This is a book summary of The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz.
What The Alchemist is for life purpose and Siddhartha is for spiritual growth, perhaps The Four Agreements is for beginner mental mastery. Maybe that’s why it has 100,000+ ratings and reviews on Amazon.
- This book summary has been completely updated in March 2023 after receiving an email from the book publisher (Amber-Allen Publishing). While they didn’t provide any direction/criteria to follow, I’ve decided to paraphrase most content, remove the infographics, and cut the total content down significantly.
- All content is organized into my own themes (not the author’s chapters).
- Emphasis has been added in bold for readability/skimmability.
Book Summary Contents: Click a link to jump to a section below
A Guide to Personal Freedom: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz (Book Summary)
About the Toltec
“Thousands of years ago, the Toltec were known throughout southern Mexico as ‘women and men of knowledge.'”
- scientists and artists who formed a society (to explore and conserve the spiritual knowledge and practices of the ancient ones).
- not a religion (it honors all the spiritual masters who have taught on the earth; Toltec knowledge arises from the same essential unity of truth as all the sacred esoteric traditions found around the world).
- most accurately described as a way of life (distinguished by the ready accessibility of happiness and love).
Society’s Dream (Dream of the Planet)
“Before we were born the humans before us created a big outside dream that we will call society’s dream or the dream of the planet … We are born with the capacity to learn how to dream, and the humans who live before us teach us how to dream the way society dreams … I call this process the domestication of humans. And through this domestication we learn how to live and how to dream. In human domestication, the information from the outside dream is conveyed to the inside dream, creating our whole belief system.”
“The outside dream has so many rules that when a new human is born, we hook the child’s attention and introduce these rules into his or her mind.”
- the collective dream of billions of smaller, personal dreams (together create a dream of a family, a dream of a community, a dream of a city, a dream of a country, and finally a dream of the whole humanity).
- includes all of society’s rules, its beliefs, its laws, its religions, its different cultures (and ways to be, its governments, schools, social events, and holidays).
- uses Mom and Dad, the schools, and religion to teach us how to dream.
“Just as the government has a book of laws that rule the society’s dream, our belief system is the Book of Laws that rules our personal dream. All these laws exist in our mind, we believe them, and the Judge inside us bases everything on these rules. The Judge decrees, and the Victim suffers the guilt and punishment.”
- the belief system is like a Book of Law that rules our mind (without question, whatever is in that Book of Law, is our truth).
- one by one, all agreements go into the Book of Law, and these agreements rule our dream (even moral laws like the Ten Commandments are programmed into our mind in the process of domestication).
- we base all of our judgments according to the Book of Law (even if these judgments go against our own inner nature).
“We see in our society and all the societies around the world, that for every thousand people, nine hundred and ninety-nine are completely domesticated.”
- the domestication is so strong that at a certain point in our lives we no longer need anyone to domesticate us (we don’t need Mom or Dad, the school or the church to domesticate us).
- we are so well trained that we are our own domesticator, an autodomesticated animal (we can now domesticate ourselves according to the same belief system we were given, and using the same system of punishment and reward).
A New Dream
“This way of life is possible, and it’s in your hands. Moses called it the Promised Land, Buddha called it Nirvana, Jesus called it Heaven, and the Toltec call it a New Dream … Your life is the manifestation of your dream; it is an art. And you can change your life anytime if you aren’t enjoying the dream. Dream masters create a masterpiece of life; they control the dream by making choices … When you transform your whole dream, magic just happens in your life. What you need comes to you easily because spirit moves freely through you. This is the mastery of intent, the mastery of the spirit, the mastery of love, the mastery of gratitude, and the mastery of life. This is the goal of the Toltec. This is the path to personal freedom.”
“This chain of training from human to human, from generation to generation, is perfectly normal in human society. You don’t need to blame your parents for teaching you to be like them.” (Note: See the lottery of birth)
- what else could they teach you but what they know? (they did the best they could, and if they abused you, it was due to their own domestication, their own fears, their own beliefs).
- they had no control over the programming they received (so they couldn’t have behaved any differently).
“We keep searching and searching, when everything is already within us. There is no truth to find. Wherever we turn our heads, all we see is the truth, but with the agreements and beliefs we have stored in our mind, we have no eyes for this truth.”
- all of humanity is searching for truth (we are on an eternal search for the truth because we only believe in the lies we have stored in our mind).
- all of humanity is searching for justice (we are searching for justice because in the belief system we have, there is no justice).
- all of humanity is searching for beauty (we search for beauty because it doesn’t matter how beautiful a person is, we don’t believe that person has beauty).
Changing the Agreements:
“If we can see it is our agreements that rule our own life, and we don’t like the dream of our life, we need to change the agreements.”
- you need a very strong will in order to adopt The Four Agreements (but if you can begin to live your life with these agreements, the transformation in your life will be amazing).
- honor the four agreements together (and there is no way that you will live in hell; there is no way).
- you will see the drama of hell disappear right before your very eyes (instead of living in a dream of hell, you will be creating a new dream—your personal dream of heaven).
The Four Agreements
“The Four Agreements are a summary of the mastery of transformation, one of the masteries of the Toltec. You transform hell into heaven. The dream of the planet is transformed into your personal dream of heaven … You achieve the Mastery of Transformation by changing the fear-based agreements that make you suffer, and reprogramming your own mind, in your own way.”
1. Be Impeccable with Your Word:
“The first agreement is the most important one and also the most difficult one to honor. It is so important that with just this first agreement you will be able to transcend to the level of existence I call heaven on earth. The first agreement is to be impeccable with your word … This is the first agreement that you should make if you want to be free, if you want to be happy, if you want to transcend the level of existence that is hell.”
- the word is the most powerful tool you have as a human; it is the tool of magic (but like a sword with two edges, your word can create the most beautiful dream, or your word can destroy everything around you).
- your word is the power that you have to create; through the word you express your creative power (your word is the gift that comes directly from God; the word is a force; it is the power you have to express and communicate, to think, and thereby to create the events in your life).
- the word is like a seed, and the human mind is so fertile (the human mind is like a fertile ground where seeds of thoughts, opinions, ideas, and concepts are continually being planted; every human mind is fertile, but only for those kinds of seeds it is prepared for; what is important is to see which kind of seeds our mind is fertile for, and to prepare it to receive the seeds of love).
- impeccability means ‘without sin’ or not going against yourself (sin begins with rejection of yourself; self-rejection is the biggest sin that you commit; everything you feel or believe or say that goes against yourself is a sin; you go against yourself when you judge or blame yourself for anything; when you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself).
- being impeccable with your word is the correct use of your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself (if you make an agreement with yourself to be impeccable with your word, just with that intention, the truth will manifest through you and clean all the emotional poison that exists within you; the truth is the most important part of being impeccable with your word; only the truth will set us free).
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally:
“The next three agreements are really born from the first agreement. The second agreement is don’t take anything personally … If you practice the first two agreements, you will break seventy-five percent of the teeny, tiny agreements that keep you trapped in hell … If you can make this second agreement a habit, you will find that nothing can put you back into hell. There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally.”
- immunity to poison in the middle of hell is the gift of this agreement (you eat all their emotional garbage, and now it becomes your garbage; but if you do not take it personally, you are immune in the middle of hell).
- you take it personally because you agree with whatever was said (as soon as you agree, the poison goes through you, and you are trapped in the dream of hell).
- don’t take anything personally because by taking things personally you set yourself up to suffer for nothing (humans are addicted to suffering at different levels and to different degrees, and we support each other in maintaining these addictions; humans agree to help each other suffer).
- we think we are responsible for everything (during the period of our education, or our domestication, we learn to take everything personally; you are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you; when you truly understand this, and refuse to take things personally, you can hardly be hurt by the careless comments or actions of others).
- nothing other people do is because of you; it is because of themselves (all people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in; when we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world; whatever you think, whatever you feel, I know is your problem and not my problem; it is the way you see the world; it is nothing personal, because you are dealing with yourself, not with me; others are going to have their own opinion according to their belief system, so nothing they think about me is really about me, but it is about them).
3. Don’t Make Assumptions:
“The third agreement is don’t make assumptions. We have the tendency to make assumptions about everything. The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth. We could swear they are real.”
- whenever we make assumptions, we’re asking for problems (we make an assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally, and we end up creating a whole big drama for nothing).
- assumptions set us up for suffering (it is always better to ask questions than to make an assumption).
- the biggest assumption that humans make is that everyone sees life the way we do (we assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge, and abuse the way we abuse; we make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking; we take it personally, then we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our word).
- because we don’t understand something, we make an assumption about the meaning (and when the truth comes out, the bubble of our dream pops and we find out it was not what we thought it was at all; we have the habit of dreaming with no basis in reality; we literally dream things up in our imaginations).
- the day you stop making assumptions you will communicate cleanly and clearly, free of emotional poison (without making assumptions your word becomes impeccable).
4. Always Do Your Best:
“There is just one more agreement, but it’s the one that allows the other three to become deeply ingrained habits. The fourth agreement is about the action of the first three: Always do your best … The first three agreements will only work if you do your best. Don’t expect that you will always be able to be impeccable with your word. Your routine habits are too strong and firmly rooted in your mind. But you can do your best. Don’t expect that you will never take anything personally; just do your best. Don’t expect that you will never make another assumption, but you can certainly do your best.”
- if you always do your best there is no way you can judge yourself (and if you don’t judge yourself there is no way you are going to suffer from guilt, blame, and self-punishment; when you do your best you learn to accept yourself).
- when you always do your best, you take action (doing your best is taking the action because you love it, not because you’re expecting a reward).
- if you take action just for the sake of doing it, without expecting a reward, you will find that you enjoy every action you do (rewards will come, but you are not attached to the reward).
- doing your best really doesn’t feel like work because you enjoy whatever you are doing (if we like what we do, if we always do our best, then we are really enjoying life).
- by doing your best you become a master (if you do your best always, over and over again, you will become a master of transformation; practice makes the master).
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