Watch this beautiful teaching from the Summer Festival of Love 2012 “Loving Your Way to Enlightenment” by Marc Gafni on Dharma and read the transcript below:
Transcript of Marc Gafni’s Teaching on Dharma
Marc Gafni: When I say going into the Dharma, what do I mean? Do I mean that we are going to be in a university class? No. What I mean is Dharma. So what does it mean? Anyone?
Marc Gafni: Okay, which might be true in a university class as well.
PERSONS: Deeper calling. / Vision. /Wisdom. /Transmission. /From the heart, from within. /A path. /Coming together in the Dharma.
Marc Gafni: There’s a deeper calling in the teaching, and wisdom, yeah. Who said transmission? The Dharma comes from inside, your inner-self response to it, right? And there’s a coming together in the Dharma. The Dharma is spirit, living spirit, in the same way that love is living spirit, that chant is living spirit, that Shikantaza and meditation are living spirit.
Dharma is not words; Dharma is not about the mind, even though we’re using the mind. There’s this crazy New Age idea that spread through the Western world that “wow, we’re having an experience, but for now, we’re just using the mind.” That’s nonsense, right? Dharma is the mind part, the embodied expression of spirit. So you respond to Dharma not just with your mind; your body knows whether Dharma is true, your body can feel it. The book of Job: “Through my body I vision God.” Your body knows if a Dharma’s true, your heart knows if a Dharma’s true, your mind can respond.
So when we engage in Dharma, like these mornings, we’re not doing a university lecture, we’re doing Dharma. We’re engaging whole heart, body and mind in getting a sense of the story of reality, of the grand narrative of reality, of the meta picture, of the patterns that connect. Do you begin to feel that? Let me give you a sentence, tell me if this sentence works for you: “One of the great yearnings in the year 2012 is a yearning for the patterns that connect.” Does that sentence make sense to you?
You’re looking at me like: “Who is he? What am I doing here?” Do you know what I mean by ‘the patterns that connect’? Meaning: outside of a beautiful experience, outside of a nice moment. I love the trees here, I chanted, I enjoyed the exercise, but do I have a sense of the bigger picture that I’m living in? The work that I’m hoping to do for many years in the future with Mauk is about the patterns that connect: What’s the overarching picture? Where am I living?
Until about 200 years ago, every single person in the entire fucking world had a sense of the patterns that connect. Because people lived inside what I’m going to call meta systems. Does that word make any sense? Meta system meaning a large system that explains everything, right? “This is how it works: this is how sexuality works, this is how government works, this is how power works, this is how Nature works.” There were meta systems, and what were the systems called? Anyone?
PERSONS: Religion. / Ideologies.
Marc Gafni: So religions had ideologies. And when religions disappeared, new ideologies like Marxism, Leninism rose in their place. Now, what have we done? We have partially correctly and partially incorrectly leveled all the meta systems, right? We took all the religions and we said: “They went a little too far.” They claimed too much, they thought they knew too much which they didn’t know. They said: “Wow, this is what we see through the telescope,” and then Galileo looked at the telescope and said: “No, that’s not what we see.” And religion said: “We’ll tell you how many bones are in the human body,” because there is a dogma of the Church which tells you how many bones are in the human body. Then along came the Renaissance, we dissected the human body, and there was a different number of bones. Interesting, right?
In modernity, we demanded evidence. And so when religions overreached and claimed to know things they didn’t really know, religions fell to the wayside. Then new ideologies came in their place. Communism was a great ideology, but it fell because it didn’t test time, it didn’t work, it didn’t practically apply.
So what do we know today, where are we today? Most people aren’t sure. Most people say: “Well, I know a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and I have that intuition, I have that nice teacher.” But do I have a picture of the world? No. Actually, most liberal teachers say today that you can’t have a picture of the world, there is no meta narrative. The only grand narrative for most liberal teachers in the world today is that there is no grand narrative. You follow that? That’s not true. What’s actually true is that we can take from every field of knowing its deepest understanding. We take the best of all the great traditions, we take the best of science, the best of neuroscience, the best of psychology, the best insights of Buddhism, of Kabbalah, of Sufism, of economics, and we weave them together and begin to get a new meta narrative. Does that make sense to everyone?
WOMAN: You didn’t mention Christianity; does it belong to it also?
Marc Gafni: Absolutely, the best insights of Christianity. I was just kind of rattling off a few religions there; I missed a few, okay?
WOMAN: I have a problem of whom to talk to regarding what is ‘best’.
Marc Gafni: How do we know who is the best? Let’s say the deepest, best thinkers that are recognized in each field. I wouldn’t get caught up on that, don’t worry about whether it’s these three or those three. In every field, there’s a kind of general consensus. So for example, in Christianity, there are four or five basic insights that everyone recognizes: “Wow, Christianity is really good at that.” For example: forgiveness. Forgiveness is a technology that was developed by Christianity; Jews were not so good at that. “Really? Forgive them? Fuck off!” Buddhism isn’t so good at forgiveness, Buddhism’s really good at watching the mind. Sufism is not bad at watching the mind, but really good at ecstatic love. Each system has something that it’s really good at and has really developed. Kabbalah, for example, has brilliant meditations, but that really wasn’t its field. Its field was tracing the evolutionary unfolding of ideas and how you participate, how we’re obligated to do to ‘tikun’, to fix and heal the world. Kabbalah was actually activist, in its core mysticism.
So every great system has what it’s really good at. When you link them together, taking the deepest intuition of all the systems, the approximately deepest, and putting them together, you begin to get, for the first time, a big picture. You begin to see the patterns that connect. We’re engaged in what we call the Center for World Spirituality. We’re doing some of that work here at Venwoude, some of it in the United States and some of it in a bunch of places in the world, and we call it a reconstructive project. After all knowledge has been deconstructed, meaning undermined, there’s no grand narrative left, and now we’re saying: “Let’s reconstruct, let’s rebuild, after everything has been leveled. Let’s see what’s left, and let’s take the deepest knowings from every system, link them together and begin to have a story that’s a shared story in humanity.”
Now if you’re not jumping out of your seat after that sentence, you are not alive in this world, you do not get it. Because actually, for the first time, the whole world is talking to each other; there’s virtual communication, everyone is linked, and for the first time in history, there’s no shared story – wow! There’s no shared narrative, no shared understanding about the nature of reality: God – no God; maybe – maybe not; love – what does it mean, who knows? Values could be yes, could be no, meaning: values, meaning, purpose, spirit. We don’t have a shared story. And when I say ‘a shared story,’ I don’t mean a shared religion, does everyone get that? We don’t want one religion, no! But we want a shared story that all the great systems – psychology, science, religion, social sciences – relate to, so they all have a shared conversation that they can have together.
Because if we don’t have a shared conversation between all these great systems, what’s going to happen? Disintegration! Actually complete, absolute disintegration. The world is completely linked, but there’s not a shared vision, no shared story, not a shared sense of the patterns that connect.
Chahat: And all the partial stories have gone wrong.
Marc Gafni: All the partial stories, which claimed to be the whole story, were revealed to be not enough. I know, “Yesterday he was talking about the holy ‘yes’, then we did love, and now I’m in the middle of this deep theoretical conversation, what happened?” We are going back into love, but I really want you to have this context; this context is really important. Most teaching and most teachers take their way of doing it, their insights, and say: “This is it.” Satsang, this is it! Somatic Experiencing, this is it! Integral theory, this is it! This form of Kabbalah, that’s it! Mondo Zen, that’s it! No, none of them are it; each one is part of the story.
When you link the parts, you begin to get a whole vision. When you begin to get a whole vision, you begin to get a whole person, you begin to get a whole world. So the whole world is like an orchestra, a symphony, and in the symphony, there should be lots of instruments. Every instrument should play its part beautifully, but every instrument should realize that we are an instrument, we are not the music. Because when the instrument says: “I’m the music,” it stops listening to the other instruments, and the ego tries to drown all the instruments out. So we need to actually create a symphony in which all the instruments are listening to each other, they all realize we are all playing music, but the music comes out different because it’s played through these different instruments.
So neuroscience becomes an instrument, and Kabbalah becomes an instrument, and Developmental Theory and Somatic Experiencing and psychoanalysis, and then we weave the instruments. So the place that we are coming from when we say that this retreat is about love, is world spirituality. I’m not going to talk to you about world spirituality at all other than these 10 minutes.
World Spirituality says that we can actually weave a new vision, and with this new vision we can create a reconstructive project, we can reconstruct reality, we can once again have a big vision. And that big vision has room for all the small visions, but it’s a larger picture, and without that larger picture we don’t actually have a language to talk to each other, we don’t actually have a shared world.
WOMAN: So in this story, what is your vision on all these groups that have certain truths? This weekend in the newspapers it was all about the Mormons.
Marc Gafni: The Mormons? Well, they are right, actually. I meant to share this with you, for a moment I forgot that the Mormons were actually right. But I’m talking about except for the Mormons, the Mormons have got to go on, man, are you kidding?
PERSON: But where are we? Are we at the forefront of…?
Marc Gafni: Great, let’s put it this way: 70% of the world today believes that they have the whole story. So 70% of the world today lives in a fundamentalist system that believes that ‘our truth’ is the whole truth. Of the remaining 30%, about 28-29% believes in some form of relativism, meaning there is no real truth, everything is just your perspective, just your opinion. And 1-2 %, which is the leading edge of the leading edge of the world, is trying to integrate a larger picture that includes all of the partial truths. Because actually, no one’s smart enough to be totally wrong. [LAUGHTER]
You get that? No one’s smart enough to be totally wrong!
Okay, so all the partial truths have some truth, but each part says: ”I am a whole.“ So when in the body a part says “I’m a whole,” what happens? Cancer, of course! When in the body a part says “I’m a whole,” the body gets destroyed and that’s like wild. So in the world, when a part or a system says: “I have the whole thing,” here begins some seed of destruction. You have a cell in your body and the cell says: “I’m tough, I’m cool,” right? And then it metastasizes, it ignores the rest of the body and the body is destroyed.
Let me give you one other image. What’s extremism? Do extremists believe in bad things? What do extremist believe in? Extremist believe that they are right, but what about their beliefs? I’ll give you an example: abortion. There’s two great camps in the world of abortion, one is called Pro Life, the other one is called Pro Choice.
Now the extremists who are Pro Life say that a woman can never have an abortion, even if she’s, God forbid, been raped by her father a week ago. So there’s no baby, yet nonetheless she’s not allowed to have an abortion because there’s already life. Does that sound like an extreme position? Sure does to me.
What are the extreme Pro Choice people say? They say even if a woman is five months pregnant, the baby hasn’t been born and she decides that’s summer time and a bikini just doesn’t look good with the baby, it’s her body, her choice, so she just gets having an abortion. Does that sound extreme? Sure does to me.
Okay, the extremists on the Pro Life side, what value are they in favor of? Life! Who in this room is against life? So what does extremism say? “You can’t have too much of my value.” You get it? They take one value, which should be part of a whole, and they take it out of the whole. They say: “My part is the whole.” So the value of life itself is no longer a part, it’s now a whole. What happens when a part pretends to be a whole? You get extremism. What does extremism produce? Suffering and some form of evil. Cancer in the body politic, right?
Now what about the Pro Choice people? How many people in this room are against choice? But the Pro Choice people say: “We are going to take our value, choice, out of the larger constellation of values. We’ll set it up as an independent value and we’ll say: ’Our value rules.’” That’s extremism, okay? So any religion that says “we’re it” is saying: “We take our system, which is a part, an instrument in the symphony, we take it out of the symphony and now it’s playing a solo. And everyone else has to listen and love that solo. And if you don’t listen and love my solo, we may kill you.”
It’s a big deal. It’s either you’re part of Dar al-Harb or Dar al-Islam. You’re part of the sword or you’re part of fundamentalist Islam or fundamentalist Christianity. Etcetera, in every religion, I’m not going to mention them all. Okay, this can be my last philosophical discourse this week, just one, for a half hour. It’s just because a lot of people asked me yesterday: “What’s the World Spirituality thing?”
World Spirituality says: “Let’s create a big picture, a symphony, in which every instrument gets to play, but every instrument has to listen to every other instrument, and then the music comes together. From the diversity comes music. Wow, that’s a pretty stunning image. Imagine that we were able for the first time in history to have a shared story, that China, Holland, Micronesia – wherever that is – that every country in the world said: “Wow, we have our own instrument, but we’re part of a shared story.” You know what that would do? Do you know why we can’t solve the environmental problems? Because they are global, and we don’t have a global story.
Actually, virtually every problem facing the world today, for the first time in the history of planet Earth, is global. The challenge is to love in the world today, and this week is about love. The challenge is to love through suffering of every kind: disease, economic inequality, hunger, starvation, environmental disaster, every single one of those problems. And that everyone wake up: “Good morning, Vietnam.” Every single one of those problems is not local but global.
Was that true 100 years ago? No, our grandparents didn’t really know what a global problem was. Unless it happened to be a war that erupted twice, so there were two World Wars, but that was unusual, and they didn’t actually involve half of the world. Today, every challenge to love, in the world today, is global. That’s wild! So if you can’t have a global conversation, if there’s not a shared framework of meaning, we’re fucked completely and absolutely. We will never solve any issue, any problem.
I’m going to hold here, actually; I’m going to end this, but think about it for a second. We want to go into love.
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