This is a reference request, not a doctrine question. I recall seeing a quote from a Buddhist text or teacher roughly to this effect...

  • To see your past karma, look at your present body (and environment).
  • To see your future lives, look at your present mind.

The closest I can find now from a teacher or text is a quote from Philip Kapleau's Three Pillars of Zen...

Thus our present life and circumstances are the products of our past thoughts and actions, and in the same way our deeds in this life will fashion our future mode of existence.” (p. 408)

... which is close -- "life and circumstances" vs "body and environment" and "deeds" vs "mind"-- but not quite. If anybody can supply a pointer to the body/environment/mind version, I'd be grateful.

3 Answers 3


Found it... mostly -- Tweet by H.H. The Dalai Lama, May 6, 2010...

If you wonder what you were doing in the past, look at your body; to know what will happen to you in the future, look at your mind.

3149 retweets -- so that's probably where I saw it. As for adding environment to body, that's probably my interpolation, since the material circumstances of one's present life are clearly karmic, according to Buddhadharma.

It's probably impossible to trace this to a single origin, however, as it seems to be all over the place in various versions, including from sources other than Buddhists.


If you want to know your past life, look into your present condition; if you want to know your future life, look at your present actions.-Guru Rinpoche 747 AD

  • Thanks. But still not past -> body/environment and mind -> future. Maybe I am misremembering, but I'm looking for those specific terms. Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 15:31
  • 2
    I am pretty sure that Dalai Lama is misquoting Padmasambadha the quotes look very alike!If the quote is regarding Karma,its probably this one.
    – user13064
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 18:05

“If you want to understand the causes that existed in the past, look at the results as they are manifested in the present. And if you want to understand what results will be manifested in the future, look at the causes that exist in the present” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 279).

  • Nice! Looks like Nichiren is right in synch with the Guru Rinpoche quote below. Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 1:00

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