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What is responsibility?

Taking care of something is the heart of responsibility. It requires you to make a commitment to some form of action. Caring requires attention, observation, thought and compassion.
It should not be taken lightly. All too often people mistake responsibility for authority and seek to boss others around rather than care for them.

Self reliance

Being responsible for yourself is important in tai chi. You are expected to actively learn the system rather than ask the instructor to somehow give it to you.
This helps to develop an attitude of resilience and self reliance. Taking responsibility for your own conduct is an important part of the art.
Learning to be self reliant will make you stronger - it is the process of taking responsibility for your own life.

Those aspects of societies that have traditionally given our lives meaning - religion, family, patriotism, etc - have been steadily weakened in our search to be free. We have become people without roots, seeking gratification of our personal desires with no concept of responsibility to others or the rest of the universe.

We have rejected meaning in our lives because meaning implies responsibility. We want amusement and entertainment, not duties and responsibilities. We seek to turn the oriental disciplines into hobbies and sports and thus we lose the essence of these arts.

(John Lash)

Your responsibility

In terms of tai chi, who is responsible for your training and progress? Is it you or the instructor? These are very important questions.
If you think that your teacher is responsible, then you have misunderstood what learning means. A teacher cannot give the art to you.
They cannot move your body, make your brain think or urge your lungs to breathe. You do all that.

Freedom to choose

Being responsible for yourself is the very essence of adulthood. A child is dependent upon others for support. An adult is responsible for themselves. This is freedom.

Attending lessons is not the same as learning

You are free to do as much or as little as you like. The responsibility is yours. It is not your tai chi teacher's job to provide motivation or to coach you. They offer the opportunity to learn the art.
And nothing more.

Fix me up

Doctors often suggest tai chi to people who are overweight, stressed or suffering from fatigue. The well-meaning doctor is hoping that the patient will take responsibility for their own wellbeing
Instead of taking responsibility, the patient wants the tai chi teacher to fix them up or at the very least listen to their lengthy catalogue of medical complaints.
The tai chi teacher is not a medical practitioner and cannot give medical advice. They are not a counsellor or a therapist.
When people come in the hope of being fixed-up, they are quite perturbed to be faced with actual exercise. And are surprised when asked to join in with the rest of the class.

Own it

The danger with looking outside yourself for answers is that you become weak and needy. By taking responsibility for your own development, you own it. It is yours. You take the credit.
You fix the problems.


In modern times people are often reluctant to take responsibility for themselves. They want to be entertained, stimulated and catered for.
Apart from being lazy this also indicates a high degree of boredom. Life is rich with opportunity. There are immense possibilities for personal development and improvement.
How can you possibly be bored? The sad fact is that boredom comes from within; and a bored person is typically a boring person.


When you look outside yourself for stimuli or you ask other people to help you (when no help is required), you abdicate responsibility. You give authority over you to somebody else. Why?
As a human being we are already required to submit to the governance and guidelines of others. We must adhere to the conventions and dictates of modern society.
Why on Earth would you voluntarily give away even more power?

Find out

Taking responsibility is fun. It demands that you find things out for yourself. First hand. This process is what we call living.

Krishnamurti: When you use a word be very careful that you know what it means. Do you know what the word 'responsibility' means? - not what you think it should mean, but what it means according to the dictionary. We must first understand the meaning of that word.

Questioner: Doesn't it mean the ability to respond?

Krishnamurti: That's right, isn't it? - the capacity to respond.

Questioner: We often use the word 'answerable'; we say, "I am answerable for such and such."

Krishnamurti: If I am inefficient I can't answer, respond properly. So responsibility means to respond adequately to the job or the environment or to the incidents around me. I must respond to my highest capacity: that is what the word 'responsibility' means. See what a lot is involved in that one word.


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Page created 11 June 1999
Last updated 16 June 2023