Are All Present Obstacles Due To Past Karma?

Having a good attitude matters more
than having good experiences,
as it also decides how well
bad experiences are experienced.


There is a common misconception that absolutely everything being experienced is due to past karma’s ripening. Such misunderstanding is very spiritually disempowering, and even physically debilitating, rendering nothing worth doing. It is almost the ultimate fatalistic outlook on life – to blame one’s predecessor in a past life for all present unhappiness, as if absolving oneself of all responsibilities, while assuming there is nothing to do but to live out all impending suffering. Indeed, what we experience is karmic in effect. However, at most, only about half of each experience is due to past karma. The other half of what we experience is due to our choice of attitude, that creates fresh karma now, that magnifies or mitigates effects of the first half, thus altering the overall quality of the experience.

As an example, two kids who have scraped knees suffer pain due to immediate past negative karma’s ripening – from being unmindful while playing. The first kid might cry and lament in a resigned way, thus aggravating the physical pain mentally. The second kid however, might take the pain in his stride and choose to be brave, tending to the injury swiftly and properly, thus alleviating himself of needless physical and mental anguish. It is true that both their experiences are karmic in nature. The first kid tastes the bitter fruit of past karma while creating unskilful instant new karma in the moment, whose prolonged painful effect he experiences by being stubborn… despite good advice from the second kid, who thus also creates wholesome karma – by offering help out of compassion and wisdom.

While negative and positive karmic tendencies of, say, being fatalistic or proactive, as exemplified by the two kids might be carried over to this life, past life inclinations can always be changed within this life through diligent deliberation. Tendencies, being mere habitual forces, are never cast in stone, which is why the karma that (re)shapes destiny is dynamic, pivoting not so much upon our past lives, but upon our present attitude – which decides how to make the best of even the worst obstacles. Our present experiences of unforeseeable setbacks might result from past karma, but our present attitude always creates fresh karma, that worsens or betters every situation. Even if likelihood of failure is partially due to past lives’ karma ripening, not attempting to turn things around is always the actual failure.

Changing strong negative habits
is possible only by
creating strong positive habits.


I am not what happened to me.
I am what I choose to become.

– Carl Jung


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