Being Zen

Chapter 5 of the 2002 book Being Zen by Ezra Bayda is called "The Eighty-fourth Problem". It begins with a classic story:

Once a farmer went to tell the Buddha about his problems. He described his difficulties farming—how either droughts or monsoons complicated his work. He told the Buddha about his wife—how even though he loved her, there were certain things about her he wanted to change. Likewise with his children—yes, he loved them, but they weren't turning out quite the way he wanted. When he was finished, he asked how the Buddha could help him with his troubles.

The Buddha said, "I'm sorry, but I can't help you."

"What do you mean?" railed the farmer. "You're supposed to be a great teacher!"

The Buddha replied, "Sir, it's like this. All human beings have eighty-three problems. It's a fact of life. Sure, a few problems may go away now and then, but soon enough others will arise. So we'll always have eighty-three problems."

The farmer responded indignantly, "Then what's the good of all your teaching?"

The Buddha replied, "My teaching can't help with the eighty-three problems, but perhaps it can help with the eighty-fourth problem."

"What's that?" asked the farmer.

"The eighty-fourth problem is that we don't want to have any problems."

Being Zen in its first chapter ("Skating on Thin Ice") offers two suggestions — or maybe one Big Suggestion? — on how to react more skillfully to life challenges:

Ezra Bayda concludes that first chapter with:

What we need is a gradual yet fundamental change in our orientation to life—toward a willingness to see, to learn, to just be with whatever we meet. Perhaps there is nothing more basic and essential than this willingness to just be. To simply be with our experience—even with the heaviness and darkness that surround our suffering—engenders a sense of lightness and heart. The willingness to learn from our disappointments and disillusionments is key. Pain we thought we could never endure becomes approachable. As we cultivate our willingness to just be, we discover that everything is workable. Until we come to know what this means, we are cutting ourselves off from the openness, the connectedness, and the appreciation that are our human gifts.

This echoes themes explored by Jon Kabat-Zinn (cf. Mindfulness for Beginners), Phillip Moffitt (cf. Softening into Experience), et al. More Being Zen thoughts to follow ...

(cf. Posture (2009-06-05), Bursting the Bubble of Fear (2014-03-26), ...) - ^z - 2014-05-26