The Ultimate Problem

What is the quintessential problem? And how do we answer it?

A student walked up to a master. He sat down in front of him. “Master, I have a problem I cannot solve.” the student started.

“There is no problem,” the master replied. -“Yes, yes I have, and I don’t know how to solve it. I heard you teach a technique for this,” the student continued.

“My son, I have nothing to teach,” the master answered. “Then why are there all these students here?” the student asked.

“Oh they’re nothing but a bunch of stupid people who like to hang around,” the master said. The student left the master in a state of confusion.

The student came back a week later. “I have found out your secret. This ‘nothing’ that you teach. And I want to become your student,” he said to the master.

“I see that you are still holding unto the problem,” the master replied. The student was looking rather dazed by this. “Alright, enough of this!” said the student and threw a small pebble at the master’s chest which then rolled into his feet. The master picked up the pebble and said “Ah, there you are!” and so he took the student in.

After few months of long meditation sessions and different tasks, the student was starting to get weary. “You know, I’m starting to think that there was no problem there in the first place, to be solved.” The master gazed at him and said “Alright, now you’re starting to make some progress. But the real task haven’t even begun.” The student shrugged at the master and said “You know, I think I’ve got it. I don’t need anymore training.” So he packed up and left the master.

After few weeks of returning to his every day life, the student had begun to suspect that maybe there was after all something he might’ve missed during those intense sessions. He returned to the master and said “You know you were right. I really do have a long journey ahead of me. Please take me back.”

The master replied: “As you left, the problem stayed behind.”

The student started to panic and wonder what this meant. “Are you saying that my problem was already solved when I left? So me coming back here was just useless exercise in futility?” The master heartily answered: “No. You are still carrying the same problem as you were in the beginning. You had just forgotten about it.” And so he took the student in once more.

Several months went by. One morning, during breakfast the master suddenly asked the student: “Are you still carrying the problem?” The student took a sip of water and replied smiling: “Not only can I not find the problem, I cannot find the solver.”

The role of the master to his student, is many things. One of which is, he tries to get the student make an act of complete sincerity. He doesn’t want to see the person in what would be called the identity seen as social institution. Any idea the student has in his mind about who he is, in terms of social class, wealth, sex, race or beliefs is thrown out the window. He asks the student to be completely in the present, without as it were, a mind of hesitation. This is an impossible thing to do if they are.

Some of them arrange a series of tasks to the student, called koans. And they make them out to be the most ridiculously impossible tasks one can think of. What is the true position of the stars? How does one walk inside of a mountain? Collect the four seasons out of the rice fields. The reason they do this is to make the student desperate. Not because they are out to hurt their mind. But because so long as the student can be talked into believing that they need a series of tasks to progress spiritually, they will need a teacher.

This raises the question of what is the problem? Why do people go to spiritual teachers? Or any other teacher for that matter, who can make them “better”? There are all kinds of systems designed to improve the individual, and their main objective is changing the state of one’s consciousness, usually from anxiety or depression to happiness. And this teacher-student dynamic manifests itself in all aspects of life, not just in the spiritual scene.

For example books can act as teachers, people can act as teachers, one can learn from anything really. But there is something specially peculiar about the supposed master. But this creates a barrier, where you are below the master, and they are higher up. And so they set up stages for one to pass, until the student realises that the problem was a false one.

I was asked recently why I have discarded all systems of this kind, of self-improvement, of attaning “enlightenment” or in other words transforming your mind. And the following is an attempt to explain the reason.

There is nothing actually missing from you. That is the point. So long as people can be told they are missing something and that they have the answer, whether it’s this text or that scripture, they can be led into a system which gives their life something to strive towards. And that’s the reason I’ve personally ended that endeavour. Because it’s absolutely useless. You can’t arrange a game where you win. That’s what the yang and yin symbol really means. The negative always comes with the positive. So trying to arrange a life situation where you attain bliss without its correlative is like trying to arrange everything so it was all sideways, and nothing was vertical.

But what does it mean, if you can’t transform yourself? A lot of people won’t accept this if they don’t understand it. But it really means that you can’t do anything because you don’t exist. That is to say, as a separate entity apart from the cosmos. There is this process of the network which I described in a previous writing. And you are the entire network. But we have a way of playing this game called “one up” on either ourselves, other people or the universe. Because we think that we exist independently from it.

The concept of “attaining a Nirvana or enlightenment” is a misinterpretation anyway. Because there’s no one to attain such a thing in the first place. Borrowing the words of A. Watts: “You are as continuous with the rest of the universe as a wave is continuous with the ocean.” And so thinking that there is this magical separate state in which one is happy all the time and without problems is according to Taoist and Buddhist principles, impossible.

So what’s the alternative to our “favourite game”? Of trying to transform our minds into an unselfish, loving or enlightened one? Well, simply living here and now would be the key. Because in that moment or presence, there is nothing missing. But getting to that point, is the problem. Because you’re always there. But we have a habit of projecting a future where the great event will come some time later, instead of now. I’m not saying that people who take up these systems are wrong in any way, I’m saying that what works for someone else, might not work for me. Furthermore, an enormous amount of energy is being spent trying to overcome something which can only happen spontaneously. So instead of that, I’m part of a school I call the Easy Way. And it’s just me in it.

It states that: “the only thing you can really do, in the utter hopelessness of the vicious circle, of going around thinking that there is something missing from you, is to laugh. Because you’re it. Always was, and always will be. You really do have it all.”

There are very few texts out there which flat out say that you have it all. I own two of such texts, neither of which has anything to do with a system or a school of thought. There’s a special term for it which is borrowed from Hinduism, but it is not tied to that specific way of life. In fact, it can be found all over the place if one looks carefully enough. And it basically states that we are the cosmos, as it happens. And this is nothing other than what several scientific fields are trying to say, if even indirectly. So there, that’s why I have discarded all systems. Because there is no point in arriving at a point of view you already know about.

And people are free to believe what I say or not. Usually they don’t, because they have to find it out for themselves. If you simply say to someone: “you are the universe”. That doesn’t make any difference to their lives logically and they dismiss it. So I don’t go around preaching about it to people. Because you can’t preach an experience. And secondly, I don’t care whether they believe it or not. My only intention is saying that what they think they are looking for, they already have. But that seems unbelievable. It all depends on what you identify yourself as. If you identify yourself with the image of yourself, or the ego, you will always feel the frustration of not meeting the requirements of these enterprises. And your image of yourself isn’t there to begin with.

Undermining ideas that are inherent to our history is something that is not my intention. People have been and are being transformed every day. In most cases however, it is not because they sought it out for themselves, it hits you as a surprise. Sometimes it comes from extreme stress, sometimes substances, other times it just flashes out of the sky. In all the million people religions and ways of life, there are very few who has been reported attaining this thing as something which they themselves had a hand in. It never follows any rules. That’s why there is no “correct” way or path to attain it. I’m inclined to repeat this point, that if one is not fully alive now, they will always miss the point, and expect it to come later.

Well anyway, that’s why I believe I don’t need to pursue this thing. Because it does nothing but aggrivates one’s sensation of being stuck. By projecting a problem on top of as it were, inseparability. But could there be such a thing as the original, or ultimate problem? I once spent an entire day with my best friend pondering over first of all, what the ultimate problem is, and secondly what is the answer to that question. And at the end of the day we did come to a conclusion. And it was so simple it was funny.

The ultimate problem went like this: why does a perfect state creates itself a problem? Because by definition it’s already perfect. So why move? And the answer, was kicks. Because it’s fun to play games. And that is something that is the most difficult thing to try to convey to people, that we’re here because we’re bored. And it is this that is the driving force for what we generally do. That is the reason for example for having an affair. Because we cannot stand being still. And this being still is the ultimate problem.

I don’t know what more to say, except that the problem is not a problem. It’s an illusion, like one’s idea of themselves. It simply doesn’t exist, in reality. But we tend to always come back to the same problem. And as my favourite philosopher put it, answering to a question whether we’re stuck going around in circles throughout our lives: “Going around in circles as you may have noticed by observing the night sky, is what the universe is doing.”