The Fifth Agreement by Don Miguel Ruiz
The Fifth Agreement is a New York Times bestseller, penned by father-son duo Don Miguel Ruiz and Don Jose Ruiz. It deals with the evacuation and expulsion of beliefs. The author Don Miguel opposes the very foundation of baseless fears and questions the implication that preconceived beliefs have on our culture and traditions. The elimination of belief systems is a representative of the philosophy of the Toltec Path. When such a belief is ingrained in an individual, and is condemned to preemptive interpretation, the belief tends on to become a rigid theory. This theory hardens itself on the surface of culture and becomes a norm.
This can be explained through an example. The Japanese consider the number four highly inauspicious and associate it with death. The word shi, translated as four in Japanese, has a homophone shinu which implies death in the Japanese language. Owing to this baseless correspondence with the ill-fated number, the Japanese eliminate the number four from their buildings.
Similarly, the number thirteen is rendered as ominous in the western cultures, due to its association with Friday the thirteenth, and is often skipped when numbering floors in a building. Such cultures preserve their superstitions in old-wound beliefs that shackle the mere foundations of logical reasoning.
In order to unearth the truth, one needs to unwrap and reveal the core reality draped in several layers of these beliefs. The individual needs to view himself, and the world, from a different vantage point in order to grow and advance. According to the Toltec school of thought, belief systems are referred to as inventory. These levels of redundant inventory need to be eliminated in order to transgress the borders of unadulterated knowledge and reality. Such a vision that is isolated from external influences and infantile in its approach is akin to that of a child, which the Buddhists refer to as The Beginner’s Mind.
Issues like racial prejudice and discrimination are the byproducts of such archaic belief systems that have been passed on to generations in the form of intellectual heirloom. If a person perceives a particular race of people to be lowly and disreputable, they will discover beliefs that will validate this point of view. The author wishes that people would liberate themselves from these disoriented, primitive beliefs that are caking reality with baseless fear and illogical mistrust.
According to the author, language and symbolism play an integral role in determining how we perceive things. He has rendered many concepts that have been tackled by several authors in the past; however, his refreshing style of narration makes the prose an engaging read.
The five agreements mentioned in Miguel’s book are; Be Impeccable with Your Word, Don’t Take Anything Personally, Don’t Make Assumptions, Always Do Your Best and lastly, Be Skeptical, But Learn To Listen. The fifth agreement is mostly about self discovery and about tolerance of other people’s views. Miguel asserts the fact that while most people have a tendency to stick rigidly to their beliefs; it turns into a hostile situation if those beliefs are assailed candidly. One needs to be patient and receptive in their approach and learn to deal with the matter more conscientiously and justifiably. Unless one listens and understands where the other person is coming from, comfortable and constructive communication cannot take place.
There is a metaphor in the English language that pertains to, giving people the benefit of doubt. This means, you cannot dismiss someone’s perspective as outmoded or archaic unless you give him an opportunity to prove you wrong. This staunch belief in people helps clear misunderstandings. By merely being skeptic, we are tacitly prohibiting ourselves from comprehending someone’s point of view. Instead of empathizing, we move beyond the emotional theatrics and disregard someone’s feelings of victimization.
The Fifth Agreement spans man’s journey towards self mastery. Miguel mentions this in his text,
. Let’s say you’re living with guilt and shame for a mistake you made ten years ago. The excuse for your suffering is, “I made a terrible mistake,” and you’re still suffering for something that happened ten years ago, but the truth is you’re suffering from something that happened ten seconds ago. You judged yourself again for the same mistake, and of course the big judge says, “You need to be punished.” It’s simple action-reaction. The action is self-judgment; the reaction is self punishment in the form of guilt and shame. All your life you repeat the same action, hoping to have a different reaction and it never happens. The only way to change your life is to change the action, and then the reaction will change. (Miguel, 2009)
Miguel believes in the phenomenon of Objective Reality. This phenomenon was previously advocated by yet another prolific author Ayn Rand in her series of philosophical novels. According to Miguel and Rand, it is impossible to view the world in its truest form. The world we see is a harmonizing pattern of combined effort exerted by all our five senses. However, these five senses cannot be entrusted with the accurate explanation of reality. Furthermore, interpretation is also a result of repressed memories. An incident that has happened to you in the past can keep you equipped for something similar in nature that you see coming.
The Fifth Agreement is a beautiful expression of thought brought together with intense clarity by both Miguels. This book reminds people to establish a communion with divine nature which will enable them to live a peaceful and liberated life.
List of References
Ruiz, M. d. & Ruiz, J. d. (2009) The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery.
California: Amber-Allen Publishing Inc.