What Kamma is Not
is not fatalism nor determinism. The view that everything happens because of a
past cause is a serious wrong view called Pubbekatahetuditthi. Past kamma is very
significant because it determines where we are reborn, whether we are wealthy,
healthy, intelligent, good-looking, etc. It also determines many of the trials
that we have to face in life, and the family and society that we are born into,
which have a very powerful influence on our lives. The law of dependent origination
says that because of not understanding the truth of suffering we continue to roll
around in the cycle of existence, blinded by ignorance and driven by craving.
In this existence too, we continue to make kammas (sankhara) that will give rise
to more existences in the future.
The Buddha taught us how to transcend this cycle by becoming aware of the whole process. The cycle of dependent origination can be broken in two places: at the link between ignorance and mental formations, and at the link between feeling and craving. We must cultivate insight to dispel ignorance, and practise renunciation and patience to abandon craving. Instead of being led around like a bull with a ring through its nose every time a pleasant or unpleasant object appears, we should contemplate the feelings that arise within us. To break the chain at its other weak link, we should study the Dhamma and develop insight, by investigating mental and physical phenomena as and when they occur. Awareness, concentration, and objectivity will reveal their true nature.
If we examine our thoughts and feelings systematically we will overcome the urge to follow them. The grip of craving and delusion will be loosened, and our kamma will incline more and more towards nibbana, the cessation of all suffering. Mindfulness meditation was taught by the Buddha for the purification of beings, for the transcendence of grief and lamentation, for the extinction of pain and sorrow, for attaining the right method, for the realisation of nibbana. If we only practise without praying for nibbana we will achieve it in due course - if we really strive hard. If we only pray for nibbana without practising, we will continue to suffer, however pious our hopes and prayers.