Long ago, there was a farmer who had problems. He was advised to go and see the Buddha, who was wise and would help him sort his life out. The Buddha asked him why he had come.
“I’m a farmer,” he said. “I love farming, but the problem is that sometimes there’s no rain, and we really struggle those years. Of course, sometimes we have the other problem, and there’s too much rain and the floods destroy everything.” But the man didn’t stop there.
“I also have a wife, Buddha. I love her, truly, but sometimes we don’t get on. To be honest, occasionally, she gets on my nerves. And my kids! They’re lovely kids. They’re great. Sometimes, though, they misbehave like you wouldn’t believe…”
The farmer went on and on like this. His in-laws were bothering him, he had money worries, he’d often tossed and turned in bed at night wondering about the meaning of life, and his left knee hurt. The Buddha listened patiently, smiled, and simply said, “I can’t help you.”
The farmer was astonished.
The Buddha continued, “Every person has 83 problems, every one of us. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Maybe you can do this or that to fix them, but once one problem is gone, another one springs up in its place. More problems are coming – for example, you will lose your family and loved ones one day, and you yourself will die. That’s a problem you certainly can’t do anything about.”
The farmer, probably beginning to regret his visit, couldn’t help but ask angrily, “Well, I thought you could help! What’s the point of everything you teach if you can’t solve my problems?”
“Well, I can maybe help you with your eighty-fourth problem,” he said.
“Eighty-fourth problem? Well, what’s that?”
“It’s that you want to not have any problems.”
Pain is inevitable. It is an integral part of the human condition. It is our clinging to or resistance to pain that causes us problems.
“Every event has two handles, one by which it can be carried, and one by which it can’t. If your brother does you wrong, don’t grab it by his wronging, because this is the handle incapable of lifting it. Instead, use the other—that he is your brother, that you were raised together, and then you will have hold of the handle that carries.” –Epictetus
“Every problem has two handles. You can grab it by the handle of fear or the handle of hope.” –Margaret Mitchell