Relational Dhamma

The Dhamma, as a path to human liberation and communal harmony, must encompass our individual, relational and social nature.

As intrinsically social animals, much of our suffering arises in relation to other people. It is in relationship that a sense of self is generated. It is in relationship that language emerges from which we construct a world. If it is in the relationship that our suffering arises, then here too can we can find our path to release and social flourishing.

A review of the Buddha’s discourses reveals the important role of relationships throughout the teachings. All factors of the Noble Eightfold Path, with the notable exception of Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration, were taught by the Buddha as arising not only individually but also explicitly in relationship. As Bhikkhu Bodhi notes “[T]he Buddha was not a solitary wanderer, teaching those who came to him for guidance and then leaving them to their own devices. He was the founder of a new spiritual movement that from the outset was inevitably communal.” In relational Dhamma, we recognize and explore as a community how the personal, interpersonal and social interweave to form the foundation of a whole life path of practice.

Insight Dialogue extends the cultivation of meditative qualities of mind – mindfulness, tranquility, concentration – into the relational. Meditating together we call each other into this moment in a powerful way. Brought into the moment of interpersonal contact with an awareness that is focused and receptive, the Buddha’s teachings become heartful and alive.

By integrating the practice and fruits of meditation with our interpersonal lives—speaking, listening, and all that these imply—the roots of tendencies such as self-centeredness, unkindness, fear, and anger are clearly revealed. In relational practice, release happens by way of loving awareness that recognizes our common humanity and does not take it all so personally. When this understanding exists on a societal level, we can see the potential of cessation blossoming into social freedom. This is a freedom that includes the thriving of and justice for all sentient beings. To make this leap socially is huge…we start where we are.