The Solution to All Problems
[00:45] The Solution to All Problems
Jai Guru Deva. Thank you for listening to my podcast, The Vedic Worldview. I’m Thom Knoles.
When Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, my guru, had one of his setups where he was training people in Seelisberg, Switzerland, there was a great banner, probably about 50 feet wide, that was hung from the architraves above the entrance of the giant lobby into which we were welcomed.
And on the banner read the following, “Welcome to the solution to all problems.”
And in this particular epoch of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s training of the people who were there, he was emphatic that the solution to all problems is that there is no problem. In other words, to make the assumption that there’s not a problem in the first place is the first step to once again achieving frictionless flow.
So, let’s look at the idea of frictionless flow, and the idea of “problem.”
I arise in the morning, and I’m just saying this as an example, this isn’t really me describing my day. I rise in the morning and stroll into the bathroom. No problem. I reach for my toothbrush, and put toothpaste on the toothbrush. No problem. I brush my teeth. No problem. So there are no problems, no problems, no problems.
[02:57] Problem Solving
Now, I watch my five-year-old, Henry, do the same thing. He rises in the morning, strolls into the bathroom, and the steps that he needs to climb up to the sink are slightly out of position. Problem. Though, he has learned how to solve this problem by moving the steps, which he can do by himself.
So he moves the steps, and he goes to reach for his toothbrush, but it’s slightly out of reach. Problem. Then he stretches a little bit, and manages to get the toothbrush. And then goes to get his kiddie toothpaste, but the tube is completely flat, and there’s no toothpaste in it. Problem. But I’m standing there, and I happen to know that within arm’s reach, in a drawer, is a brand-new tube of toothpaste.
So when he says, “Problem,” to me, I say, “There’s no problem. Right here is the thing that you need.”
So now we’re getting down to it. What is it that comprises a problem?
We live a life in frictionless flow. You get up. You move toward a thing, and you have an intention. You have a preference. You lean into that preference, and either the preference is supported by the evolutionary functioning of the laws of Nature, or the preference is not supported.
And if the preference is not supported, then the Vedic approach is, rather than increasing effort and increasing persistence, one should take a moment and let go and attain to a less excited consciousness state.
In the less excited consciousness state is the solution. The solution, which is the item of knowledge that’s missing that will allow frictionless flow to continue, is not in a highly excited consciousness state. The solution is in a less excited consciousness state.
[05:32] Solutions in Less Excited States
Maybe, as I go to the less excited consciousness state, I reconsider my preference and realize that my preference requires either a little tweaking or completely letting go of it.
Or, perhaps in my less excited state, I arrive at a conclusion about where is the element, the missing element, that’s going to bring the solution to the problem.
Maharishi used to teach an analogy. You enter a room, and there’s a bunch of people in there, and the lights go out. And in our analogy, the people can’t escape from the room for some time, and they’re in pitch-black darkness.
They began to discover the problems of being in darkness. You bump into each other. Your knees hit the furniture. You can’t tell who’s who. All kinds of problems come because it’s completely dark.
And so, in our analogy, the group decides to carry out a study of the problem. Let’s study the problem. And see what it is.
And it’s discovered the problem is that, in darkness, you crash into furniture with your knees. Big problem. “And why is that a problem?” Someone will say on the committee on darkness, whose idea it is to solve “the problem…”
“Well, because you might get bleeding knees and things.
“All right. What we need then is first aid kits. And different kinds of first aid medicines to patch up the knees.”
“We won’t be able to do that terribly well because it’s dark. But we’ll do our best feeling around in the dark.”
[07:31] Darkness Is Beautiful
“What else is there?”
“Well, you can’t tell who’s speaking or who you’re speaking to.”
“Well, we need to get braille badges that people can use to feel out the initials of somebody else’s name. What’s the rest of the problem?”
“I have a solution,” says somebody. “Let’s see if we can grab this substance of darkness and push it out the window.” That fails.
And next solution for the Committee on Darkness to study the problem. “What we need is a motto,” says somebody who took a 200-hour psychology course.
“A motto to elevate the people and make them feel better, and the motto will be: darkness is beautiful. God wants us living in darkness. Darkness is beautiful. Let’s all chant it together and see if we can start feeling good about the darkness.”
And in our story, in comes someone who happens to have a key to the door and gets in, reaches their hand around the corner, and switches on a light. And everyone in the room is dazzled, and the room is in a complete mess and disarray from the hours spent in darkness.
What happens when the light goes on? The introduction of a second element. Light connects the Knower with the Known. It provides the element of Knowing. Light is that that connects the Knower with the Known.
When the Knower is connected to the Known, the shifting of the furniture around the room is no longer required as an engineering feat in darkness. The first aid kits are no longer required. The braille badges are no longer required. The motto that darkness is beautiful is no longer required.
[09:33] Problem Is Actually a Consciousness State
There may be some people who have become rather wed to their solution. They’ve already invested in the first aid kits, or they’re really keen about turning “Darkness is beautiful” into a very popular song that everybody can sing.
And since they are rather wed to this, having the light on is a bit pestiferous for them. It ruins their plans. They really rather resent the light coming on.
Another thing with the light coming on is that you get to see the mess that was created when the darkness was there, and there’s going to be a bit of a task cleaning it all up.
This analogy, although it’s couched in a more modern setting, actually comes to us from one of the Upanishads, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. It is intended to show what happens when you introduce a second element.
The second element is that that challenges the assumptions of all of the previous attempts to solve a problem. You bring light. Darkness is just not found. So rather than having to address the darkness on its own terms, one actually is working with light. One is able to do all kinds of things in a well-lit room that are very problematic in a room that’s not lit.
This is intended to bring us to realizing the lessons embedded in our analogy. And the primary lesson is that “problem” is actually a consciousness state. When there’s frictionless flow, and then frictionless flow comes to an end because of a perceived obstacle, then we have a problem.
[11:48] Archimedes and Problem Resolution
There’s a tale, probably apocryphal, but nonetheless instructive, of the famous Archimedes, who is the master of leverage, the great mathematician and scientist and advisor to the king of Greece from thousands of years ago. Archimedes was famous for having learned how to employ all of the different elements of leverage.
One day, a trade route that passed through a narrow chasm or canyon was blocked by a large house-sized boulder that had rolled down and stuck itself right in the middle of that trail. People on either side could communicate with each other by shouting, but the trade route was completely blocked.
And every kind of attempted solution was put into play, attaching donkeys by the hundreds to the rock, and pulling on ropes, and people trying magical spells, and people hitting the rock with hammers, and so on. But the rock was house-sized, and none of these attempts were going to be successful within any time frame that was going to allow frictionless flow to return.
Somebody said, “Let’s call Archimedes,” and along he comes. And he says, “I’ll need a shaft of wood” – by today’s standards, we would say the size of a telephone pole – and a rock that can be used as a fulcrum. And then I’m going to need about 15 people, and we’re going to create a lever, and we’re going to shift the boulder.”
And indeed, that was done. In a matter of less than an hour, the boulder was rolled away, and the trade route continued to flow frictionlessly.
[14:06] See Obstacles as Opportunities
So, what do we see from this? We know that the arrival of a so-called obstacle on the scene actually has embedded in it opportunity to learn higher levels of how the laws of Nature work.
If we consider an obstacle merely to be an obstacle, then we don’t get to learn the information that we could learn that exercises our brain and helps us to challenge assumptions and to discover new ways of bringing about solutions.
So solutions, meaning the restoration of frictionless flow. Restoration of frictionless flow. And without the challenge to our idea of what should happen, challenging of our preferences, we have a preference for the day to go with frictionless flow exactly the way we hope it to go. Without challenges to our frictionless flow, there’s no evolution.
Any Darwinian biologist will tell you that what we consider to be advanced forms, biological forms on Earth, to flourish is changes of expectation.
Different kinds of flaws, different kinds of genetic aberrations that work better in the situations in which many who don’t have those genetic aberrations cannot continue with their frictionless flow.
Those who have the genetic aberration, those that have the form that becomes an adaptation function are able to get things done in ways that those who don’t have it are not able to. And this allows members of a species to survive to reproductive age.
[16:16] Evolution of Solutions
And those that move forward and continue to succeed are the ones who have the genetic aberrations that allow them to achieve frictionless flow in the face of various kinds of demands.
Everything about the evolution of a species has to do with there being blocks to that evolution, which are transcended by adaptations, reproductive adaptations that occur, that allow the species to move on and to become increasingly advanced and increasingly capable.
The idea that you could place a human being on that satellite, natural satellite known as the moon, orbiting the earth some 240,000 miles away through empty space, a place that has no atmosphere and has only a quarter of the gravity of the earth.
The idea that you could place somebody on that celestial body, squishy little hairless apes that humans are, figuring out how to dig things up out of the ground, put them together in specific elaborate sequences to create rockets, and then to create all the information about what direction do you point the rocket, because if you point it straight at the moon, by the time the rocket gets there, the moon has shifted to the other side of the earth and the rocket misses the moon.
So, how do you figure out all the ballistics and the trajectory? How do you figure out all the different sequential elaborations that you need in order to land a little squishy hairless ape onto that celestial body, the moon?
[18:17] There’s a Problem
Without that having been an aspiration, without that having been something that most people said is impossible, then that wondrous achievement and all the other knowledge and information that came along with it, which is a crop of abundance of information, much greater, much, much greater than the actual achievement of somebody walking around on the moon none of that would have ever come.
So what is it that comprises “a problem”? First of all, problem is a consciousness state. Problem is not a set of circumstances or a situation. Problem is a consciousness state.
If you get into a different consciousness state, either you discover there is no problem, or there’s a way of going around this obstacle, or removing the obstacle, or discovering new ways of thinking, new ways of behaving, new assumptions that allow the brain to exercise its infinite capability for creativity. So, we need to get out of problem consciousness.
Whenever I traveled with Maharishi, if I ever said, “There’s a problem.” He would just look at me and say, “No, there’s no problem.”
I remember once walking with him. We had to go to the city of Bern in Switzerland, where the Indian consulate was, in order to get him a renewed passport. And traveling with him, and landing in the city of Bern, and then we took a train to the downtown area where the Indian mission was.
[20:24] There’s No Problem
But this is the days long before any kind of electronic maps, long before phones that you walked around with. A phone was a thing that was wired into the wall that had a dial on it. You can make telephone calls if you happen to know a certain number.
But we hadn’t had, in time for our departure, we hadn’t had the information about the exact location. All I had was a paper map of downtown Bern.
And when we got there, standing on a sunny street corner, and the usual confusion of a major city at lunchtime, with people walking in every direction, traffic moving in every direction, and all kinds of street traffic, if I remember correctly, trolleys even going down the street. There was an absolutely bewildering array of signage, buildings, people, noise, vehicles, and heat from the hot summer sun.
And I had my map in my hand, and I said to Maharishi, “I have to confess I’m not sure 100 percent exactly where we are on this map. I need to ask a few people. I hope somebody speaks English,” because it was a German speaking part of Switzerland, and I didn’t speak that language.
And he looked at me and he said, “Thom, everything that you need to know is right here now. Absolutely everything you need to know.”
And I said, “All right.”
He said, “Just come back onto Self, but keep your eyes open. Come back onto Self.”
So I quietened down and came back onto Self. I started to unfold my map. And he said, “No, put the map away.”
[22:28] The Pathway to Solution
And as I decreased my excitation and just gazed around, I happened to see, emerging out of the laneway, about 100 yards away, two letters that looked as though they were the last letters on a particular sign, and these letters were only about one foot high each. And all I could see was the last two letters of some kind of message or advertisement or something.
The last two letters were I and A. And in my least-excited state, I realized that this hint, this clue, which was a little bit of a kind of Where’s Waldo moment, suddenly looked like it could bear some fruit.
And I said, “Maharishi, let’s walk over here and get a better view of that laneway.” And sure enough, the D appeared, D-I-A. And then the N appeared, N-D-I-A. And then the I appeared I-N-D-I-A. And then as we moved a little further of, O-F India, and sure enough, instead of being Flavor of India or Food of India, it was Consulate of India.
And there it was. That little scant piece of information that I was implicitly rejecting when I decided there was a problem.
And he looked at me with those big brown eyes and said, “There’s no problem. De-excite. Lower your excitation. Come back on to Self. Come back into that least-excited consciousness state. And you’ll find the solution. There is always a solution in a less excited state. The less excited state is the equivalent of the light in the dark room.”
[24:33] Get Knowledge of the Knower
From where will you draw a solution? The answer, from your less excited state. The less excited state has in it the solution to all “problems,” and ultimately, what that shows you is that if you’re in that state of consciousness, which can take in all knowledge, which is the home of all knowledge.
After all, consciousness is that by which all other things are known. There’s a fundamental tenet of information theory that states that information or knowledge has organizing power. And this is widely accepted, a concept that was popularized by an information theorist by the name of Edward de Bono, quite a genius in his own way.
Knowledge has organizing power. Given that it is true, demonstrably, that knowledge does have organizing power, let’s think of a kind of knowledge that has the greatest organizing power. Knowledge of the Knower. Knowledge of the Knower.
Knowledge of that which is your own least-excited state, consciousness, which is the fountainhead of all thoughts, the fountainhead of all knowledge, knowledge of the Knower, knowledge of consciousness.
If knowledge, information, has organizing power, then knowledge of the Knower, knowledge of the source of all that can be known, knowledge of that by which all things are known, must have infinite organizing power.
Knowledge of the Knower has infinite organizing power. So how do we get knowledge of the Knower?
[26:39] Practice Vedic Meditation and Reveal Inner Knowledge
We do this through our regular twice-a-day practice of Vedic Meditation, settling down into that least-excited state intentionally. For every purpose. There’s so many purposes of doing it.
Giving the body extraordinary, unprecedented levels of rest, allowing thereby for deep accumulated stress to dissolve day after day, to awaken our familiarity with the workings and mechanics of our own inner Self, our own true nature, our less excited nature is our true nature, because that which is true is that which doesn’t change.
Our surface nature goes through change all the time, and that which is always changing is only temporarily true. That which doesn’t change is capital T, True.
There is a layer of our unconsciousness, which is The Absolute. It is the state of Being, the Unified Field of Consciousness, the least-excited state of consciousness, the simplest form of awareness, pure consciousness, that from which all thoughts issue forth, that from which all knowledge issues forth. That consciousness state is right there inside you.
Meditation does not create it. Our practice of Vedic Meditation reveals, systematically reveals, that deep inner reality. So every time we practice Vedic Meditation, every time we settle into that least-excited state, we familiarize ourselves with the home of all knowledge, the solution to all problems.
The least-excited state has in it all connectivity, the capacity to draw a line from any one dot to every other dot, to connect everything. To be able to understand all of the interconnectivity of the entire universe is within the range of human potential.
[29:02] From Problem Consciousness to Solution Consciousness
So this is why a great master like Maharishi would take particular joy in making people feel a little uncomfortable by saying, “No, there’s no problem.“
Every time someone would say, “There’s a problem,” Maharishi, he’d say, “No. There’s no problem. Let’s come out of problem consciousness. Let’s get into solution consciousness.”
And indeed, being around him for that quarter of a century and more, it really rubbed off on me. And, now when I hear the word problem, what I hear is state of consciousness.
Someone says, “Problem,” I hear state of consciousness. I don’t really hear that there’s an obstacle that’s impenetrable.
Sometimes, when I hear the word problem, I hear the word opportunity. A problem is an opportunity to discover leverage. A problem is an opportunity to discover an angle. Problem is an opportunity to challenge an assumption.
And so, let’s come out of problematic consciousness, problem consciousness, and get into that state of consciousness where there are no problems. There’s just an abundance of knowledge, capability, interconnectedness, and solution.
Jai Guru Deva.