In the ancient Hindu holy book Bhagavad-Gita (“The Song of God”), India’s greatest warrior, Arjuna, finds himself standing in the middle of a great Indian civil war. Seeing his brothers and cousins, uncles and teachers, ready to spill their blood on both sides, Arjuna is so suddenly overcome with sorrow he throws down his weapon and declares, “I will not fight!”
Chariot driver (who also happens to be god Krishna in disguise), spends the rest of the Bhagavad-Gita explaining to Arjuna that it is both Arjuna’s karma (fate) and dharma (duty) that has brought him to this pivotal point in life. It doesn’t matter whether Arjuna actively participates (dharma) in the coming battle or not, this battle is still going to take place (karma).
So with Arjuna, so with us all, out environment contributes to us just as we contribute to it, both by our actions as well as by our inaction.
But environment is never all-determining. Your environment should refine you, not define you.
According to Indian philosophy, our lives are a combination of both karma and dharma.
Karma is the fate we have written for ourselves through our past actions.
Dharma is the duty and obligations that arise from our karma.
Arjuna’s past actions, his karma (i.e., living the life of the warrior), brought him to that particular point in his life. His dharma (duty) were the attachments he had collected along the way, duties and obligations he was honor-bound to see through: Family duties, duties to his comrades and country.
Source: “Karma and Dharma,” from Mental Dominance, by Haha Lung