Changing one's life is what many wanted to do. However, very often we do not know what we should do in order to change our life and even our destiny. Some even claimed that you are not able to change anything in your life. Personally, I believe strongly that it is with every choice that you make that shapes and changes your life. Below are the articles which are related to changing life based on the simple theory of merits.
Liao-Fan's Four Lessons Audio Book
- -If you really want to have good fortune, ..., it is necessary to first reform your faults before practicing kind deeds
- -There are also three methods of practice in helping one reform
The Second Lesson: Ways to Reform
[Narrator]: How can we be free from faults when we were not born as saints or sages? Confucius once said, "One with faults should not fear to correct them." After Liao-fan spoke of the ways to create destiny, he proceeded to tell his son about the three ways to reform.
First, one must feel shame, second one must know fear, and third, one must have determination and courage. If we are mindful of correcting even the tiniest mistake, then large wrongdoings would naturally be avoided.
[Narrator]: The Spring-Autumn Period mentioned throughout this book refers to a period in China's history over 2,000 years ago when the country was undergoing great change and turmoil.
[Liao-Fan]: During the Spring-Autumn Period, China was divided into several small nations. Many prestigious advisors and counselors of these nations were able to accurately predict whether a person's future would be good, bad, disastrous or fortunate, based on their observation of that person's speech and behavior. These can all be seen recorded in several history books.
[Liao-Fan]: Usually, there are signs which signal impending danger or of coming good fortune. These signs are a reflection of one's heart; though it is the heart from which thoughts arise, the body and its limbs can fully portray a person's character. For instance, if a person is kind-hearted, then his every gesture would indicate steadiness and solidity. If a person is evil and mean, then his body and limbs would naturally portray a petty and small character. Often a person is more fortunate when he tends toward kindness and invites trouble when he tends toward meanness. Worldly people often do not see what is actually going on, as if their vision was blurred. Since they cannot see reality, they claim that fortune and disasters are unpredictable.
[Liao-Fan]: When a person is absolutely honest and truthful, his heart is in agreement with the heart of heaven. Therefore, when one can use this sincere attitude in treating people and dealing with everyday matters, good fortune will naturally follow. This means that in observing someone, we only need to pay attention to his behavior. If his behavior portrays kindness, then you will know for sure in advance that his good fortune is not far behind. On the contrary, when we see unkind behavior from a person, we will know that troubles await him. If you really want to have good fortune, and stay away from adversity, it is necessary to first reform your faults before practicing kind deeds.
[Liao-Fan]: There are three ways to reform one's faults: First, one must feel shame. Think of all the ancient saints and sages whose names and teachings have lasted through hundreds of generations. They were people just like us, but why is my name tarnished and my reputation ruined in just one lifetime? I find that it is because I over- indulge myself in material pleasures and have been badly influenced by the polluted environment. I also secretly do many things I'm not supposed to do, and think others won't know about it. Sometimes I disregard the nation's laws and am not ashamed of it. Without realizing it, I stoop lower each day until I'm no different from an animal. There is nothing else in the world which calls for more shame and remorse than these behaviors. Mencius once said, [Mencius]: "Shame" is the greatest and most important word in a person's lifetime. Why? Because one who knows shame, will put forth his best effort in reforming faults and will eventually attain sagehood or become a saint. One who cannot comprehend the word 'shame' will be unrestrained and immoral. This person would then be just like an animal.
[Liao-Fan]: These are really key words to reforming your faults.
[Liao-Fan]: The second way to reform is that one must know fear. What are we to fear? We must know that the heaven, earth, spirits, and gods all hover over our heads in observation. They are different from man in that they can see everything without obstruction.
Therefore, it is not easy to deceive them. Even when my wrongdoings are done in a place where nobody is around to witness it, the heaven, earth, spirits and gods are just like a mirror, clearly reflecting all my faults. If my offense is serious, then all kinds of disasters will befall me; if the fault is minor, it will still deduct from my current fortune. How can I not feel fear?
[Liao-Fan]: Every moment, even when I'm in an empty room, the spirits and gods watch over me very carefully and records everything. We can try covering up our evil doings from others, but the spirits and gods can see through to our hearts and know our every action. Ultimately, we cannot deceive ourselves. We would feel embarrassed and dishonored if others happened to see our misdeeds. Therefore, how can we not be constantly cautious of our every actions and be fearful of the consequences they might evoke?
[Liao-Fan]: But there's more to it! As long as a person still has one breath left, then he has the chance to repent of the most serious mistakes and offenses.
[Narrator]: Once, a person who behaved badly during his entire lifetime felt remorse just when he was about to die. He had realized his past mistakes and regretted all the bad things he had done. His heart came to a very kind thought, and immediately afterwards, he passed away peacefully.
[Liao-Fan]: This is to say, if a person can have an overwhelming and courageous kind thought at the most important moment, then it can cleanse away hundreds of years of accumulated sins. This is just like how only one lamp is necessary to bring light into a valley that has been dark for a thousand years. Therefore, it does not matter how long one has been sinful, or if the offenses were newly made; he or she is a surpassing person as long as they are able to change!
[Narrator]: Though we make mistakes, it is good to correct them. But don't think it is all right for you to do bad things now because you can always repent later. This is definitely not allowed. If one commits a wrongdoing purposely, then the sin is even greater than before.
[Liao-Fan]: Besides, we are living in a tumultuous and constantly changing world. Our body, being made of flesh and blood is extremely perishable. If our next breath does not come, then this body will no longer be part of us. By then, even if we did want to reform, we would not have the chance to do so.
[Narrator]: Also, when a person dies, he cannot take any worldly possessions with him; for only his karma stays with his spirit.
[Liao-Fan]: Therefore, when you commit evil, your retribution in the physical world is a bad reputation and name which will last for hundreds and thousands of years. Even filial children and loving grandchildren cannot cleanse your name for you. Whereas in your afterlife, you might end up in hell suffering immeasurable pain.
Even the saints, sages, Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas you may meet cannot save or help you from your consequences. So how can one not be fearful?
[Liao-Fan]: The third way to reform is: one must have determination and courage. A person who hesitates to reform his faults is one who really does not want to change, but is content with what he can get away with. His willpower may not be strong enough, making him afraid to change his wrongdoings. For a reform to take place, one must use all his efforts and resolve to change immediately. One should not doubt or wait to reform one's faults. We should not postpone our resolve to change until tomorrow or the day after. A minor fault is like a thorn sticking into our flesh, and should be quickly removed.
A big fault is like a finger bitten by a poisonous snake. We must cut off that finger without hesitation to prevent the poison from spreading and taking our life.
[Liao-Fan]: If a person can follow the three ways of shame, fear, and determination to reform, then his personality will surely be transformed. Just as a thin layer of ice is melted by the sun's rays in springtime, one's faults will also disappear when dealt with through these three ways.
[Liao-Fan]: There are also three methods of practice in helping one reform. First is changing through action; second is changing through reasoning, and third is changing from the heart. Since the methods vary, so do the results of change.
[Liao-Fan]: For example, if I killed living beings in the past, I now vow not to kill again starting today. If I was angry and yelled at others in the past, I vow not to get angry starting today. This is how a person changes through action, and refrains from repeating a wrongdoing by vowing not to do it again. However, it is a hundred times harder if you force yourself not to do something than if you just stopped doing it naturally. If you do not uproot your faults, but merely suppress them, the faults will eventually resurface even if you have temporarily stopped doing them. Therefore, the method of changing through action cannot help you get rid of your faults permanently.
[Liao-Fan]: Second, let me explain changing through reasoning. A person who tries to reform can refrain from wrongdoings by understanding the reason and principle behind why he should not do it. In the instance of killing, one can reform through contemplating:
[Narrator]: Loving all living things is the virtue of heaven. All living beings love life and are afraid to die. How can I be at peace with myself by taking another's life to nurture my own? At times, animals were even cooked alive, such as fish or crabs. They may not have been completely slaughtered before going into the cooking pot. Such pain and suffering reach down into the bones, how can we be so cruel to these animals? When we eat, we use all kinds of expensive and tasty things to nourish our bodies, enough to fill the whole dinner table! But once the meal is done, even the delicacies become body waste and are excreted. The result of our killing accomplishes nothing. We can be nourished just as well by consuming vegetarian foods. Why let your stomach become a graveyard and reduce your fortune through the sin of killing?
[Liao-Fan]: Think again of all the living beings with flesh and blood.
Like us, they have a consciousness. We should cultivate virtue and allow these living beings to feel safe around us. How can we continue to harm their lives and make them hate us? If you think about it, you will naturally feel sorrow for these animals and be unable to swallow their flesh.
[Liao-Fan]: Here's another example of change through reasoning. One who often gets angry should stop and think of the fact that everyone has their individual strengths and weaknesses. According to my reasoning, if I touched on someone else's weakness, I should pity him for his weaknesses and forgive his shortcomings. If someone offends me for no reason at all, then it is their problem, and that has nothing to do with me. There is no reason for me to get angry. I can also think:
[Narrator]: There isn't a right minded person who thinks he is always right, for anyone who thinks he is perfect must be a fool. There isn't a learned person who blames another for being knowledgeable, because a truly learned person would be humble, and he will only criticize himself and treat others with tolerance. Therefore, one who complains about others is not a genuine learned person.
[Liao-Fan]: Therefore, when things do not go the way we wish, it is because we haven't cultivated our virtues and morals, and have not accumulated enough merits to move others! We should always reflect upon ourselves first and see whether we have mistreated others. If we practice thus and diligently cultivate this virtue, then adversity and slander can actually become our training ground to refine our character and to fulfill our goals. Therefore, we should be very glad to accept someone else's criticism and teachings. What is there to be angry and complain about?
[Liao-Fan]: Additionally, to remain unmoved by slander is like letting a torch burn itself out in space. If we hear others slandering us and try to defend ourselves, it would be like the spring silkworm spinning its own cocoon. There was an old saying which stated 'one who ties himself in a cocoon is looking for suffering'. Therefore, no benefit but harm is derived from getting angry. There are other faults and offenses we can change along the same lines. If we can understand the reasoning behind the need for reform, we will not make the same mistakes twice.
[Liao-Fan]: Lastly, what is meant by changing from the heart? Though a person's faults can amount to thousands of different types, they all stem from thoughts of the mind. If my heart is still of thoughts, then actions will not arise and faults can be avoided. If your heart is rooted in vices such as desire, fame, profits, or anger, you don't have to find ways to get rid of each fault. All you need is a sincere, kind heart and the willingness to practice kind deeds. As long as your heart is virtuous and kind, then naturally your mind will not generate any improper thoughts.
[Liao-Fan]: All mistakes stem from the heart; therefore, one should change from the heart. It is like getting rid of a poisonous tree.
If you want to put an end to it, you must uproot it altogether so it cannot grow again. Why exert yourself to no avail by pulling out its leaves one by one and cutting it twig by twig?
[Liao-Fan]: The best way to reform our faults is through cultivating our hearts. If we are willing to cultivate our hearts, then it is possible to purify our faults right away.
[Narrator]: This is because wrongdoings originate from the heart.
Purifying the heart can erase all improper and bad thoughts before they are carried out in action.
[Liao-Fan]: If my heart is pure, I can recognize and stop an evil thought as soon as it arises. The immoral idea will disappear the moment I lay my conscious on it. If I am unable to succeed at reforming a fault through changing the heart, then I will try at the level of understanding, knowing the reasons why I need to make the change. If I cannot succeed with this, then I will try to reform by changing through action and force the thought to dissipate. The best way is by cultivating the heart and understanding the reason behind the need to change. The alternative way is forcing ourselves not to commit the wrongdoing again. Sometimes all three methods have to be used to succeed at reforming a fault. Don't be a fool by dismissing the best way and preferring the alternative way.
[Liao-Fan]: But even when one vows to change, assistance is needed to truly reform. We will need constant reminders from true friends who are witnesses to our actions in everyday life. As for our good and bad thoughts, we can ask the spirits and gods to be our witness. I practice this by writing down all my faults and reporting them to the heavens, earth, spirits, and gods. You also need to repent sincerely and wholeheartedly from morning to evening without laxity. If one can sincerely repent from one to two weeks, then one to three months, continuing this way, then one will definitely attain results and benefits.
[Narrator]: What are the benefits of repentance? For one, you may feel very much at ease, and your heart will feel light and generous. A dumb person may suddenly become wise, and one can maintain a clear and relaxed mind even in a disturbing and confusing environment. One would also feel a great knowledge for everything. One would be able to drive out all hatred upon seeing an enemy and keep a happy attitude. One may dream of spitting out black things; a sign of expelling improper thoughts and negative energy, leaving the heart much cleaner and purified. One may also dream of the ancient saints or sages who have come to promote and help them, or dream of flying in space without a care in the world. One may also dream of all kinds of colorful flags and ornately decorated canopies. These unusual phenomena are all indications of a successful reform and dissolving of past offenses.
[Liao-Fan]: However, one must not consider seeing these phenomena as a sign of perfection. Instead, one must resolve to further improve the self and put forth greater effort to reform.
[Liao-Fan]: During the Spring-Autumn period of China's history, there was a high senior government official in Wei, named Bwo-yu Chu. When he was twenty, he was already mindful of his past faults. He studied his mistakes and tried to correct them thoroughly. At the age of twenty-one, he felt he still had not completely corrected all his faults. When he was twenty-two, he felt as if twenty-one was spent dreamily, without practical improvement. Thus, year after year, he continued to correct his faults. When he reached fifty, Bwo-yu still felt that the past forty nine years were full of wrongdoings. This was how particular our ancestors were regarding the correction of faults!
[Liao-Fan]: We are all just common people and our mistakes are as numerous as the spines on a porcupine. Oftentimes when we look back, we do not even see our own faults. This is because we are careless, and do not know how to reflect on our own actions. It is as if a cataract is growing in our eye, we become so blind we cannot even see that we're making mistakes everyday!
[Liao-Fan]: There are also indications when people have accumulated too many offenses and sins.
[Narrator]: For instance, one's heart may feel confused and oppressed, lacking energy and spirit. One becomes extremely forgetful, full of worries and feels embarrassed and depressed upon meeting a virtuous gentleman. One becomes displeased at hearing righteous reasoning and when showing kindness to others, is in turn treated with hostility.
One will constantly have nightmares where everything is upside-down, and will talk incoherently and behave abnormally. These are the symptoms of those who have accumulated too many sins and offenses!
[Liao-Fan]: If you have any of the above symptoms, you should immediately gather your willpower and reform all faults. It is necessary to form a new life for yourself. I hope you will not delay!