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Thursday, November 01, 2001

The 84th Problem

One afternoon a farmer who had heard that the Buddha was a wonderful teacher came to the Buddha seeking relief from his suffering. "I'm a farmer," he said to the Buddha, "And I love farming. But last summer we had a drought and nearly starved, while this summer, we had too much rain and some of my crops did not do as well as I would have liked."
The Buddha sat and listened to the farmer. "I have a wife, too. She's a great woman, a wonderful wife. But sometimes she can really nag me. And to tell you the truth, sometimes I get a little tired of her." The Buddha continued to listen and smile, as the farmer continued. "I've got three kids. They're all really great. I'm really proud of them. But sometimes they don't listen to me and don't pay me the respect I deserve."
It went on like this for awhile, and then when finished with his litany, the farmer waited for the Buddha to solve his problems.
"I can't help you," said the Buddha. "What!" responded the farmer, "I've heard that you are a great master. How can you not help me?" "Well," the Buddha replied, "First of all, everyone has problems. In fact, everyone's got about 83 problems. Of course, you may fix one now and then, but another one will pop up in it's place. If you think about it, everyone you know and all that you care for is subject to change -- it's all impermanent. And you yourself are going to die someday. Now there's a problem."

The farmer was red in the face. "What kind of teacher are you!? How is this supposed to help me?!" he retorted. "Well....perhaps I can help you with the 84th problem," answered the Buddha. "What 84th problem?" asked the farmer.

"You don't want to have any problems."

That's it in a nutshell. We want a life where tax bills are never due; where bees don't sting; where flowers never wilt and people we love don't die. Of course, as this just isn't the way reality is set up, we are filled with suffering. Remember, the word "dukkha," meaning a bad place, refers to an axle that is off-center of the wheel. And this is how we live our lives -- unbalanced and off-center. Because we either resist reality -- the truth of constant change -- or we try to hold onto that which is by nature impermanent. Doomed to failure in both instances.

My posting of 10/15 included several practices designed to help us awaken and become familiar with the truth of impermanence. Below is a guided contemplation that goes back to the traditional practice of contemplating decaying corpses in the charnel ground. It is an exercise to aid us in becoming accustomed to the fact that sooner or later we all will die. If we can grow more comfortable and familiar with this truth, we can begin to transform our fear of death. By freeing us from that fear, we can begin to live our lives more deeply and with more care and awareness.

By reminding ourselves of our death, we can let go of much that is superficial and which keeps us so trapped in the cycle of struggling to attain. We can let go of our worries and our many ambitions that divert us from what is really important. We will then be able to live in a meaningful way, promoting peace and happiness for ourselves and for all beings.

Of course, this practice can be difficult and is not necessarily recommended for beginners. As always, honor where you are presently and start there.

1. Aware of my body alive and breathing, I breathe in.
Smiling to my body alive and breathing, I breathe out.

2. Seeing my dead body lying in bed, I breathe in.
Smiling to my dead body lying in bed, I breathe out.

3. Seeing my dead body gray in color, I breathe in.
Smiling to my dead body gray in color, I breathe out.

4. Seeing my dead body in a coffin, I breathe in.
Smiling to my dead body in a coffin, I breathe out.

5. Seeing my dead body being buried (or cremated), I breathe in.
Smiling to my dead body being buried (or cremated), I breathe out.

6. Seeing my ashes being mixed with the earth, I breathe in.
Smiling to my ashes being mixed with the earth, I breathe out.

7. Seeing my dead body decompose, I breathe in.
Smiling to my dead body decompose, I breathe out.

.: posted by Poep Sa Frank Jude 10:54 PM


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