Rules and conventions, as well as liberation, are all simply dhammas. One is higher than the other, but they actually go hand in hand.
There is no way that anything can be guaranteed to be definitely ‘like this’, or definitely ‘like that’. The Buddha said, ‘Just leave it be! Leave it as uncertain.’ However much you like it, or dislike it, you should understand it as uncertain.
The whole practice of dhamma, regardless of time and place, comes to completion at the place where there is no-thing. It’s the place of surrender, of emptiness, of laying down the burden; this is the finish. It’s not like someone asking: ‘Why is the flag fluttering in the wind?’ and me replying, ‘It’s because of the wind,’ and another person saying, ‘No, it’s because of the flag.’ Then someone else retorting, ‘It’s because of the wind!’ There’s no end to that kind of thing. It’s like the old riddle: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? There’s no way reaching a conclusion about that. It’s just nature.
Many of the things we say, are merely conventions that we establish within ourselves. If you understand them with wisdom, however, you will 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, but they don’t believe you. You tell them the truth, and they say, ‘That’s not true! I’m right; you’re wrong.’ But there’s no end to this way of going on.
If you don’t let go, there will be suffering. There’s the story of these four men who go into the forest and hear a chicken crowing. One of them asks, ‘Is that a rooster or a hen?’ Three of them together say, ‘It’s a hen!’ The other man, however, doesn’t agree; he insists it’s a rooster. ‘How could a hen crow like that?’ he asks. ‘Well,’ they retort, ‘it has a mouth, hasn’t it?’ Then they argue and argue until they get very upset and, the tears start to fall. In the end, it turns out, they’re all wrong. The point is, whether you call it a hen or a rooster, they’re only names.
We establish these conventions, saying a rooster is like this, and a hen is like that; a rooster cries like this, and a hen cries like that. But this is how we get stuck in the world. Actually, if you just say that really there is 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, and there can never be complete agreement. Arguing till the tears fall, however, is of no use whatsoever.
The Buddha taught non-clinging. How do we practise non-clinging? We do it simply by giving up clinging. It can be very difficult to understand non-clinging, however. It takes a keen wisdom to investigate it, to really see the depth of it, and then to see the wisdom of it.
Whether people are happy or sad, content or discontent, doesn’t really depend on their having little or having much, it depends on wisdom. In reality, distress can only be transcended through wisdom, through seeing the truth of things.
[From The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah]