Buddha did answer this. The whole of Buddhism, or “Dharma”, is supposedly a method to solve all our daily problems, and not just temporarily but FOREVER! This might seem a bit far-fetched. Unless … unless we realize what our problems actually are and where they are all coming from. At which point the Dharma method suddenly make a lot of sense. And if we gain some actual experience of how this works by trying it out in practice, it makes increasingly more sense. At least, that has been my experience over the past 33 years. I think Buddhism is supercharged common sense.
In his Medicine Buddha teachings of 2004, my teacher Geshe Kelsang said:
Buddha’s teachings are the actual method to solve human problems. To understand this, firstly we think, “What is the real nature of our problems?” Secondly we think, “What is the main cause of our problems?”
The nature of our problems
Have you already had a problem today perchance? What was it? A work problem, a relationship problem, a health problem, a family problem, a computer problem, an ageing problem, an existential problem?
Whichever it was, there were two things going on if we check. For example, if someone said something to us like, “You are not a priority in my life,” and we felt disappointed, there was the outer problem presenting as the thing they said and the inner (actual) problem of our unwished for sad response to that. These are not the same. If that person had said the same words and we hadn’t given a monkeys, we wouldn’t have had an actual problem. And in some cases, like if you happen to be a celebrity and that person a stalker (and I don’t know who reads this blog), those same words might even be a source of relief.
Our problems do not exist outside our mind. Their real nature is our unpleasant feelings, which are part of our mind. Normally we conflate outer and inner problems. Yesterday during a phone call my friend cursed, “Oh darn, I have a problem,” when Avast antivirus disabled his Yahoo toolbar. To be fair he got over it right away – his own unpleasant feeling, his actual problem, passed quickly. Then he sorted out the outer problem by fiddling about with his computer. (Or maybe he didn’t, I didn’t check.)
No unpleasant feeling = no problem. As my teacher says:
We can solve external problems as and when necessary by external means, eg, taking the computer to a computer whizz who understands the causes of the problem and can therefore fix it. To fix our inner problems, however, we need to understand their causes, which are not the same at all.
The cause of our problems
Geshe Kelsang continues:
Now, what is the main cause of our problems? The delusions. All our problems, our unpleasant feelings, come from the delusions of our attachment and ignorance. Therefore, these delusions are the main causes of our problems.
To show how this works, he goes onto explain the role that uncontrolled desire or attachment to our own wishes plays, and you can read about this in How to Solve our Human Problems pages 3-4. (I recommend having that book on your bedside table and dipping into it every day or whenever you are having a problem — it is a treasury of practical advice.) I have also written several articles on delusions here.
So I won’t go into more detail here — I just wanted to share the simple logic of figuring out (1) what is the nature of our problems ie, unpleasant feelings, and (2) what is the cause of our problems ie, delusions. Once we can see this, problems becomes so much more easy to handle.