I know that every year, at the start of the New Year, people make new resolutions. Some are people who want to stay in shape and have read about Tai Chi or Chi Kung as being good for your health, so they start Tai Chi classes. But only a few people persevere with the training. Most people break their resolution after only three months.
I often hear the sentence “Education can change life.” I think it means that in poor countries, if you let children get education, their life improves. They can use the knowledge to get a good job when they getting older. In poor countries where many don’t have the basic necessities of life, I believe that education can help. But in advanced countries when we talk about “a good healthy life” I sometimes doubt that education can do this.
Here is an example. I knew a man in his early 50s, with two Masters degrees and a good job with very good pay, but not a good life style. His was overweight and diabetic. He knew T’ai Chi and Chi Kung exercise were good for his health so I let him join my tai chi classes for free. But every time we finished warm-up and stretching, approximately 1/4 way through the class, he stopped and said he had enough exercise. He also knew that if you have diabetes you have to control your diet. Yet he still ate junk food all the time, sometimes even eating a whole bowl full ice cream. If I reminded him that this was not good for him he will say he knows and then argue with me.
My wife is a nurse. One day I went with her to a staff party and I saw some of her colleagues talking together and start smoking! These things just make me to think “Is education or knowledge really enough to change one’s life?”
I think, paired with knowledge, the most important thing to do to have a good healthy life is to actually use that knowledge. You need to do it, not just know it.
There is a Buddhist story that goes like this: Molokaz was a disciple who followed Sakyamuni Buddha for a while. But he had some questions bothering him. One day he got a chance walk outside with Buddha.
From his face Buddha knew Molokaz’s heart was not at peace so he ask him, “Do you have any questions bothering you Molokaz?”
Molokaz said, “Yes, Buddha. Why do you always not want to answer my questions? Please answer my questions clearly today. I have been puzzling over them for a while now. If I can’t get the answer from you today I think I will leave. My questions are; Is this world limited or limitless? Are our body and spirit together or separate? After we die does our spirit continue to exist or not? After you, the Buddha, die will you still exist or not? These are all my questions. Please answer me Buddha.”
“Molokaz, do these questions really bother your practice?” Buddha asked. “Let’s look over there. Do you see that body of a fallen deer? Now just imagine you are this deer and got shot from a hunter’s arrow. You got very seriously injured, but when a doctor came, ready to cure you, you stopped the doctor. You told the doctor “I want to know who shot me. How did this guy look like? I also would like to know what kind of bow and arrow he used. If I don’t get these answers I don’t want the cure.” And maybe before you got all the answer you died. So, Molokaz what is the most important thing to do? Should you let the doctor cure the injured as soon as possible? Isn’t that the most important thing to do? Now let’s deliberately look at our lives; birth, old age, illness, death and all the vexations of our lives in samsara. Aren’t these the most important problems for people to overcome? That is why I always teach people practical methods of practice. Even if you know all the answers to your questions it will only be knowledge. This kind of knowledge cannot help people get enlightenment. My job is to offer useful ways to help people release their life from suffering.”
After Molokaz heard this from Buddha he knew what the right answer was to his questions.
I think everyone would like to have a life of quality. But what is the most important component? Having good health is. I read a report; over sixty-four percent Americans are overweight. When you are overweight your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and other health problems goes up significantly. How can we keep our weight normal? We all know the answer: exercise and control your diet. But fewer people can do this than ever before.
In this information age most people can easily get information or knowledge from the Internet or television. But this also causes us new problems. We spend too much time in front of computer or TV and less time doing exercise. We also have too much information and trouble choosing just one course of action.
If you know Yoga, T’ai Chi, Chi Kung…doing any of these exercises can bring you a lot of benefits. But if you say; “I’m too busy now, I’ll start when I have more time” then you don’t really benefit; it’s just in your mind. The real benefits come with practice.
“A gentleman has three worries: Not yet being informed of a good thing, he worries until he knows. When he knows, he begins to worry that he has yet to learn it. When he has learn it, he begins to worry that he has yet to put it into practice.”
—–A Chinese Maxim