Below is another one of the speeches that I delivered during my Toastmasters days. I love this Liao Fan’s life story and understanding it really gave life (and destiny) a whole new meaning…


Recently, I have been reading philosophy books. From all my readings, I realized that there are 2 school of thoughts about life. One school believed that everything that has occurred or will occurred, happened by chance. Purely coincidental. Much similar to the big bang theory. First, there was nothing. Then, coincidentally gas appeared, gets compressed, and bang, there’s our universe.

Ladies & gentlemen, Dear guests.

Today, I’m going to focus about the other school of thoughts. This school believed that nothing happened by chance. Everything is planned and follows a system of natural law. Much like how the season cycle is. First come spring, then summer, autumn, winter and the cycle repeats itself. As the idea evolved, it slowly became destiny. That everything in life is pre-determined for us. Perhaps this is not so-true, perhaps it is. We can relate this to the story I’m about to tell. It’s from a famous book called, “Liao-Fan’s 4 Lessons”.

The book was written by Mr. Yuan Liao Fan of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to his only son, Yuan Tien-Chi, to teach him how to recognize the true face of destiny and change it for the better. Through his own life experience, Liao Fan advocates that we should form our own fate rather than being bound by it. Liao Fan himself was a living embodiment of his teachings.

Liao Fan father passed away when he was young and his mother persuaded him to learn medicine to become a Chinese physician. She thinks that this would be a good way to support himself and to help others. One day, when Liao Fan was 20 years old, he met an old man who looked like a sage. He had a long beard. Liao Fan paid his respect to this old man.

Old Man : You are destined to become a government official. You can attain the first rank in public scholar exam next year, why aren’t you studying for the exam?

It turned out that the old sage was Mr. Kong, whom was among the pioneer of the art of prediction. Using a combination technique of physical characteristic, external influences such as landforms and stars alignment, Mr Kong was able to accurately predict and know many things about Liao Fan past & future. Awestruck by Mr Kong’s ability, Liao-Fan was left with no choice but to believe and follow Mr Kong’s advice.

Mr Kong : You will rank 14th in the country examination & 9th place in the provincial exam next year.

Mr Kong was always right. Then, he mapped out Liao Fan’s entire life.

Mr Kong : You will passed such such test in that year, you will become a civil servant in this year, and at that year, you will get a promotion. Finally, you will be appointed a magistrate in SzechuanProvince. After holding that post for 3 years, you will resign and return home. At the age of 53, you will die and you will not have any children to mourn for you.

Liao Fan recorded all that Mr Kong’s said and at each particular year, he always checks his records and Mr Kong’s words never fail to come true. “Slowly, I began to view everything in a more detached manner and ceased to seek gain or profit”. Liao Fan lost interest in books and became interested in meditation. At 25 years old, while he was studying in Nanjing, he paid a visit to the enlightened master Yun-Gu in the monastery. Liao Fan sat facing the master in the Zen hall for 3 days and nights, without ever falling asleep.

Yun Gu : Mundane people are unable to focus because they have too many wandering thoughts in their mind. For the past 3 days, I have not observed the slightest distractions in you. Why is this so?

Liao Fan : Mr Kong has clearly predicted the entire outcome of my life. I have seen that the time of life, death, promotion & failure are all destined. There is no need for me to think about it or to desire anything, Master Yun.

To this, Master Yun Gu replied, “I thought you were someone of remarkable capabilities, but now I realized that you are nothing but a common mundane person”. Feeling confused by what Master Yun said, Liao Fan asked the Master to explain.

Yun Gu : An average person’s mind is forever occupied by his wandering and imaginary thoughts, so naturally their lives are bounded by the energy of fate. We cannot deny that fate exists, but only ordinary people are bound by it. Fate cannot bind those who cultivate great deeds. The merits accrued can change destiny from suffering to happiness, poverty to prosperity and short lives to longevity.

Yun Gu continued, “Similarly, fate cannot bind those who commit great evils. When a person’s evil deeds are so great, they will cancel out the pre-determined fortune, transforming life from good to bad.

Yun Gu : For the past 20 years, you have lived your life according to predictions and did nothing to change it. If you are not considered a mundane mortal, no one is.

Ladies & gentlemen,

The second part of this classic book, explained how Liao Fan applied his revelation on destiny and managed to change Mr Kong’s life prediction on him. His ranking in exam improved and he attained his promotions years earlier than originally predicted. His life got a lot better materially and so has his inner cultivation. While he was destined to die by 53 years old and childless, he managed to live up to 70 and got himself a son, whom he personally wrote this book for.

Ladies & gentlemen, I wonder how your life will be? This was the same question Liao Fan asked his son in the book. Please remember that whatever is sought for, can be attained. The seeking is in oneself. This refers to inner qualities such as virtue, kindness and morality. When these qualities are ingrained, it will be reflected outside, and thus, wealth, fame and prestige shall follow. So, do the right things, even if we lose out in the short term. After all, all of us want to improve on what was originally destined for us, whether it’s a life of a pauper, a middle class or a king.