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Is life predestined?

Updated on September 10, 2014
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Is life predestined? This question has always puzzled me. Why is it that some people slog like hell and yet have nothing to show for it, while others seem to have the Midas Touch?

I did ask quite a number of people but had not been able to receive a satisfactory answer to my question. Their answers were kind of hazy, and sound to me like 'life is predestined but you have to work for it', which doesn't make much sense to me. To me, if it is predestined, then it should also be predestined that you will work for it.

One very religious Raja Yoga practitioner told me that predestiny is predestiny, only after you have put your heart and soul to making your predestiny materialize. Whatever the outcome, whether phenomenal success or dismal failure, that is your predestiny. Such an answer only left me more confused than ever.

By the way, the Oxford Dictionary defines 'predestiny' as "the belief that all events are determined in advance by divine will or fate." I was reading Joey Yap's 'Bazi, The Destiny Code: Your Guide to the Four Pillars of Destiny' a moment ago, and his explanation is very clear and lucid. And it's precisely because of this that I decided to put pen to paper to share with all those who may still be struggling to find an answer.

To cut out all the suspense and get straight to the point so that you may know where I am coming from, the outcome of one's life is neither fated nor predestined, period. (At this moment, I am just talking about the outcome, though).

The Chinese has a concept called the "Cosmic Trinity of Heaven-Earth-Man" (天地人) which all those who are Chinese-educated are very familiar with. I kept hearing this esoteric phrase from them but no one had been able to explain it to me better than Joey Yap's book. Actually, it is a very simple concept that most of us have already known, if not consciously, at least intuitively.

Concept of Heaven-Earth-Man (天地人)

The word "Heaven" invokes esoteric images that are out of this world but, according to Joey Yap, Heaven-Earth-Man (天地人) simply means this:

Dr. & Master Sha's Source Ling Guang Calligraphy for Healing the Spinal Column

  • Heaven: Your God-given gifts; in other words, who your parents are, your siblings, your relatives, your hidden talents, your passions, your weakness, your character, your personality traits, your health, as well as anything that you are born with which are not developed through self-effort.
  • Earth: Your environment, i.e. the sum total of all the physical, socio-cultural, economic, and political environment that surrounds you, including your friends, mentors, teachers, and your spouse.
  • Man: Your self-efforts and actions, including your attitude.

To readers of the English language, a better way of describing this concept would probably be the 'Interaction of Innate Qualities - Environment - Self-Effort'. The very word, "Self-Effort" clearly shows that life cannot be predestined.

Interaction of Heaven, Earth, and Man

Having read this far, you may well ask, "So what's new?" And you are right! Psychologists have time and again talk about nature versus nurture in the development of our personality. But how many of us have actually consciously taken the time to analyze those three elements in our own life and the relationships between them? Big corporations, however, routinely use this concept in their corporate strategy formulation:

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  • Review the company's mission, objectives and strategies;
  • Carry out a resource audit, i.e. identify the company's strengths (S) and weaknesses (W);
  • Scan the environment for opportunities (O) and threats (T);
  • Perform a SWOT analysis by matching opportunities (O) to its strengths (S), and avoiding threats (T) that may endanger organizational survival because of its weaknesses (W);
  • Generate alternative courses of action; and
  • Select the course of action that will best fulfill its mission and objectives.

The Three Elements in Greater Detail

Innate Qualities (Heaven): 'Heaven' is just a word to represent what we are born with, i.e. our talents, our capabilities, and our potential. It defines the maximum limit of one's capacity and potential, and being unchangeable, is therefore static. All of us are born with talents, some more than others. Fortunate are those who, like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, began touring Europe with his father to give musical performance to both European royalty and the public alike, when he was aged 5, even before we go to school. His outstanding musical talents first came to light when he was about 3 years old. But how many Mozarts are there?

So, what if we don't have any outstanding talent? Well, then it is like competing in a motor race without being in the pole position. Admittedly, life isn't always fair. But as they say in card games, "It's not just about the hand you're dealt, but how you play it." Seek and you may yet find.

Henri Matisse was trained as a lawyer because that was what his father wanted him to be. In any case, he graduated with distinction. As fate would have it, he suffered an appendicitis, just a year after becoming a lawyer. While recuperating, Matisse's mother brought him some art supplies to kill his time. Of this, he said later, "From the moment I held the box of colors in my hands, I knew this was my life. I threw myself into it like a beast that plunges towards the thing it loves". Matisse went on to become a leading figure in modern art and, along with Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, is commonly regarded as one of the 3 artists who helped define 'plastic arts'. Matisse found his hidden talent only at the age of 20.

When we think of 'God-given gifts' or innate qualities, we, more often than not, think in terms of hidden talent, but we seldom think in terms of health, until we get sick. T.S. Eliot was born with congenital double inguinal hernia. As a child, he was often isolated, as he could not participate in many physical activities with his peers. As a result, he spent his time reading literature. In 1948, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for "his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry".

Environment: You may be talented, but so what? Many of us would never have heard of Bruce Lee, had he not moved to Hong Kong. It's not that Hollywood is racist. In fact, they are color-blind, when it comes to box-office success. In the case of the movie, Kung Fu, where they chose David Carradine over Bruce Lee, it was their assessment of what they thought their target audience would prefer to see.

Unlike 'Innate Qualities' (Heaven), the enivronment (Health) is continuously changing, and is therefore dynamic. We may be talented, but if we go into business deep into the recession, we may be asking for trouble. You may have a very fertile plot of land, but try growing corn in winter and it doesn't take much intelligence to know the outcome. Yet, for those who are cash rich and are entering into projects with a long incubation period, the recession may well be a big advantage for them because then, they could get cheap labor easily, so what is a threat to someone may well be an opportunity to another. Singapore built their MRT deep into the recession of the mid-1980s and managed to construct it at a relatively low cost, thereby stretching their dollar (i.e. their resources) that much further. So what we see here is an interaction between 'Heaven' and 'Earth', i.e. our resources and the prevailing environment.

It is clear that just by looking at either our innate abilities or the environment in isolation is not enough, because the sum is greater than its parts. No matter what our innate qualities are, we may not succeed unless we also take into consideration the environment, be it climatic, economic, or socio-political. Thus, if you were born the son of a very wealthy man in China, you probably might not have survived their Cultural Revolution of 1966.

Zig Ziglar: How to get everything in life you want

Self-effort: Self-effort is the last of the 3 elements. If you start with self-effort first, without first analyzing your innate abilities and the environment, you may well end up with having your ladder leaning against the wrong wall, such that the faster you climb, the longer it may take for you to make a U-turn... that is, if you ever make a U-turn. So, always start with analyzing your innate qualities and resources first.

Wheat doesn't grow by themselves. Thus, no matter how fertile your land is, nothing is going to happen, unless you start planting. By now, it should be clear that anything which requires self-effort cannot be said to be predestined.

Zig Ziglar says, "Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude." Sounds good, even 'logical'. He's touching on the "Man" part of the equation, i.e. self-effort. The problem with self-improvement gurus, as far as I am concerned, is that they do not offer a holistic approach to the subject of self-improvement. I have attended many self-improvement courses during my younger days and it seems like one is parroting the other. Is it not why, after some three decades, I don't see any of my gurus being even half as successful as some of my bosses who never attended a single self-improvement course.

I think many self-improvement gurus hurt more people's future than they help. Zig Ziglar says, "If you can dream it, you can achieve it." Many are those who aspire to be the next Michael Jackson, but without the talent and the aptitude, if you succeed, I will salute you. Is that not why Srikumar Rao, the creator of Creativity and Personal Mastery (CPM) and a former business school professor, says: "Many persons swear by positive thinking, and quite a few have been helped by it. Nevertheless, it is not a very effective tool and can be downright harmful in some cases."

To recap, the outcome of our life is not predestined. It all depends on how well we play our hand (or cards, i.e. our God-given gifts).

AudioBook: The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley

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    • JudeAkhabue profile image

      Jude Akhabue 3 years ago from Nigeria

      wow, so much to learn from.. the world is really diverse

    • WalterPoon profile image
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      Poon Poi Ming 3 years ago from Malaysia

      Jude, according to Joey Yap, the author of the book I was referring to, one can determine once God-given gifts from Bazi, a form of Chinese astrology. Environment, on the other hand, can be manipulated with Feng Shui, but only to the extent that you have an abundance of God-given gifts. How far these are true, I am still trying to find out. But many successful Chinese businessmen have been engaging Feng Shui masters, including even Lee Kuan Yew who is not stupid, so I believe there must be some truth to it. I didn't mention all these in the article because the article is already so long. Moreover, I tried to remove all esoteric references in the article to give it a more universal appeal.

    • bdn9385 profile image

      bdn9385 3 years ago

      Predestination, whether true or false, hinges on 2 things. 1. God is true, then predestination is true. At least to some but not all. Nobody knows what lies beyond after that. Never eliminate him then from the picture, else you are robbing him. 2. Blind evolution is true, then predestination is nonsense although some form of elite society can predestine the lives of the masses through organized manipulations to protect their interests. Adopting the heaven concept and concluding that fate is not true, i find it quite contradicting. It reflects a shaken faith, somewhere in between. The era of lukewarm laodicea is true.

    • WalterPoon profile image
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      Poon Poi Ming 3 years ago from Malaysia

      Bdn9385, you are probably seeing things from a Christian point of view. In Chinese culture, the concept of a Creator God does not exist, although Pan Ku was said to be the creator. No Chinese prays to him.

      'Heaven', as used in this context, has no resemblance to the Christian heaven. It merely means "what is inborn", or in the English language, what is commonly called as "God-given". However, in Chinese culture, there's no God to give you anything because a Creator God does not exist. Talents are inborn, based on the influence of the stars and its configuration at the time of birth.

    • bdn9385 profile image

      bdn9385 3 years ago

      Note that i did not mention Christ so it wasn't. I used God as reference so it has to apply even to the chinese who believe in panku their creator whom they do not honor. Without someone to predestine you, what's the point of predestination? And that's exactly where you are coming from. From the point of no one to do the predestining thing so you concluded it wasn't true. And then you capitalized on the MAN thing to back up your claims. Otherwise, you would have stressed on the HEAVEN things which also have all the essentials to support the other claim. Perhaps you should have not used the word predestination to begin with because the word is referring to someone. A better argument would go something like, Life: how does it work? or, the art of life. You know i'm not good at this one. Lol! By the way, your article is good overall. Thanks! :)

    • WalterPoon profile image
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      Poon Poi Ming 3 years ago from Malaysia

      Seems like we are having a cultural clash, LOL. The question of predestiny occupies many Chinese minds, even though we don't believe in a Creator God. While we do not believe in a Creator God, the Chinese, generally, believe that the stars do control our destiny. So, the question that is often asked is: "Since the stars already control our destiny, why should we even bother to work hard?" This question also puzzles me for a long time, until I read Joey Yap's book and it clears my confusion.

      What I discover from Joey's book is simply this. The stars only determine the maximum limit as to what you can achieve in life, no matter how much effort you put into it. That would kinda explain my first question: "Why is it that some people slog like hell and yet have nothing to show for it?" Conversely, a person who is born with great talent or who inherits a huge piece of fertile land but does not work the fields will end up with nothing.

      In short, the limit is predestined or predetermined, but the outcome of our life is not because it depends on how hard we work on it and not just work. If we are ploughing that part of the field that is infertile, we will still end up with futile labor.

    • WalterPoon profile image
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      Poon Poi Ming 3 years ago from Malaysia

      QUOTE: "Life is what you make of it. You are dealt a pack of cards, your DNA is fixed by your mother and your father, and you may be siblings, but you may get different parts or parcels of the DNA. Your job is to make the best of the cards that you have been handed out to you... what can you do well, what can you not do well, what are you worst at. Don't try to do something that you are not favored by nature to do. " -- Lee Kuan Yew

      http://southeast-asia.jbdirectory.com/Lee_Kuan_Yew...

    • bdn9385 profile image

      bdn9385 3 years ago

      Cultural clash indeed, lol! I admire your temper dude. You have to pardon my arrogance. I believed that life is fair or Deity is fair in that after telling the world He chose Israel, it turns out that his bias won't save a nation. And you have just explained us that the heaven thing is not the everything of man. Much of who you become depends on what you do. Also a man will always have his limit simply because he is a man. The mere mention of the word man implies limitation. But the heaven thing is eternal. And complementing it to man bursts out infinite possibilities! This might go against the limit thing you preach and sorry for that. And i can see from the chinese films as well that the inclusion of spiritual factors on top of physical strengths superbly increases man's potential and not limit it. The earth is the playground where you are free to exercise that which is manly or heavenly.

      In the christian world, only Christ have the access to the heaven. Meanwhile, the entire Christian world awaits and was interimly given the earth . To us, the faith of Christ is the very configuration of the stars that will guide us through life. On the chinese culture, God created another protocol and encrypted it on the stars and in the end, the chinese as well will become a great nation. These things have already been foretold and i am not sure if predestination, perhaps on a macroscale, should be the right term.

      My contention is that prior to laying the foundations of the earth, there is no china or malaysia or US or india. Economy, sports and governance are but trivial things. The only thing that preoccupies a man's thought is that work and live else, die. As simple as that. No abundant knowledge and not enough giant corporations that actually set the playground to exercise what the stars say. Does this mean therefore that the configuration of the stars were so preconfigured to be used for a specific timeframe? And that timeframe does not exclude our time now? Too many a question will arise out of this predestination thing and it will be rooted to the fact that someone has to do the predestination in as much as someone has to configure the stars. Routers do not configure by themselves. And a routers configuration is temporary just as the stars configuration is temporary. We may not live forever to see how people will live soon but i am not dismissing the option that given a man's faith so strong, stars are nothing more than a tourist destination for mankind with no mind to remind us they once set the limit of what we can achieve. Soon, there might be no more stars as well. Only a flux of propagating em waves which used to be in the past. And man might have find a glorious body for himself, light perhaps, to transcend his soul, live forever and witness all these if panku is not proactive enough to intervene. Interpreting life within its own frame of reference with the aid of immediately available references and not getting out of the box, i believe would be too naïve. I believe that life is an extremely complicated subject simply because it has an author who is equally complicated. Look around you and the world says nobody has understood life yet. If someone does and leak that info to the world, it would be the end of chaos on earth. And that is if he's fast and prudent enough not to be assassinated first by the elites. Lol! By the way, thank you for being nice and friendly. Godspeed! I mean pankuspeed!

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      lots of things to learn from you

    • WalterPoon profile image
      Author

      Poon Poi Ming 2 years ago from Malaysia

      I am still learning. Lately, a friend introduced me to Tibetan Buddhism. Unlike the Theravadin Buddhist monks that I know, this one from Seri Alam, Johor Bahru is very well-educated, having graduated from the Buddhist University in Varanasi, India. I met him only once and he taught me more things in 2 hours than I have learned for years.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      I don’t believe in predestination as per se, but I believe the person, especially a higher level soul, is born or incarnates into the physical on a path his soul wants and directs. After birth into a human body, he has free will and the ego can take over and steer the person off the path. He will later pay for that by eventually having to do it over again. He also has the free will to work the path diligently or to stay on the path at a sluggish pace. Thus the person who inherits a farm of fertile land and lets it lie fallow may be letting his human self get in the way of his soul contract. Sometimes it takes awhile for the incarnate to find his life’s path and diligently work it, as in the case of Matisse. If Matisse had been a weaker person, he might have allowed his father’s influence to keep him from his path, and he would have been miserable.

    • WalterPoon profile image
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      Poon Poi Ming 2 years ago from Malaysia

      Well said, MizBejabbers, but as former Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew says, "Life is what you make of it. You are dealt a pack of cards, your DNA is fixed by your mother and your father, and you may be siblings, but you may get different parts or parcels of the DNA. Your job is to make the best of the cards that you have been handed out to you... what can you do well, what can you not do well, what are you worst at. Don't try to do something that you are not favored by nature to do. "

      In short, your talents may be predetermined.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Walter, my belief system teaches that when we make our soul contract, we choose the best body in which to carry it out. In other words, it may be the good or bad genes, or both, that we inherit from our parents that help us carry it out. So it is both the physical and the mental that make us be whatever we are. I am of the generation that fought in Vietnam, and it never ceases to amaze me at the soldiers who came out of that war determined to do something for this country, i.e. people like John McCain and John Kerry, but even more of them chose to become broken entities. I think it is a combination of body, mind, and spirit that shapes our lives as a human being.

    • WalterPoon profile image
      Author

      Poon Poi Ming 2 years ago from Malaysia

      QUOTE: " I think it is a combination of body, mind, and spirit that shapes our lives as a human being."

      MizBejabbers, you make a very good point: "Why is that some people are like John McCain and John Kerry, while even more chose to become broken entities." I don't, however, believe that people intentionally choose to become broken entities. There must be some reasons for it, for which I must admit I do not have the answers. I am presently practicing meditation in the hope of understanding the spiritual world.

    • nathalia27 profile image

      Nancy 2 years ago

      Whether predestination is true or not, one thing is certain that is our life begin and end without God's permission.

    • WalterPoon profile image
      Author

      Poon Poi Ming 2 years ago from Malaysia

      Nathalia27, that has always been a contentious issue.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 21 months ago from Singapore

      I believe that some aspects of our lives are predestined, and that we have control over others. Marriage is predestined; we cannot control who are life partners are. To an effect, our careers are guided by us.

    • WalterPoon profile image
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      Poon Poi Ming 21 months ago from Malaysia

      I just met one of my parent's ex-workers. He told us that one day, his son became very sick for over a month and was healed by Monkey God who said that he would be asking the son to return a favor eventually. The Monkey God subsequently requested this ex-worker to start a temple in his honor, and for his son to become the temple medium. Today, they are very well-off. The ex-worker was recounting to my mother those days when he was working for us, where he had either to take a bus or walk to work, with no assets to speak about. Today, his son has 2 Mercedes and several properties.

      According to him, the change of luck happened when a "fish" fell from the sky onto his temple compound and subsequently disappeared, 3 years after he started the temple. The fish was later revealed to be a dragon from Heaven. Tall tale? Incredible story, right? Well, the 2 Mercedes stand testimony to his new found weath. On top of that, the temple now has a huge following. And the ex-worker is now a well-respected man in the Chinese business community. So is life predestined?

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