At my Dharmazen T’ai Chi studio we always start with drinking tea. I think people want to take Tai Chi and Chi Kung classes because they think this kind of gentle exercise can promote their health and help them relax their body and mind. So before the classes I like to make tea for my students. I really think this can help them relax before beginning practice. I don’t like people coming to practice in a hurry then hurrying to leave. Oftentimes I make Oolong tea in summer and ginseng herb tea in winter. It is also customary for us to talk about philosophy or discuss questions from practice. One time, while we were talking about how Tai Chi and Chi Kung had helped make my students feel good and changed their life, one of them said: ”I think some people are afraid to have their life changed. They don’t like their life style but because of all the unknown things in life they are afraid to change.”

This made me think about this truth. I have met people who, when they have some problems in their life, don’t want to face them. They only know how to take exterior stimulants to make themselves feel good… and so they have an alcohol/drug problem. All of us have different stresses from living and we all need to find a way to relieve them. But if you use exterior stimulants in the end they will control you. Your attempt to relieve stress just makes new problems. So what can someone, who doesn’t enjoy his or her life but doesn’t want to change, do?

In Buddhism many people think Buddha is like a God i.e. almighty. So can Buddha change our life? Perhaps. But there are three things Buddha cannot do.

The first: Buddha can’t reverse the negative karma of others. It is like Newton’s third law of motion where he talks about “action and reaction force pairs”. For every action force there is an equal (in size) and opposite (in direction) reaction force. Forces always come in pairs – known as “action-reaction force pairs.” When you use a fist (force) to hit the wall, simultaneously there is also a reaction force that hits your fist (maybe breaking your fingers). Buddha cannot nullify karma forces. Negative actions in the past have a reaction that always affects you.

The second: Buddha can’t deliver those without affinity and necessary conditions. I have tried to teach T’ai Chi and Chi Kung to some people for free, like when they have health problem or don’t have money. But they still don’t enjoy it and don’t like to practice so how can I help them? Similarly there are some people who don’t like Buddha or are not interested in his philosophy so he cannot help them, they don’t have affinity; the necessary conditions are not present (i.e. an open mind).

The third: Buddha can’t deliver all sentient beings without remainder. Buddha helped many people get enlightenment, but he lived only in India. He couldn’t help enlighten all sentient beings around the world.

So even though Buddha had immeasurable wisdom, he still couldn’t change someone’s life when he or she didn’t want to change. So who can change our lives? Only ourselves. We must change our own life and make it get better. Other people can only help us. But we have awesome potential. If you want to be a Buddha you can! Make a wish because everyone has a seed of Buddhahood within them. Or if you want to be a Tai Chi teacher then you practice hard and, after several years, you can be a Tai Chi teacher. I know you just need have a strong will and be patient.

“Even if a man dies at the age of one hundred but has not realized his aspirations, his death would still be considered an early death.”—Chinese maxim