Where did we come from? We come from out of the past, even as today comes out of yesterday. This life is the result of the past life, before this life. We come from out of the things we have done before, out of the past labours unfinished. Although we have labored, our work is not complete, if it were we should not be here, we should be somewhere higher.
We come out of past vices and virtues, vices and virtues we have accumulated, out of the darkness of our own desires.
Why are we here? We are here because the past gives birth to the future. We are brought here by our own joys, our own sorrows, but most of all we are led here by our desires.
Where are we going? We are going to the results of our actions, the effects of our causes.
Those whose labours are unfinished will go around the wheel of life, samsara, returning again and again until their labours are finished and the state of Nibbana, the complete cessation of suffering, has been reached.
Unless one knows this, one cannot begin to understand the real nature and function of cause and effect, the cause of suffering, how suffering arises. In meditation there is a stage where one becomes free from doubt about one’s own existence; this requires a knowledge and a proper understanding of cause and effect, so that no doubt exists as to how one arises and passes away as a human being.
The lives of men, in fact the whole universe of living beings, are governed by unchanging, eternal laws, such as the laws of cause and effect, the laws of the mind and of the laws of nature. The whole universe is governed by these eternal laws, and not by any imaginary God, a God susceptible to change if one believes that God has compassion to be aroused and partiality won. To the Buddhist the laws of nature, the laws of righteousness which govern the universe, are the always the same, the same for one and all. Therefore, a man’s duty is not to break these rules, not to try to change these laws by means of any prayer or guarding against them, but to know and understand them and to live in harmony with them.
The past is the background against which life goes on from moment to moment, the future is yet to be. One the present moment exists, and the responsibility of using the present moment for good or ill lies with each individual.
The present being, present existence, is conditioned by how one faced circumstances in the last, and in all past existences. Our present position in character and circumstances is the result of all that one has been up to the present, but what will be in the future depends on what one does now in the present.