|Buddha House 16" 20" on display at The Naam|
How many problems do you have? Do you have 83 or 84? Or perhaps you have more? No matter how many problems you have, the Buddha thinks that your real problem is the 84th problem?
Do you know the story of the 84th problem? I know you do, I mean in your everyday life. I'm guessing that if I know it well, you probably have had a little dust up with it yourself. In fact I spend a lot of time wrestling with the 84th problem and I never manage to get it into a figure 4 leg lock, or is that a head lock? So much for my wrestling skills. Whenever things go "wrong" according to how I think they should be the 84th problem has got me down for the count.
Here's a short version of the 84th problem. A farmer goes to see the Buddha because his crops have failed. He's heard that the Buddha is very wise and the farmer is hoping for some help. He tells the Buddha his story and the Buddha tells him he can't help him with that problem. The farmer then complains a little about his wife. "Sorry," the Buddha says, "can't help you with that."
My kids, they don't listen to me or respect me enough."
"Sorry, can't do anything about that."
The farmer offers a few more problems and then laments about the Buddha being so unhelpful. Finally the Buddha offers a little help, "Everyone always has 83 problems, one goes away, another one appears. What I can help you with is your 84th problem."
"What's that?" asks the farmer.
"That you don't want to have any problems."
Now if we could just get over the 84th problem, we'd be fine with things as they are, whatever that happens to be. To just give up our wrestling match with life, that's the simple task. The simple task that's so hard to remember when things don't go "our way". It doesn't mean we never take action or that we don't work for change. It just means we don't argue with what is. We don't need to reject this moment. And we don't even need to reject our rejection of this moment (a particular favourite of mine). We can just feel what it's like to reject, to wish for something else. "Oh, that's how it feels."
This instruction "to just feel what it feels like" was part of our work from the retreat with Howie Cohn on "calming the restless mind" and is a good antidote to the 84th problem. And I had opportunity to to do a little of this work yesterday.
We're building a gate like structure to cover the entry to our open carport. The gate will hide our winter fire wood and other messy bits. I started the morning innocently enough, drinking my coffee and browsing through a design book for ideas. Before I knew it I was admiring all the beautiful homes and wishing mine looked like that, or that I lived in this one, and so on and so on. (I am a recovering design junkie).
This simple pleasant task of sitting in the sun looking at a book morphed into "wanting" and spilled over into an agitation, leaving a subtle unrest and dissatisfaction as I went about my day. In the past I might not even have noticed this domino effect but just felt vaguely unhappy. But now I could clearly see it's origins in the craving for a magazine house, one staged and crafted for a picture in a book. And yet the hangover of craving lingered. And I got to notice, "this is what craving and unrest feels like". I followed it's trail, as it had me looking for a snack, long before I was hungry, had me looking through a slightly darkened lense as I headed to my studio. But I digress from the 84th problem. Or do I?