During this last month, I’ve learned so much about teaching the Dharma. I decided to do the Landmark Forum leadership program, after 30 years of resisting. The funny thing is that while I’ve been surrounded by friends who have been involved with the Landmark community, I realized that while working for LEAP Confronting Conflict, a leading organization in the UK, that their whole mission was based on a Landmark model.
While sitting in a room with over a 100 people listening to them say they have the monopoly on truth, that it was urgent for people to do their training, so that they can step out of their stories, I found myself thinking: why don’t I teach the Dharma like this? Why didn’t I ever stand outside Brixton Tube Station and passionately recite some of the suttas along with the Jehovah Witnesses, the Seventh Day Adventists, the Baptist and the Muslims?
What I loved about Landmark was this notion of enrolment, inspiring people with what you are doing, engaging with others about what you believe passionately and sharing the truth of freedom and liberation. I left the weekend being reminded that humans are meaning-making machines, and all we keep on doing is habitually making meaning out of everything. Making meaning out of why the train was late, making meaning out of why somebody didn’t return the text we sent, making meaning out of why we didn’t get the job, or the person we fancied. And if we get this, then we will see so clearly how life is meaningless and empty of all our stories.
This is of course a type of secularized, or popularized, or modern Dharma. The Phena Sutta says it all. The Buddha reminds us that:
‘Form is a like a blog of foam,
Feeling a bubble,
Perception a mirage,
Fabrications a banana tree,
Consciousness a magic trick’
– Extract from the Phena Sutta SN 22.95
This pithy sutta clearly states that that if we become disenchanted with our body, feelings, perception, mental formation and consciousness, that we will find freedom and liberation. And there will be a wholesome unbinding of all our habits, and we will be released from all suffering.
This is what the Dharma has to offer. And, much more, it offers us a way to live our life with much loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity, and without regret. It is one of the most inspirational gifts that a person has ever offered the world. And if you want to go to the source of psychotherapy, of mindfulness, of modern teachings like Landmark, Living Inquiry, Deep Looking, Compassionate Inquiry, it’s all in the Dharma. 2600 years ago the prince Siddartha re-discovered the way, and many of us will discover parts of the way. So come sit with a Dharma practitioner and hear the teachings.