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  • Guoying Stacy Zhang

Buddhism and the Law of Attraction: Musings over a Father’s Writings to His Son in 1602

In the year of 1602, a father in China completed a text for his 16-year-old son. The father, Yuan Liaofan (袁了凡) (1533–1606), was a successful man. At a time when civil service examinations were the main means for commoners to be elevated to social elites, Yuan was one of the few who obtained jingshi, the highest degree in the examinations, among the candidates from all over the country, and at the end of his career he had risen to a position at the Ministry of War of the Ming court (1368–1644). However, his writings to his son were not about career advancement, marital happiness, or wealth procurement. Rather, they are about an ultimate question he had been pondering; whether one can create their own destiny.

His answer was yes. In his writings, composed out of four sections, Yuan Liaofan shared not only his own experiences with his son, but also the methods with which he believed one could change one’s destiny. The text was published later as Liaofan’s Four Lessons (了凡四訓) and has motivated generations of Chinese up to this day. Since the text is largely inspired by Buddhist teachings, along with Confucian and Daoist thought, free copies of the book can be found at monasteries in China.

Liaofan’s Four Lessons (了凡四訓). From

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