Once there was a man named Yuan Liao fan. His original name was Yuan Xue hai and he was a famous Confucian scholar during the Ming Dynasty. When he was young, he pursued scholarly studies. However, his father wanted him to study medicine in order to save human lives in this world; so, he changed his course of field and started studying medicine. Later on, he met an elderly, longhaired diviner of physiognomy who told him, "You are destined to become a public official. You must pursue scholarly learning and you can become a great official. On such-and-such a day, you can pass the imperial exam and become a 1st level scholar. On this particular day, you can become a district magistrate earning this amount of salary. On that particular date, you will get a promotion and your salary will be this much. At midnight of August 14th in your 54thyear of life, your life will end. Throughout your life, you will have no heir." Thereupon, Yuan Xue hai changed his course of study to becoming a scholar. Everything turned out accurately as the diviner had predicted. Thinking that his destiny was set, he just waited for fate to take its course. He let fate rule his life, and did not seek to improve himself. Instead, he spent his days enjoying the mountains and rivers.
One day, he reached Qi Xia Mountain in Nanjing. Hearing that Chan Master Yun Ku was there, he went up the mountain to pay him a visit. The Chan Master handed him a seating cushion, and the two of them sat facing each other for three days without speaking. The Chan Master was very surprised and asked, "Where are you from? If you can sit serenely for three days, without moving or having idle thoughts, you are an exceptional cultivator of the Way."
Yuan replied, "Since everything is predestined, I covet for nothing, seek nothing, and have no idle thoughts."
The Chan Master said, "I thought you were an extraordinary person, but it turns out you are just an ordinary person.
Displeased, Yuan asked, "Why do you say I'm an ordinary person?"
The Master replied, "If you weren't an ordinary person, why are you bound by fate?"
Yuan asked, "Is it possible to escape fate?"
The Master replied, "You are a scholar. The Book of Changes clearly states, 'Pursue good fortune and avoid calamity.' If it were not possible, how can one escape fate? How could we pursue good fortune and avoid calamity?"
Yuan was greatly enlightened. He changed his name to Liao fan (Ending the Ordinary), meaning to say that from that day onward; he was no longer an ordinary person. Thenceforth, he extensively practiced good deeds and accumulated a lot of merit and virtue. Thenceforth, the diviner's words were no longer accurate. Yuan lived to be over eighty years old, and had three sons. Thus, fate is not fixed; neither are fortune and calamity. The ancients have said, "The superior person creates his or her own destiny." People who are virtuous and are in accordance with propriety can change and create their own destiny and transcend their fate."
Why is there misfortune? It's because there is misfortune in the mind. Planting bad causes will surely bring bad retributions. If you can rectify your faults and reform towards the good, then you can pursue good fortune and avoid calamity. From this perspective, we see that we destiny can be refashioned, and the power to do so is in our own hands. There is the saying, "Great good and great evil can transcend fate."
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