“That which is” is the meaning of the word ‘God’, and that’s exactly the meaning of ‘dhamma’.
These sayings of Buddha are called ” The Dhammapada “. Dhamma means many things.
It means the ultimate law, logos. By “ultimate law” is meant that which keeps the whole universe together. Invisible it is, intangible it is — but it is certainly; otherwise the universe would fall apart. Such a vast, infinite universe, running so smoothly, so harmoniously, is enough proof that there must be an undercurrent that connects everything, that joins everything, that bridges everything — that we are not islands, that the smallest grass leaf is joined to the greatest star. Destroy a small grass leaf and you have destroyed something of immense value to the existence itself. In existence there is no hierarchy, there is nothing small and nothing great. The greatest star and the smallest grass leaf, both exist as equals; hence the other meaning of the word ‘dhamma’.
The other meaning is justice, the equality, the nonhierarchic existence. Existence is absolutely communist; it knows no classes, it is all one. Hence the other meaning of the word ‘dhamma’ — justice.
And the third meaning is righteousness, virtue. Existence is very virtuous. Even if you find something which you cannot call virtue, it must be because of your misunderstanding; otherwise the existence is absolutely virtuous. Whatsoever happens here, always happens rightly. The wrong never happens. It may appear wrong to you because you have a certain idea of what right is, but when you look without any prejudice, nothing is wrong, all is right. Birth is right, death is right. Beauty is right and ugliness is right. But our minds are small, our comprehension is limited; we cannot see the whole, we always see only a small part. We are like a person who is hiding behind his door and looking through the keyhole into the street. He always sees things…yes, somebody is moving, a car suddenly passes by. One moment it was not there, one moment it is there, and another moment it is gone forever. That’s how we are looking at existence. We say something is in the future, then it comes into the present, and then it has gone into the past. In fact, time is a human invention. It is always now! Existence knows no past, no future — it knows only the present.
The third meaning of ‘dhamma’ can be God — but Buddha never uses the word ‘God’ because it has become wrongly associated with the idea of a person, and the law is a presence, not a person. Hence Buddha never uses the word ‘God’, but whenever he wants to convey something of God he uses the word ‘dhamma’. His mind is that of a very profound scientist. Because of this, many have thought him to be an atheist — he is not. He is the greatest theist the world has ever known or will ever know — but he never talks about God. He never uses the word, that’s all, but by ‘dhamma’ he means exactly the same. “That which is” is the meaning of the word ‘God’, and that’s exactly the meaning of ‘dhamma’.
‘Dhamma’ also means discipline – different dimensions of the word. One who wants to know the truth will have to discipline himself in many ways. Don’t forget the meaning of the word ‘discipline’ — it simply means the capacity to learn, the availability to learn, the receptivity to learn. Hence the word ‘disciple’. ‘Disciple’ means one who is ready to drop his old prejudices, to put his mind aside, and look into the matter without any prejudice, without any a priori conception.
And ‘dhamma’ also means the ultimate truth. When mind disappears, when the ego disappears, then what remains? Something certainly remains, but it cannot be called ‘something’ — hence Buddha calls it ‘nothing’. But let me remind you, otherwise you will misunderstand him: whenever he uses the word ‘nothing’ he means no-thing. Divide the word in two; don’t use it as one word — bring a hyphen between ‘no’ and ‘thing’, then you know exactly the meaning of ‘nothing’.
The ultimate law is not a thing. It is not an object that you can observe. It is your interiority, it is subjectivity.
Buddha would have agreed totally with the Danish thinker, Soren Kierkegaard. He says: Truth is subjectivity. That is the difference between fact and truth. A fact is an objective thing. Science goes on searching for more and more facts, and science will never arrive at truth — it cannot by the very definition of the word. Truth is the interiority of the scientist, but he never looks at it. He goes on observing other things. He never becomes aware of his own being.
That is the last meaning of ‘dhamma’: your interiority, your subjectivity, your truth. One thing very significant — allow it to sink deep into your heart: truth is never a theory, a hypothesis; it is always an experience. Hence my truth cannot be your truth. My truth is inescapably my truth; it will remain my truth, it cannot be yours. We cannot share it. Truth is unsharable, untransferable, incommunicable, inexpressible. I can explain to you how I have attained it, but I cannot say what it is. The “how” is explainable, but not the “why.” The discipline can be shown, but not the goal. Each one has to come to it in his own way. Each one has to come to it in his own inner being. In absolute aloneness it is revealed.