The 84th Problem

A farmer heard that the Buddha was a wonderful teacher and went to see him, seeking resolution to a set of distressing problems.

“I’m a landowner,” he told the Buddha, “And I love to watch my people working in the fields and to see my crops grow. But last summer we had a drought and nearly starved. This summer, we had too much rain and some of my crops did poorly.”  The Buddha listened and nodded compassionately.

“I have a wife too. She’s a good woman and a wonderful wife. But sometimes she nags me. To tell the truth, sometimes I grow tired of her.”  Again, the Buddha nodded.

“I have three children. Two are basically good, and I am very proud of them. But sometimes these two refuse to listen to me or pay me the respect I deserve.  My oldest son is not so good.  He drinks far too much and now he’s wandered off .  He’s been gone a year and I don’t know where he is or even if he’s alive.”  The man began to cry and the Buddha’s face filled with compassion.

The farmer carried on like this for another hour.  When he had exhausted himself, he turned to the Buddha and said, “Please tell me what to do,” fully expecting to receive an answer that would solve all his problems.

“I cannot help you,” replied the Buddha.

“What do you mean ?” the farmer retorted.

“Everyone has problems,” the Buddha replied. “In fact, everyone has eighty-three problems. You may solve one now and then, but another is sure to take its place. Everything is subject to change. Life is impermanent. Everything you have built will return to dust; everyone you love is going to die. You, yourself, are going to die someday. Therein dwells the problem of all problems, and there is nothing you can do about it.”

The farmer was chagrined. “What kind of teaching is this? How can it possibly help me?”

“Perhaps it will help you with the eighty-fourth problem,” answered the Buddha.

“What is the eighty-fourth problem?” asked the farmer anxiously.

“The problem of not wanting any problems,” replied the Buddha.