfold in the West.”
Roshi Jan Chozen Bays, co-abbot of Great Vow Zen Monastery and author of Mindful Medicine and Mindfulness on the Go

“Rebecca Li's Illumination is a luminous guide to a profoundly positive approach to living. One feels her trust in the natural goodness of her readers, and in their ability to know it themselves. She elegantly weds the ancient teachings on Silent Illumination to contemporary life, and her own wise voice with the voices of her teachers, including the venerable Chan Master Sheng Yen.”
Ben Connelly, Soto Zen priest and author of Inside Vasubandhu's Yogacara and Mindfulness and Intimacy.

“As a young meditation student, Rebecca Li was told by her teacher, Master Sheng Yen, that she would help a lot of people. She is certainly doing that. In this timely and beautiful book—coming at a moment of deep complexity in our world—Rebecca offers us an essential practice and an important reminder: meditation at its core, rather than being a process of striving and elimination, can be a transformative practice of bringing openhearted curiosity to the totality of our moment-to-moment experience just as it is. She reminds us that the capacity to sit with full and openhearted attention is already the fruit of the practice that we have been so desperately striving for. Illumination is a treasure of the heart that you will return to again and again as you walk your path. 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 Great Beings

“How can we cultivate moment-to-moment clarity to experience the peace that is always available to us, no matter what is happening? This book is like warm-hearted encouragement and support from a trusted friend who travels with us on the path of spiritual transformation.”
Mushim Patricia Ikeda, Buddhist teacher and author

“After introducing readers to the essential components of silent illumination, chapters on the ‘modes of operation,’ including craving and trance, help us halt reactivity and see contentment as our natural state of being.”

“Direct and lucid. . . . Li’s insights are grounded not just in the teachings of Sheng Yen, but also in classic Buddhist texts and life itself.”
Lion’s Roar

“Reading this book is like having a wise and compassionate companion at your side, encouraging you to make progress on the path towards a wiser, more expansive view of existence, for the benefit of all.”

“Insightful and refreshing. . . . I am very impressed with this approach to identifying problems that students have in zazen.”
Shinshu Roberts, co-founder of Ocean Gate Zen Center

“An impressively informative and thoroughly ‘reader friendly’ resource.”
Midwest Book Review

“Many practitioners who are new to meditation—and even some who have been meditating for quite some time—tend to think that meditative practice must involve stopping thoughts or blocking mental activity altogether. But Rebecca Li’s Illumination skillfully demonstrates that this is a misconception. . . . Using clear, relatable, real-world examples, this book invites readers to put the teachings of Silent Illumination into practice, allowing our minds to be fully present as they are.”

“A remarkable manifesto for the relevance of Silent Illumination in avoiding suffering and living in the world with wisdom and compassion. Highly recommended.”
New Chan Forum