Dharma literally means “truth” or “norm.” It is a particular way of thinking, a way of viewing the world, which is not a concept but experience. This particular truth is very painful truth— usually truths are. It rings with the sound of reality, which comes too close to home. We become completely embarrassed when we begin to hear the truth. It is wrong to think that the truth is going to sound fantastic and beautiful, like a flute solo. The truth is actually like a thunderbolt. It wakes you up and makes you think twice whether you should stay in the rain or move into the house. Provocative.
The sound of thunder could be nice and friendly or it could be a great hassle. The whole thing depends on your living situation. If you’re camping outside without a tent and it begins to thunder, you feel threatened. You feel terrible because you are exposed, and you have to move under a tree or into a cave—some kind of roof is needed. Whereas in the opposite situation, in which you already have a roof or a shelter, when you hear thunder, it sounds great, fantastic. And you can listen to the raindrops as well.
The basic questions are: Who is actually listening to the truth? What is his or her situation? And, in fact, what is truth? At this point, we could say quite clearly that truth is about you. It is not about celestial beings descending on you, or the golden age of Martians. The truth is about you, your existence, your experience. It’s about you. Hearing the truth of dharma and becoming part of the dharma is willing to face yourself, to begin with. It may be disturbing or encouraging—however, that’s it!
Following the dharma doesn’t mean going along with a particular prescription and taking your medication every day. Instead, it’s a basic commitment to the teaching, which means to yourself. You could get out of an organization; you could get out of the club. But you can’t step out of the dharma. The dharma is always you. You are always going to have the dharma of you, your dharma. Your truth, your facts and figures, your reality, are always there.
The truth about you has different facets, obviously. You might think you are made out of some good things and some bad things. Sometimes you feel bad and sometimes good. Life may be monotonous, but there are ups and downs as well. Regularity in life is not the point; experience is the point.