Sunday, April 3, 2011

83 Problems A Buddhist Sutraparable

83 Problems A Buddhist Sutraparable Image
A sutra is a thread -- stringing together ideas with an overarching message. It's the Dharma all stitched up, suture-style. There is no need of new sutras unless they encapsulate old messages in novel ways. Frank remembers hearing a spellbinding albeit apocryphal discourse. We had heard it put so eloquently:

THUS HAVE I NOT HEARD. Once while the Buddha was staying near the fields, a farmer came to him, paid his respects, sat to one side, and said:

"O, great teacher, I am but a simple farmer. I love farming. But sometimes there is drought, at other times flooding. I am a husband. I love being married. But sometimes my spouse is indifferent, at other times smothering. I am a father. I love being a parent. But sometimes my children are dull [incorrigible], at other times unruly. What am I to do?

The Buddha looked at the farmer with great compassion, extended both hands, and said: "Sorry, I can't help you with those kinds of worldly problems."

The farmer was dumbstruck for a moment. When he regained his composure, he argued: "Wait a minute. People speak in praise of you from all quarters. They come to you seeking advice for all things. And they go away enlightened. You're famous!"

"Sorry," the Buddha repeated, "there's nothing I can do to help you. Every person has 83 problems. And I can't help them with that."

"Well, tell me," the farmer asked calmly hoping to make the best of his visit, "what can you help me with?"

"I can help you with the 84th problem."

"O, and what's that?" the farmer leaned in.

"The 84th problem is the desire not to have any problems.

The farmer was overjoyed. And the Buddha taught him how to overcome suffering.


The Dharma never ceases to amaze. Sitting at a Buddhist 12-step recovery meeting in Los Angeles (Shambhala's "Heart of Recovery" utilizing Kevin Griffin's One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps (Rodale Press 2004), I heard an amazing insight on problems:

* This is happening to me.
* That is happening to me.
* And I don't [expletive] want it!

The world has no problems. Nothing is wrong. It is the way it is. Why? According to Robert Fripp (quoting Joanna Walton*): It is that way, because that is the way it is.

"Problems" are created the instant we say, "And I don't want it to be that way!"

Let the world be just as it is. Turn around and look within, where the problem gets created. This is the great liberating insight of modern New Age masters like Byron Katie and Eckhart Tolle. The problem is nonacceptance of what is. Imagine being at war with what is. It's miserable.

Acceptance does not mean leaving it that way. Why in the world does Wisdom Quarterly talk so much about social justice, our n'er-do-well civil-rights-opposing shadowy government, and geopolitics instead of just telling nice "Buddhist" stories? We aren't ignoring the world or ignorant of what is afoot. And yet we have no problem.

Many of us are engaged Buddhists. We're passionate about causes, contemplative about issues, and convinced the world can be a better place if we save it. But we have no problem. And we don't stop smiling -- no matter what seems to be happening. That's because there's no problem. "Let it be, let it be," the Beatle said, repeating Kwan Yin/Mother Mary.

* Why, why, why?

"That is the way it is because it is that way. It is that way in that it is the way it is. In the way that it is that way that is the way it is. In the way that that is the way that is the way it is that is it is the way. Or that it is that way is the way it is..." (Joanna Walton).

It's like a koan. So long as one thinks and rationalizes, bent on hammering out a solution by mere reasoning, there is no solution. The answer is already clear to the right brain and its consciousness, while the left hemisphere worries and throbs and aches.

The Parable of the 83 Problems

Patricia C. Smith (

A rich farmer at wit's end seeks relief.

"Oh Buddha, the drought drags into a seventh year! My beans become dust. Again. And my wife's cooking is scarcely fit for consumption, yet she waxes horribly stout. Huge! And my six stocky children -- lazy, every one. Rats pilfer my eggs, termites chew my timbers, and thieves and mendicants swarm my town...."

The Buddha says, "I cannot help you."

The farmer's eyes pop -- all this way he came! For nothing!

The Buddha says, "Everyone has 83 problems. If you work out one problem, another will surely take its place. And some problems, like death, have no solution."

The farmer splutters.

The Buddha says, "It may be I can assist with your 84th problem?"


"Your desire to have no problems."

by Dharma Bum Frank

You also may enjoy this free books:

Frances Billinghurst - Is Wicca The Right Spiritual Path For Me
Anonymous - The Prophecies Of Paracelsus
Aleister Crowley - Leah Sublime

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