Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Next Problem

The Next Problem

There's a popular apocryphal story about a farmer who went to the Buddha to seek help with his problems. This farmer brought with him a long list of problems--failing crops, nagging wife and disobedient children among others--and wanted the Buddha to give him some advice on how to solve them.

After the Buddha listened patiently to the farmer, the conversation subsequently went something like this:

Buddha: "I can't help you".

Farmer: (astonished) "Why? I thought you are the wisest teacher in the world?"

Buddha: Well, everybody's got problems. I've even categorized all the different types of problems that exists out there--there are eighty-three of them".

Farmer: "Then, I'm sure you can suggest some ways to tackle these eighty-three problems?"

Buddha: "It's not possible, because when you solve one, another one pops up in its place".

Farmer: (furious) "Then of what use are your teachings if they can't even help me solve my problems?"

Buddha: "Well, maybe it can help you solve the eighty-fourth problem".

Farmer: "What's the eighty-fourth problem?"

Buddha: "You want to not have any problems"

Problems in life will always be there. Expect them to come. When we learn to accept them as they are, they become less of a problem.

Accepting problems as they are doesn't mean sitting back and not doing anything about it. We just deal with it, without complaining about our misfortune, without blaming anyone or pushing the responsibility to someone else. We take it with equanimity.

Problems in life are not like the mathematical problems that we learn to solve in high-school--with answers to be found at the back of the book. There are no perfect solutions to our problems. We just do the best we can and move on.

Isn't that a difficult thing to do? It sounds so hopeless...

But what other options do we have? Any other response would be counter-productive. We can cry all we can, bitch about it to the entire world or lash out in anger at the people around us. Still the only productive response to a problem is to just deal with it. We can pray to God but still God only help those who help themselves--that is, people who are willing to face their own problems.

What if there's absolutely no way out of our problems?

Take the pain. Accept it. Learn from it. Move on.


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