Citizen Action Monitor

We’ll always have eighty-three problems and there’s nothing we can do about it — A Buddhist tale

No 608 Posted by fw, November 9, 2012

There’s a story about a man who came to the Buddha for help. He was unhappy with his life. There was nothing overwhelmingly terrible about it, but it always presented him with an endless succession of little disappointments and complaints.

He was a farmer. And he enjoyed farming. But sometimes it didn’t rain enough, or it rained too much, and his harvests were not the best.

He had a wife. And she was a good wife, he even loved her. But sometimes she nagged him too much. And sometimes he got tired of her.

And he had kids. And they were good kids. He enjoyed them a lot. But sometimes…

The Buddha listened patiently to the man’s story until finally the man wound down. He looked at the Buddha expectantly, waiting for some word to fix everything. The Buddha said, “I can’t help you.”

The man was startled. He said, “I thought you were a great teacher. I thought you could help me.”

“Everybody’s got problems,” said the Buddha. “In fact, we always have eighty-three problems, each one of us, and there’s nothing we can do about it. If you manage to solve one problem, it’s immediately replaced by another. You’ll always have eighty-three problems. You’re going to die, for example. For you, that’s a problem, and it’s one you’ll not escape. There’s nothing you nor I nor anyone else can do about it. We all have problems like these, and they don’t go away.”

The man became furious. “Then what good is your teaching?” he demanded.

“Well,” said the Buddha, “it might help you with the eighty-fourth problem.”

“The eighty-fourth problem,” said the man. “What’s the eighty-fourth problem?”

“You don’t want any problems,” said the Buddha.

Steve Hagen

From How the World Can Be the Way It Is: An Inquiry for the New Millennium into Science, Philosophy, and Perception by Steve Hagen, Quest Books, 1995, pp. 309-310

Stephen Tokan “Steve” Hagen, Rōshi, (born 1945) is the founder and former head teacher of the Dharma Field Zen Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has published several books on Buddhism. Among them, Buddhism Plain & Simple was one of the top five bestselling Buddhism books in the United States and How the World Can Be the Way It Is: An Inquiry for the New Millennium into Science, Philosophy, and Perception

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This entry was posted on November 9, 2012 by in activism as a spiritual path, creative protest, information counterpower and tagged .
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