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The 84th Problem

Here's one of my favorite Buddha stories - the 84th problem...

2 min read

Thousands of years ago, a man approached the Buddha. He had heard of the Buddha's great wisdom and hoped he could give him advice that would solve his many problems.

The Buddha emptied himself and patiently listened as the man recounted a litany of problems with his crops, disputes with his neighbors, problems with the government tax collector, issues with his wife and children, and so on.

When the man finished he asked the Buddha for the solution to his problems. The Buddha famously said, "I cannot help you. You have 83 problems, they cannot all be solved."

The man was furious, according to the story. "I thought you were a great teacher," he said, "I traveled nearly 100 miles to hear you. I truly believed in your wisdom, but your teachings are worthless if they can't solve the real problems of the world."

In response, the Buddha said, "But I can help you with your 84th problem."

"My 84th problem? What's that?" he demanded to know.

The Buddha explained that each of us has many intractable problems in our lives, and as soon as you solve one, another one appears to take its place. "Here's your 84th problem," the Buddha explained. "You want a life without problems, and if you can solve that problem, all the other problems will go away." According to the legend, the man was so moved by the Buddha's response that he knelt at his feet and became his student from that day forward.

Here's why this story goes right to the heart of it.

We all have problems. We have health issues, or financial issues, or relationship issues. We live in a world of stress and worry. The very nature of the outer world is limited which means that problems are built into the outer world.

In Light Consciousness, you still have problems, but you can dial down your response when negative situations arise. You're still in the problem, it's a real problem, it's not going away - you're just dialing down your level of emotion, you are choosing a more enlightened response - grounding, listening, experiencing the problem as it unfolds before you.

Life's 83 problems (and it may feel like 83 million problems) are beyond your control. You're wasting energy trying to eliminate problems in the outer world. Only in the peace and balance of your inner world can you accept that problems are part of life. Only then can you address the 84th problem and rise above all the other problems in life.

So where did the number 83 come from? Buddhist monasteries (even to this day) train their new students in advanced techniques of concentration and memorization. So it would have been no effort at all for the Buddha to accurately keep a running mental count of the farmer's complaints - of which the Buddha counted 83.