We Are Not Hopeless Prisoners Of Our Past

The twin teachings on kamma and rebirth have several important implications for understanding our own lives.
First they enable us to understand that we are fully responsible for what we are. We can't blame our troubles on our environment, on our heredity, on fate or on our upbringing. All these factors have made us what we are, but the reason we have met these circumstances is because of our past kamma. This might seem to be at first a pessimistic doctrine. It seems to imply that we are the prisoners of our past kammas, that we have to submit to their effects. This is a distortion.
It is true that very often we have to reap the results of our past kamma. But the important point to understand is that kamma is volitional action, and volitional action always takes place in the present, only in the present. This means at present it is possible for us to change the entire direction of our life.
If we closely examine our lives we'll see that our experience is of two types: first, experience that comes to us passively, which we receive independently of our choice; and second, experience which we create for ourselves through our choices and attitudes. The passive side of experience is largely the effect of past kamma.We generally have to face this and learn to accept it. But within those limitations there is a space, the tremendous space of the present moment, in which we can reconstruct our world with our own minds.
If we let ourselves be dominated by selfishness, hatred, ambition and dullness, then, even if we are wealthy and powerful, we'll still be living in misery and suffering and keep planting seeds for rebirth in the world of suffering. On the other hand, even if we are poor and in sad circumstances, with much pain and misfortune, if we observe pure conduct, develop a mind of generosity, kindness and understanding, then we can transform our world, we can build a world of love and peace.