83 Problems

One farmer came to the monastery to seek advice from a famous Zen teacher.


“I like farming,” the farmer started, “but sometimes it doesn’t rain enough, and my crops fail. Last year we nearly starved. And sometimes it rains too much, so my yields vanish.” The master patiently listened to the man. “I’m married, too,” said the man, “but sometimes my wife nags me too much and I get tired of her.”


The master listened quietly. “I have kids,” said the man. “but sometimes they don’t show me enough respect.” The man went on like this, laying out all his difficulties and worries. Finally, he wound down and waited for the master to say the words that would put everything right for him. Instead, the master said, “I can’t help you.”


“What do you mean?” said the man, astonished.


“Everybody experiences problems,” said the Master.


“In fact, we’ve all got eighty-three problems, each one of us. Once you fix one, another problem will appear right in its place. And there’s nothing you, I, or anyone else can do about it.”


The man became furious and shouted, “I thought you were a great teacher! What is the point of your teaching, then?”


The master said, “My teaching will help you with the eighty-fourth problem.”


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


Replied the master, “You want not to have any problems.”