Liao-Fan's Four Lessons

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Liao-Fan's Four Lessons (了凡四訓) is a book written by Yuan Liaofan, who was born during the Ming Dynasty, in about 1550, in Wujiang County, Jiangsu Province. Yuan wrote the book to teach his son, Yuan Tian-Chi. The principal idea behind these lessons is that destiny can be changed through proper cultivation of kindness and humility. Thus one should not be bound by fate, but by one's own actions.

Yuan Liaofan was told by a Taoist monk surnamed Kong that he would only live to the age of 53 and have no son. At first, he disregarded this monk's words as farcical nonsense, but as Kong's other predictions began to occur with great accuracy, he then proactively made an effort to rewrite his fate. In relating his own life experience in changing destiny, Yuan, at the age of 69, wrote and taught these four lessons to his son.

The first lesson shows how to create destiny. The second lesson explains the ways to reform. The third reveals the ways to cultivate kindness and the fourth discloses the benefits of the virtue of humility.

The book, still in circulation after more than 500 years, is said to be a useful foundation in learning Confucianism and Buddhism.


3 conditions for reform:

  1. One must feel shame,
  2. One must know fear,
  3. One must have determination and courage.

3 methods to reform:

  1. Changing through action
  2. Changing through reasoning
  3. Changing from the heart

10 ways to cultivate kindness:

  1. Supporting the practice of kindness
  2. Harboring love and respect
  3. Helping others succeed
  4. Persuading others to practice kindness
  5. Helping those in desperate need
  6. Developing public projects for the greater benefit of the people
  7. Giving through donation
  8. Protecting the proper teaching
  9. Respecting our elders
  10. Loving and cherishing all living beings

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