"When the dragon wants a rainstorm he causes thunder and lightning. That brings the rain."
- Chögyam Trungpa
"You know," I said to Jeff last night after closing the laptop and setting it back on the bookshelf, "the cool thing about this whole idea of 'cultivating an environment of truth' is that you don't have to actually know what the truth is. You just have to make room for truth to enter in."
"I'm still not sure I know what Trungpa even means by an 'environment of truth,'" Jeff said, yawning a little.
"An environment of truth--you know. So, suppose you want to teach. Whatever subject. You can try to pour in all the information and skills into the student that you yourself know, right? But if that's all you do then your student will never quite surpass you; the best you can do is teach her everything you know but not ever more than you know. Or, you can cultivate in the student an aptitude for curiosity, inquisitiveness, careful observation, coherent reasoning... You can cultivate in the student an environment of truth, and show the student how to create such an environment for herself, the internal environment of her own attitudes and thought processes, and the external environment of encouraging, supportive and challenging peers. And with such an environment, she is receptive to truth in whatever forms, not only those forms you've discovered yourself already. She might learn things that even you don't know.
"An environment of truth, an environment in which truth can take root and come to full bloom. An environment that does not punish or discourage or dismiss truth, but is open and receptive to the discovery of new truth, as well as the preservation of old, familiar truth.
"And that's actually very freeing. It doesn't require you to know everything, the complete truth, before taking action or making choices; you can still act and choose in ways that reveal truth, even before knowing what that truth is. All you need to know is what kind of environment and relationships give rise to truth, to the revelation or realization of truth; you need to develop a talent for recognizing truth when it comes and attending to its circumstances and context. Then you work to create that environment and those relationships.
"In fact!" I continued enthusiastically, "In fact, in some ways it's like making art, or the process of writing: by creating an environment of truth, you are actually cultivating the circumstances of your own continuing discovery. I don't always know what I'm going to say before I say it--writing is a process of finding out and elaborating on what it is I truly think about something, just as much as it is a way of communicating with others. Sometimes the work of writing reveals connections and ideas I hadn't anticipated, but because I'm listening to the work and not trying to restrict it to some predetermined concept of what I want to write or what I think I should write, I can allow that truth to speak to me as well as to the reader.
"It's the same thing wherever you cultivate an environment of truth--in writing, in art, in the classroom, in family relations, in life in general. When your focus is on cultivating that receptive, fertile environment, truth can well up within it and flow freely through it, naturally, seemingly effortlessly even. You don't have to worry about controlling truth, you just... let it happen. The dragon wants a rainstorm--wants truth--so he creates thunder and lightening, he makes the things he can make because he knows he cannot make the rain itself. He prepares the way. And preparing the way brings the changing, falling rain.... You know what I mean? ...Jeff?"
I looked at Jeff. His nose half-buried in his pillow, he snored, a snore deep and rumbling.
"Speaking of thunder..." I muttered to myself, and smiled.