I would like to thank my Lama, H.E. Tsem Rinpoche for making me read this book; The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz. This is probably one of the best books I’ve read in ages that I’ll always remember and treasure it. Rinpoche gave me this book to read at a time when I was going through a very dark moment. Everything that appeared; my projections of things were very negative. Of course it was none other than my own deluded mind and even though I knew that, it did not help as I was overwhelmed by the negativities that arose. I was feeding in to its misery and making myself and everyone around me miserable. Some say it’s my negative karma ripening, whatever it may be, it sure did not serve me and instead it was dragging me down into the abyss.
Then one day, Rinpoche requested me to read this book aloud with another Dharma brother, Nicholas, to also listen. This is not a Dharma book but the points and teachings were very valuable and enlightening. It presented different perspectives on how we can change our view, attitude, and thus change the way we operate. From this we can prevent problems from arising or be able to handle certain situations more positively. Eventually we can gain some form of peace and happiness from within.
Each chapter presented a lesson on creating the right attitude one should adhere and live by if we wanted to start living happily, with some kind of “freedom” from suffering. In this book it tells us how we as humans are very addicted to “suffering” and we literally strive for it, yet we keep saying we want happiness. This truth blew my mind.
One of my favourite agreements that stood out was… “Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally, nothing others do is because of you”. This statement made me realised my foolishness. When we start to think in this way it makes us stop being over sensitive, and stop one’s ego from flaring up. When we take things personally, that’s when the problem starts and we start finding fault and having the need to “protect” one’s false ego of self-righteousness. When we fall into this negative mode, it’s obvious we will hurt and be hurt – a self-inflicted pain all due to negative views. But when we change this view and stop taking things so personally, everything changes yet nothing changes (physically). Hence they say happiness is a choice, and heaven or hell is self-created. By applying this agreement, we can actually stop reliving our painful past, stop reinforcing negative habituations and stop the negative reactions when we encounter an unfavourable situation. I suppose this is what it means by stop living in the “past” and start living in the “present”. If we can follow this one practical advice and agreement to ourselves, imagine how much pain and suffering we would be able to stop immediately, at least on to our own selves.
The other agreement from this book that also blew my mind was actually the first agreement in the book – being impeccable with your word. It’s unbelievably true that we are often not impeccable with our word and we use it to create ‘poison’ – negative words we use onto ourselves and spread personal poison such as anger, jealousy, envy and hate, on to others. Example when we start cursing ourselves, using negative words like how stupid I am etc. we are actually poisoning our own mind, creating self-hate hence low self-esteem. Then when we start gossiping and talking negative about another, this is creating poison in someone else’s mind about another because we’re insecure or unhappy. Whatever the reasons are, it is causing poison in others which creates disharmony. When we use ‘the word’ to curse, blame, find guilt or destroy, we’re not being impeccable with our word. Hence saying what you mean and not saying what you don’t mean is also another aspect of speaking with integrity.
The four Agreements are a summary of the mastery of transformation, one of the masteries of the Toltec where you transform hell into heaven. This is similar to what Rinpoche’s been teaching us about changing our perspective, and from transforming our mind we can find a lot of peace within us. This book reinforces Rinpoche’s teachings and enhances my understanding on mind transformation. Thank you Rinpoche for introducing me to this book! I appreciate that Rinpoche cared and took the time out to pick this book out for me to read, and even underlining and highlighting certain parts to really contemplate on. I am forever grateful to Rinpoche for always trying to help me transform and improve. This just goes to show how compassionate Rinpoche is, and no matter what anyone says, whatever Rinpoche does, I know it is always for our own benefit in the long run. So although this may not be a Dharma book, but the essence of its teachings is very dharmic. I definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone. One of those must have books!
Nothing Changes Everything Changes