The Buddha did not believe in an exterlly ordained fate. Rather, all beings create their own fates, whether good or bad. At birth, they are bound by previous karma, which can be changed with free will through deliberate action. Fate or destiny may exist, but only ordiry people are bound by it’s chains. It cannot bind those who cultivate great kindness, as the story of The Young Monk and the Ants illustrates:
Once upon a time, there lived an old monk and his young disciple deep inside a mountain forest. The master was a great practitioner of Buddha-dharma, frequently going into deep meditations that lasted for days. During such meditative trances, he would get glimpses of the future, seeing events that were yet to happen.
One day, the old monk was meditating. Suddenly he saw that his disciple was going to die in eight days. He grew sad, but he had to do his duty. Calling the young monk he said, “My boy, I think you should go home and see your parents. I am giving you a holiday eight days.”
The young monk was happy. “Really? That is very good! Of late, I have been feeling homesick too. Thank you, O master,” he said.
“However, you must be back here by the eighth day,” said the old monk, trying to look stern.
“Yes, master. Please take care of yourself. I am leaving now,” and so saying, the disciple set off eagerly. Had he looked back then, he would have been puzzled at the wistful look on his master’s face. The old monk knew all about the impermanence of attachment, but still he could not help feeling a pang as his loyal disciple left him for what he knew to be the last time. He gazed at the forest trail long after the young monk had disappeared from view.
Happily and with much anticipation, the young monk went down the mountains. Getting thirsty after a long walk, he stopped at the bank of a stream to drink some water. Suddenly, he saw an anthill inside a hollow on the high side of the river bank. Countless ants were going in and out of it. For quite some time, he observed them with interest.
When at last the young monk was about to leave, he noticed something curious. The water level of the stream was rising. And then, far in the distance, he saw a huge wave coming rapidly downstream.
It had been raining continuously for several days up in the highlands, but the water had been dammed up due to a rock fall. As the pressure of water increased, the obstructing rocks had given way. The mass of water with all its pent up energy was beginning to come down.
Rather than worry about his safety, the young monk’s concern was for the ants. “Oh, no! The ants will be drowned,” he thought with dismay.
Moving swiftly, he quickly took off his clothes. Filling his clothes with soil, he fashioned a plug to cover the mouth of the hollow. Meanwhile, he shifted some boulders in front to divert the onrushing flow of water. His efforts paid off as the water changed direction and coursed away harmlessly.
The eight days passed. The old monk’s heart was heavy. Strolling alone in the mountains, he suddenly saw from a distance his disciple coming up cheerfully. Wondering, the master asked his disciple to recount what he had done in the eight days he had been away.
When the young monk told the story of what happened with the ants, his master understood. With one stroke, he had changed his karma. Having saved the lives of countless ants, the young monk had altered his destiny. The master now saw a long and happy life ahead of his disciple if he continued on the path of good deeds, however insignificant they might seem at the time of doing.