If we know both supposition and release in the proper way, we can get along.
Suppositions have their uses, but in reality there isn’t anything there. There isn’t even a person there! There’s just a set of natural conditions, born of their causal factors. They develop in dependence on their causal factors, stay for a while, and before long they fall apart.
You can’t stop that from happening. You can’t really control it. That’s all there is. It’s just a supposition, but without suppositions we’d have nothing to say: no names, no practice, no work, no language. Suppositions and conventions are established to give us a language, to make things convenient; that’s all.
It’s like salt. Suppose you take a fistful of sand and say, “Let’s suppose this is salt.” Is it salt? Yes, but it’s salt only on the level of supposing. It’s not genuine salt. If you were to put it into a curry, it wouldn’t serve your purpose. If you were to argue that it’s genuine salt, the answer would have to be No. That’s what’s meant by supposition.
Why do we make this supposition? Because there’s no salt there. There’s only sand. If you suppose sand to be salt, it’d be salt for you, on the level of supposing. But it’s not genuine salt, for it’s not salty. It won’t serve any purpose—or it can serve some purposes on the level of supposing, but not on the level of release.
The word “release”: It’s a supposition to call it that, but what release actually is lies beyond supposition. It’s released from suppositions—but we still make a supposition to say it’s “release” like this.
Can we live without suppositions? No. If we didn’t have suppositions, we wouldn’t know how to talk with one another. We wouldn’t know where things come from and how far they go. We wouldn’t have any language to speak with one another.
So suppositions have their purposes—the purposes we’re supposed to use them for…
Suppositions and release are related like this continually. Even though we use suppositions, don’t place your trust in their being true. They’re true only on the level of supposing. If you cling to them, suffering will arise because you don’t understand them in line with what they really are.
In short, both suppositions and release are simply dhammas. One is higher than the other, but they’re synonyms. There’s no way we can guarantee for sure that this has to be this or that has to be that, so the Buddha said to just put it down as “not for sure.”
No matter how much you like something, know that it’s not for sure. No matter how much you dislike something, understand that it’s not for sure. And these things really aren’t for sure. Keep practicing until they’re dhammas.
Past, present, and future: Make them all an affair of Dhamma practice. And it comes to closure at the point where there’s nothing more. You’ve let go. You’ve put down your burden. Everything ends.
These reflections by Ajahn Chah Subhaddo are adapted from the chapter “Suppositions & Release,” in the Thai Forest Ajaans book, Still Flowing Water, translated from Thai by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu.