We often don’t remember that whatever actions we do now will become the causes for things that happen in the future, for good or ill.
From David Loy’s book Money Sex War Karma:
Sow a thought and reap a deed
Sow a deed and reap a habit
Sow a habit and reap a character
Sow a character and reap a destiny
What I do is motivated by what I think. Intentional actions, repeated over and over, become habits. Habitual ways of thinking, feeling, acting, and reacting construct and compose my sense of self: the kind of person I am. The kind of person I am does not fully determine what occurs to me but strongly affects what happens and how I respond to it.
Professor Loy goes on to point out a most useful understanding of, and use for, the Buddha’s teachings on karma:
What is clear in either case, however, is that karma-as-how-to-transform-my-life-situaion-by-transforming-my-motivations-right-now is not a fatalistic doctrine. Quite the contrary: it is difficult to imagine a more empowering spiritual teaching. We are not told to accept passively the problematic circumstances of our lives. Rather, we are encouraged to improve our spiritual lives and worldly situation by addressing those circumstances with generosity, loving-kindness, and nondual wisdom.
Everyone is dealt a karmic hand each day, and it’s up to us to play things out with our best intentions as companions, or to fail in the effort and make a determination to try again. We work on ourselves by working on our motivations in every situation we encounter. It’s a very active process, and requires our attention and involvement.
The cultural current is running in the direction of individual self-aggrandizement, and we’re trying to swim upstream. By remembering the importance of our intentions (every day, in every interaction), we can build our destiny on a foundation of unlimited goodwill, unlimited compassion, unlimited sympathetic joy, and equanimity.