Landmark Forum Review – Scam, Cult or Pyramid Scheme?

18 Dec

I attended the Landmark Forum in Bangalore over this weekend (14-18 December 2012). The reason to join the Landmark Forum – henceforth referred to as LF – was an interesting narration of experience by a good neighbor friend who was hugely benefited by attending the forum a couple of years ago. Seeing a few positive differences in him for the last couple of years in terms of career and energy levels, I thought of trying it out at my own will and NOT influenced by any individual as such (I hear that many of the sign up under pressure from a loved one or people that matter)

Based on my experience at the Landmark Forum, let me give you some information on what it’s all about, whether it works for all and what to expect at the Landmark Forum.

What is Landmark Forum?

The Landmark Forum or LF is the FIRST in the series of the many personal development courses that the Landmark Education offers. Once signed up for the LF, your life doesn’t end with the forum itself. A series of other courses namely Landmark Advanced Course, Landmark Course for Leadership and Self Expression, Various weekly seminars (seminars come at a fee in some countries, but free in India) and other courses follow the forum itself. And this process takes a few months or years based on how many courses you take. However, you have the opportunity to stop with the 3.5 days long Landmark Forum itself.

The LF invariably happens across the weekend starting on a Friday at 9AM and ending on Sunday night at around 11:30PM. In addition, there is an evening session on the following Tuesday from 7:00PM to 10:30PM. Each day (i.e. Friday to Sunday) is rather long and ends at only around midnight. There will be four continuous sessions of about 2.5 hours long each day and you get one hour lunch & dinner break another half an hour break in between. Please note that there is no lunch, dinner or tea/coffee provided on the premises and only drinking water will be available. It’s hence a very stressful three days because even during the breaks, there will be assignments that need to be completed which includes written assignments, calling up people etc.

At the moment, the three and half days LF costs about Rs.10,000/- in India and I hear that it costs around $500 in the US. People from all walks of life and in all age groups above 15 years can attend the LF. There is a separate course for kids in the age group of 8 to 12.

Usually you can expect anywhere between 50 to 500 participants in each forum. In Indian conditions, it’s usually 250 people upwards in each session. The same content and the same delivery method is practiced across all countries though the ‘Coach’ who delivers the forum in India is mostly an Indian leader – one of the 55 Landmark Forum leaders worldwide, in his own words.

How does the Landmark Forum work?

The Landmark Forum’s approach is to deliver their course modules from their bible (same for all countries) by the leader who sits on high chair on the stage. The participants sit in the stand listening to his sermons. One thing I liked about the forum is that they do not use any Powerpoint presentation or slideshow to deliver the speech. The leader starts with welcoming you by explaining the rules of the forum – those who are not willing to abide by the rule can leave the forum in the first half an hour with their money refunded.

The typical rules are:

  • Your commitment and ‘word’ to complete the forum as per its design
  • In order to achieve the extra ordinary life (powerful living, new possibilities etc) after attending the forum, you must agree that you are ‘coachable’ by the LF leader
  • You must adhere to the forum timings and complete all assignments
  • One should not consume any alcohol or drugs till the forum completes on Tuesday. You shouldn’t start any new medication either – of course one can continue the medications he/she is already on. The participants cannot take pain killers like Aspirin after the long day but the leader will promise to teach you some tricks to get rid of your headache or body pain
  • People with clinical psychological conditions cannot attend the forum and so are the people come under the categories of the forum’s legal/content/general agreement – A six page agreement that you have to sign to protect from any legal proceedings

A couple of people from the forum left during the introductory speech itself after hearing the coach’s tone but I decided to hold on to become the so-called ‘Landmark Forum Graduate’ who can lead an extra ordinary life at some point – or right after the 3.5 days course as promised.

What to expect on the first day?

As per the coach, the LF is all about ‘Transformative’ learning model based on ‘Ontology’principles and not informative learning. Hence, you must be willing to be abide by all rules to transform yourself and the people that matter to you towards an extra-ordinary life in the offing post the forum.

50% of the first day (Friday) goes on with the coach delivering his speech in a way to highlight how the Landmark forum is going to transform you and how you have to be ‘enroll’ to the idea in order to discover ‘new possibilities’ in life. They use terminologies such as ‘already always listening’, ‘vicious circle’, ‘context’ and ‘rackets’ on the first day. Essentially, it’s about your prejudices in life based on what you were taught by your predecessors, somebody’s actions and your wrong interpretations, how your justified behaviors are in fact of pain to others or people ‘you are inauthentic with’, in their terminology.

(A word of caution: The definitions in the Landmark bible is meant to confuse people who talk and understand normal English. Some of those theories may sound reasonable if explained in plain English but ridiculous and defies common sense when explained in their language. But if you question the leader, you get trashed and I shall explain how)

The breaks during the first day and all night breaks will be used for assignments that include writing about your rackets, people whom you have been inauthentic with (in your behavior, anger, neglecting, abusing whatever) and calling them up to convince them (enrolling as they call) about how they can also lead an extra ordinary life by enrolling into these philosophies. The leader from time to time will remind you that those people should be called along for the fourth day’s evening session to listen to your and LF’s revelations.

The shameless marketing (of sorts) about the Landmark Forum and extra ordinary benefits in offer will continue during 50% of day one. The leader will remind you of the need to be enrolling which essentially mean that you are required to share your new possibilities in such a way that others are touched, moved and inspired (and finally literally enrolled to the Landmark forum)

The method of LF speeches & Interaction

The following is what to expect during the first three days in terms of the leader – forum members interactions.

  • The leader will be modulating his voice from low to exceptionally high volume from time to time. It will be so loud at times that most weak-hearted people will shiver and keep silence. The modus operandi is instilling fear in people, make them weak and force them buy into the ideas discussed
  • Even if you ask any questions about your particular problem or forum content, it’s most likely that you are yelled at (after inviting you to the mic near the stage) and called ‘you ordinary idiot leading an ordinary sham life’, ‘you jerk you have the courage to think so’, ‘you are disgusting’, ‘it’s your pathetic analytical mind that’s talking’, ‘you arrogant jerk’ etc. Be prepared to hear that and much more than that
  • It’s highly likely that the leader come really hard on people with bigger egos (e.g. a few IIT graduates, the so-called highly successful people in life, rich people etc)
  • The leader in our case also cut some good jokes in between his yelling and shouts during delivery. I must really admit that he possessed a very good sense of humor when talking about our life situations. That’s the way things are delivered in the first two days – Suppressing your ego and breaking it is the first step by defaming you in public. Many people will breakdown in this process and become silent there after or listen to him completely
  • In the case of relationship issues, you will be forced to call up your partner or the person with whom you have an issue regardless of where the problem lies. So it’s like the one-size fits all kind of delivery when it comes to LF

Second day

The second day is pretty much about topics like ‘I’ and your ‘Identity’. In the process, they will also talk about a new world and a new language to take you to newer heights. It also talks about anxiety, fear and some exercises to observe the fear and overcome it. At the end of the meditation-like exercise, some attendees revealed that their fear is gone and they will share the freedom and relief that they are enjoying on the stage mic. Others who didn’t feel any difference will be told that the fear will be always there and you have to live with it. Ridiculous at this point! You will be also asked to an assignment on three bold decisions that you would take at that moment.

The second day’s assignment will again include convincing people about enrolling your ideas. This part, at this point, will go to the nasty level of influencing people to join the Landmark Forum where as they try their best to explain that ‘Enrollment of ideas’ is different from ‘Registration’. Landmark forum’s shameless MLM (Multi-Level Marketing or Pyramid scheme) style of marketing starts on the first and second day itself. The only difference is that you as a member don’t get paid to enroll more people. And the enrollment (or registration) of more people is achieved via some kind of emotional arm-twisting and by bruising your ego by calling you a ‘shameless and arrogant jerk without integrity’ several times.

At this point, i.e. at 11PM on the second day’, I told the coach that I cannot do the second assignment of enrolling people. I was called to the stage and asked questions like ‘What is enrollment?, ‘Are you coachable?’. He kept shouting at me about my arrogance, ego and shameless behavior and called me a jerk and an idiot with an analytical mind etc. I replied that I am coachable and agree to most of the content but not an unreasonable assignment. My thought was that, if I am benefited from LF content and course, I would anyhow ask people to join LF but why even before seeing any benefit at all?

He then pronounced that due to my arrogant behavior my wife and kids are struggling for years. He pronounced that even people like Rahul Dravid who attended the Landmark forum was very humble and felt that I do not seem to be coachable unless I agree to all rules. I said, I still have my conviction and analytical brain working even after two days of the forum and until I am convinced, I am not going to enroll people or do that part of the assignment.

After about 10 minutes of argument, he asked me to get out by taking money instead of spoiling the spirit of the forum. Obviously, a few more hands had risen in my support and he felt the threat of sabotaging the cause. I obliged stating that I am not convinced about their unreasonable marketing strategy and hence quitting. I was really boiling, I wanted to call him all that he had called me in the name of ‘coaching’ me but I thought that would affect a fraction of the people who were seemingly satisfied and benefitted having attended the forum.

(The leader called me up the next day, apologized for his rude behavior and asked me to come back. May be that was part of the strategy so that they don’t get sued for emotional abuse despite taking a lot of signed agreement from the participants. He said he’s keeping his ‘word’ of refunding the money. I said I don’t care about the money but your unethical marketing practices. And my Landmark Forum ended there after two whole stressful days!).

The third day

Though, I didn’t attend the third day, it seems that’s when the whole lot of change will happen. In fact, at the end of first and second day, the leader will keep shouting that the forum has not even started but you are already feeling change etc. Things are supposed to be changing dramatically on the third day just like putting on a ‘Switch’. So I called up a couple of attendees whom I had met on the forum and they had mixed opinions on the Landmark Forum’s third day.

Many of the attendees believed that on third day, incidents from their past (in fact, an assignment from second day end) will be analyzed that would have shaped your characteristics as they are today. There will be sermons on how permanent transformation can be achieved by redefining ourselves etc.

Essentially after three days of stressful attending and a few phone calls you will be somehow convinced that life is meaningless and you have the power to make choices, deal with situations etc. All the stress that you went through and the revelations, apologies (you make many of them and cry during the first two days) made by the participants would be relieved by now and you will suddenly feel power – some of the attendees, that is. To me, this sounds quite natural. You were stressed, made look like a fool in the forum, your ego totally busted, tranquilized and at the end you were pronounced powerful and winner. Many weak-hearted people attending the forum at this point would feel happy and relieved and hence would feel that attending LF really helped them. But if you ask anybody to explain how they feel or tangible result – even after many weeks, months of attending even the advanced course – they may not be able to explain it.

(By the way, in order to make your transformation more meaningful and permanent, you will be asked to continue with the seminar series and then the paid Advanced course)

Does the Landmark Forum (LF) Work for all?

In my opinion, it works for a sub-set of people who have been carrying the guilt throughout their life due to infidelity, crimes done in the past, estranged relationships, unethical practices and specific fear of something in life might just find the forum as a great platform to confess and subsequently call up the affected people t apologize. If those people (e.g. parents) are not alive, you even have the opportunity to write an apologetic letter to them during the course. Essentially the confessions and the philosophies in the forum make such people relieved.

For most other people – who live a normal life without many issues – it’s not going to work. But even these people will not admit that LF didn’t work for them because they don’t want themselves look like fools or prey to the LF tactics that tamed them. Essentially don’t even think of attending LF if you are just going through normal mid-life crisis, predictable boss-subordinate issues, MIL-DIL issues, short-term career issues etc.

Due to the very reason that it works for some people, I don’t call LF a scam. It’s a different way of addressing your issues in life and get rid of fear. But if you would ask me, I would go for a good counselor along with the affected parties if I have any issue of that sort. That would be way better than reverting to a big forum and a lame Landmark Forum leader or coach (An extra-ordinary jerk, I must say) to solve my issues.

It’s not a Cult because they don’t associate themselves with any religious acts or even acts of crime or anti-social activities. Also, LF participation or further courses are completely at your will though they will brainwash you to the core to get as much sign-ups as possible. Signing up for LF forum don’t make you anti-social or make you stay away from normal living and hence it’s no cult at all.

Shameless Marketing

They don’t do MLM or pyramid scheme in a sense that whoever signs up new people are not actually getting monetarily benefited. But in reality, it’s nothing but a very successful Viral marketing strategy that they have smartly invented.

The evening session on Tuesday is all about shameless marketing that the gathering (your invitees with whom you are ‘inauthentic’ with and hence apologized) has to experience. This marketing takes place in a very convincing manner that you will be forced to sign up your dear ones and friends for this. Most of the attendees will fall for this strategy since they are forcibly contacted by the forum members who even apologized to them as per the plan. This works like wonders because the evening gathering thinks that their wards are transformed in just 3.5 days (with all those apology, letters, tears etc). In reality, it’s more like a emotional brainwashing.

And during the second day itself, there will be announcements about the Landmark Advanced Course which they will market so convincingly that even before seeing any result from LF, many people will sign up for this. They will say that in five days time, the Advance course prices are going up by 50% or so and you have one last day today (or latest by next day) to sign-up for the future course at the discounted price. And you won’t believe, many of the fools fell for that.

Final Verdict

Well, if you are one of those who are living under some stress and badly want to vomit out one of your wrong doings or regret from the past thereby relieving a bit, then LF is for you. But then, be warned that in order to address such issues, you don’t really need a forum such as Landmark but take the help of a good counselor.

In order to protect and respect the privacy of those who took part in the forum with me, I do not want to go into the details of what kind of issues and confessions people made. But there were real extreme cases of crime, infidelity, extranged-abusive relationships, extra-marital affairs, sex-maniac behaviors, dangerous obsessions, drug abuse etc that forced some of them to participate in the forums. And some others, without any issues at all, were forced to sign up by their wards – may be after being part of the evening session sometime in the past. The leader was trying his best to prove that even such people’s life (those sexagenarians and happy senior citizens) is sham, disgusting and they need a transformation in life. All these sermons were really frustrating for anyone who has led his/her life following some ethics and who were brought up with good values in life.

Essentially it didn’t work for me and I am sure it wouldn’t work for people like me. As a matter of fact, LF itself agrees that the program doesn’t work for all. Even worse, there have been incidents of suicide, extreme mental conditions and prolonged trauma reported during and after attending of the LF forum. LF themselves have admitted to such incidents though the occurrence of such extreme incidents have been rather rare compared to the number of people attended the Landmark Forum.

Hence before signing up with the Landmark forum, please think for yourself and read carefully the agreement that you are signing!

162 Responses to “Landmark Forum Review – Scam, Cult or Pyramid Scheme?”

  1. Prema 26. Sep, 2016 at 12:32 am #

    Do they refund if we have already paid but do not want to attend the session.

    • Rohit Koshy 26. Sep, 2016 at 9:28 pm #

      If you do not attend the course, they will refund all your money, less the registration amount. It used to be 500/- when I did the course about 20 years ago. Not sure about the amount now.

      If you can, attend the first session, where they give an opportunity to leave, with a full refund. In case you want your registration money as well, this is a good option. Although, you may want to check the cost benefit analysis – cost of travel vs registration amount.

      If there is nothing compelling that stops you from attending the program, then my opinion is to go for it. Sit through the 3 days and 1 evening, do the assignments, and then see how your life gets transformed. In case you feel that you have not gotten any value, then they will still give you a full refund.

      All the best.

      • M 16. Nov, 2016 at 3:54 am #

        That’s not true. They specifically say in their application paperwork that there is no chance of refund of any fee or cost whatsoever. And I can prove it because I have in my hand right now one of those piece of papers since a friend of mine dragged me yesterday night to have a look to a free-introduction talk (AKA: a salesperson trying to sell their stuff).

  2. Rohit Gaikwad 27. Sep, 2016 at 11:40 pm #

    Wht about the costing of this session

  3. ASN 09. Nov, 2016 at 9:10 am #

    I joined Landmark Forum by searching online and made payment online as I had heard about it, nobody invited me. It did me good in other walks of life than what I had enrolled for. Thankfully, even before reading this blog, I refrained from joining any other courses. I like the thought process that goes on in Landmark but definitely do not agree with the forcible marketing (brainwashing) and high fees. As many commentators opined that Gita gives much better advice, I agree with that opinion. I also agree that Indian mentality will not take anything freely. So my advice to people who want to do the course voluntarily is – go ahead. do it. Be aware that it will take the form of a cult once you succumb to their pressure tactics. There is a french video (with English subtitles – ) which will help you in deciding.

    I have three queries from watching the videos. Replies are welcome to these below queries:

    1. In India, only a qualified doctor (registered medical practitioner) is permitted to give clinical psychological counseling. Are Forum Leaders qualified in Psychology?

    2. In India, the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 prescribes payment of salary to even part time workers. Are volunteers paid for their work in doing jobs like tele-caller, account executive etc?

    3. In India, constitution guarantees certain freedoms to act (example right to freedom of religion). Will forcing participants to pay more money or enroll gullible people be violation of fundamental rights?

    • ANil 05. Jan, 2017 at 12:40 pm #

      1.In India, only a qualified doctor (registered medical practitioner) is permitted to give clinical psychological counseling. Are Forum Leaders qualified in Psychology? THIS IS NOT ANY PSYCHOLOGICAL TRAINING…SO WHY THIS IS REQUIRED..IT IS SIMPLE TRANSFORMATION OF THE VEIW YOU LOOK AT LIFE ..

      2. In India, the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 prescribes payment of salary to even part time workers. Are volunteers paid for their work in doing jobs like tele-caller, account executive etc? THEY ARE NOT VOLUNTEERS..THEY ARE ASSITING THE EVENTS AND PEOPLE WHO DO FORUM…I PROMISE ONCE YOU DO THE COURSE YOU WILL START ASSISTING WILLINGLY..BECAUSE YOU LIFE WILL BE YOURS ..YOU WILL HAVE POWER TO CREATE..

      3. In India, constitution guarantees certain freedoms to act (example right to freedom of religion). Will forcing participants to pay more money or enroll gullible people be violation of fundamental rights?Lno comment as i know LM never forces

  4. Sagar 15. Nov, 2016 at 10:31 pm #


    I really appreciate your detailed feedback thanks you saved me from the horror

  5. Ruturaj Shirsat 28. Nov, 2016 at 3:55 pm #

    My friend had gone through this forum and she was convincing me to do this forum.but personally I feel that I’m not at all going through such big issue of should I do?

    • ANil 05. Jan, 2017 at 12:26 pm #

      Hello, In my view every one should do Landmark forum..It is not only for relationship improvement but altogether it sets you free so that you cana chieve anything in life..Overall it is transformation of view the way you look at life and now your view towards situation and future is not based on PAST..

  6. Krishna 02. Dec, 2016 at 11:37 am #

    This is the worst organisation, people. Don’t even talk to them.

  7. Jawed 06. Dec, 2016 at 1:50 pm #

    Great Blog !…..I had a great time sharing this link with all my ‘Jerk’ friends who were trying to sell this fraud scheme. I shared the juicy and spicy parts of this blog on the WA group…and what entertainment we had ! ! !
    Thank you

    • Anil 25. Feb, 2017 at 11:59 am #

      I was suspicious of LM and wanted to get a refund. However after attending the Forum I realized that it provides a lot of insights into ourselves and people around us. The hard selling part can be irritating but at the same time your reaching out to people changes your own view on why you are doing the Forum. This article is well written even if it didn’t work for the author. Don’t use parts of it out of context.

  8. Banwarikyal 12. Dec, 2016 at 12:13 pm #

    From day1 i was sure this is a kind of mktng only and you r trapped now..the forum leader were keep on saying that was forced 7 times by his frnd that’s why he is here…it seems it is his strong suit that he saw an opportunity there to make a career too. If they are so much about the life of people than why not lower the fees of all the course, the registration will automatically get double????

    • ANil 05. Jan, 2017 at 12:27 pm #

      got your point….see the source what is attracting you to do course

  9. Banwarikyal 12. Dec, 2016 at 12:18 pm #

    Whereas in my opinion this course is not meant for in Indian context and social structure here…we have all support from social structure to handle every situation..

  10. Ravi 16. Jan, 2017 at 8:21 am #

    I attended Tuesday evening Introduction session following my wife’s request. I came late, sat thru the session and at the send leader announced some discount for people registering on the spot.
    One lady approached me, introduced herself, asked few questions about me and at the end asked about feedback of session just attended. Here is my feedback
    “My wife seems to have breakthroughs, she seems to have discovered more about herself and is little emotional. She was relating to stories being shared by participants and her eyes were moist. But I seems to be missing the context and not able to relate to it. At the same time I find it shallow and out of depth.”
    She gave me a smile, thanked me for feedback and left me and my wife alone.
    Any way, I agree to the point that they do market a lot but without invading your personal space

  11. Gurdip Singh 04. Feb, 2017 at 6:11 pm #

    I also attended one of the introductory talks. I felt it was a marketing ploy. It was followed by telephone calls asking me to join. It was declined. Agreed that all the sure fixes are for the weak and gullible. Thanks for your write up. It was very informative.

  12. Sindhu P 21. Feb, 2017 at 8:00 pm #


    Even I attend the introductory class and made up my mind not to enroll in it.. Having attend other personality development classes which includes the work of Chinmaya Mission., Inner engineering from Sadhguru., And from Ask frim Zane cruxton I felt it to this one to be completely baseless and completely worthless… But they force to so much to enroll to it that you feel like running away from that place and it does not stop there they call me a 10 times a day and convince me to join.. I have even raised the issue by blocking the number and sending in a mail to them … Plz do not join pathetic ppl

  13. somnath 06. Mar, 2017 at 8:44 am #

    Even if it’s a marketing ploy by landmark to earn loads of cash. Even if they are a cult. Even if whatever is being thrown at them is true. The end of it is a better life for yourself. I have done the forum with more than cynical eyes, but it helped me immensely. Because the crux of the program is to give you a way to look at life where you feel significant about yourself. This realisation is profound. Some have it in them already. Many or most don’t know it. Landmark ‘with their marketing ploys’ helps you discover that significance. And trust me it sets you up for life. I will not contribute more into their ‘ploys’ but I will be thankful for what I got for the contribution I did for myself.

  14. Deepak Mittal 12. Mar, 2017 at 7:26 am #

    I attended two days and today will be third day. In my opinion it’s a life changing program. It’s true that coach is harsh many times but I could see how this strategy works.
    I an analytical person. There is nothing wrong in what they are doing. It may not work for all, specifically if you join with full suspicion. Yes they urge you to invite friends but this is how they can grow. I will only invite if I got any benefit.
    In my opinion, attend once. It’s small amount which may change (or may not change ) your life.

  15. Sunil Bhosale 13. Mar, 2017 at 3:33 pm #

    Thank you very much for your feedback. One of my friends is after me for the last 10 days. I told him I don’t want to join but insisting me to join. Thank you very much once again Ajith.

    • ritu 07. Apr, 2017 at 5:57 pm #

      there are positive replies too. its a good programme which ensure that we live our life fully without being cynical. i did the forum in 2014 n its the 3rd time i am attending its seminars to refresh the things. one must attend the forum n its seminars once.

      • Ajith Prasad Edassery 13. Apr, 2017 at 9:14 am #

        Both positive and negative comments on this post is allowed here to make sure that all views (except those vulgar remarks which I delete) are covered. It may just help the readers to take a call on the program.

  16. Nilanjana 19. Mar, 2017 at 8:49 pm #

    Thanks Ajith for the blog. One of my friend was requesting me to join. However after reading the various comments, i felt I better avoid getting trapped in the pyramid marketing.

  17. Daniel Figueroa 29. Mar, 2017 at 11:34 pm #

    I wouldn’t mind attending this but I refuse to recruit my warm market. Is this process for me or them. Will they allow you to not do that part? My company wants to send me there so it is not wholly on my on volition to attend.

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