Dharma simply means the ultimate law that keeps the universe together, that keeps the universe in harmony, in accord; the norm that makes the universe a cosmos and not chaos.
The definition of dharma is totally different from the definition of religion. Ordinarily religion is translated as dharma: What Buddha means by dharma is not religion. It is not definable, containable in creed. It is not a dogma. It is a very scientific truth.
It is like gravitation: you cannot make a religion out of gravitation. Nobody worships gravitation nor there are temples for gravitation. If there was no gravitation none of us would be here. And similarly consciousness is impossible unless there is something like an ultimate law which keeps everything together.
Dharma simply means the law. You cannot worship it, you can only understand it. You can live it, but you cannot worship it. That is the greatest contribution of Buddha to the world: religion, in his understanding, is law. You have to live it. You have to live according to the law, according to the norm of the universe. Whenever you go against it you are in misery, and whenever you are in tune with it you are in bliss.
Buddha says to be in tune with the ultimate law is bliss; that very harmony is bliss. And to be disharmonious, to go astray from the law, is misery. Hell is when you are running away form the universal law and heaven is when you are running towards it. And when you have become one with it, it is nirvana. It is the ultimate peak of bliss of truth, of consciousness: sat-chit-anand.
One has to be very, very watchful to be aware of the ultimate law. Do you see the meditativeness of the trees surrounding you? Such stillness…Just as you are listening to me, they are listening to me, not even a leaf moving. The birds are singing. The whole universe is still and yet a song…silent, yet mystical. A tremendous harmony permeates everything. From the grass to the greatest star it is the same law.
But you have to be a little more aware, and then the very earth you move on becomes sacred; then trees are gods, then birds are buddhas. Then each person you meet is a potential Buddha. How can you hurt anyone? Impossible! Then it is not etiquette; then it is simple, natural understanding.
One has to be aware; otherwise you can miss the obvious! And dharma is obvious, godliness is the obvious. It is not a complicated, complex thing. It is not far away; it is very close by. It is dharma that beats your heart, it is dharma that pulsates in your blood. It is dharma that breathes, it is dharma that lives in you. It is dharma that you are made of –the very stuff that you are made of—and yet you are unaware of it.