After all, rules, conventions and liberation are simply dhammas. One is higher than the other, but they go hand in hand. There is no way that we can guarantee that anything is definitely like this or like that, so the Buddha said to just leave it be. Leave it be as uncertain. However much you like it or dislike it, you should understand it as uncertain.
Regardless of time and place, the whole practice of Dhamma comes to completion at the place where there is nothing. It’s the place of surrender, of emptiness, of laying down the burden. This is the finish. It’s not like the person who says, ‘Why is the flag fluttering in the wind? I say it’s because of the wind.’ Another person says it’s because of the flag. The other retorts that it’s because of the wind. There’s no end to this! The same as the old riddle, ‘Which came first, the chicken or the egg?’ There’s no way to reach a conclusion, this is just nature.
All these things we say are merely conventions, we establish them ourselves. If you know these things with wisdom then you’ll know impermanence, suffering and not-self. This is the outlook which leads to enlightenment.
Training and teaching people with varying levels of understanding is really difficult. Some people have certain ideas; you tell them something and they don’t believe you. You tell them the truth and they say it’s not true. ‘I’m right, you’re wrong.’ There’s no end to this.
If you don’t let go there will be suffering. I’ve told you before about the four men who go into the forest. They hear a chicken crowing, ‘Kakka-dehhhh!’ One of them wonders, ‘Is that a rooster or a hen?’ Three of them say together, ‘It’s a hen,’ but the other doesn’t agree, he insists it’s a rooster. ‘How could a hen crow like that?’ he asks. They retort, ‘Well, it has a mouth, hasn’t it?’ They argue and argue till the tears fall, really getting upset over it, but in the end they’re all wrong. Whether you say a hen or a rooster, they’re only names. We establish these conventions, saying a rooster is like this, a hen is like that; a rooster cries like this, a hen cries like that, and this is how we get stuck in the world! Remember this! Actually, if you just say that really there’s no hen and no rooster, then that’s the end of it.
In the field of conventional reality one side is right and the other side is wrong, but there will never be complete agreement. Arguing till the tears fall has no use.
The Buddha taught not to cling. How do we practise non-clinging? We practise simply by giving up clinging, but this non-clinging is very difficult to understand. It takes keen wisdom to investigate and penetrate this, to really achieve non-clinging.
When you think about it, whether people are happy or sad, content or discontent, doesn’t depend on their having little or having much — it depends on wisdom. All distress can be transcended only through wisdom, through seeing the truth of things.
Taken from The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah.
Click here to read more teachings from Ajahn Chah.