According to the Buddhism's theory, one man's fate is destined by the past's karma. Suppose that he faced an unfortunate incident at birth, which is due to past karma. Besides, his genes are inherited from his parents. In other words, his brain is also initiated by past karma.

In this condition, all his ideas are also affected by the experience he has had, which is determined by past karma. To elaborate more, some are clever, some less, which can again be explained by karma. But if the conventional human brain can be so strongly determined by the existence of karma, how can you say buddhism is not fatalism?

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9 Answers 9


According to the Buddhism's theory, one man's fate is destined by the past's karma.

This is true that our conditions are determined by past karma, but they are determined by present as well. A Brahman asked the Buddha in the Cula Kammavibhanga Sutta

Master Gotama, what is the reason, what is the condition, why inferiority and superiority are met with among human beings, among mankind? For one meets with short-lived and long-lived people, sick and healthy people, ugly and beautiful people, insignificant and influential people, poor and rich people, low-born and high-born people, stupid and wise people. What is the reason, what is the condition, why superiority and inferiority are met with among human beings, among mankind?

The Buddha replies by saying that our conditions are due to our past karma. This; however, is not fatalistic. The idea of karma revolves around the idea that we create our future.

In the Devadaha Sutta the Buddha refutes two Jainism theories about karma

  1. The past determines present pleasure and pain, and the present determines future present and pain.
  2. The belief that you can do nothing in the present to get rid of suffering; all one could do is live with it.

The Buddha rejected both of those theories that were taught in Jainism. Those two statements sound fatalistic.

The Buddha said that the past and present determine the present; thus, making it not fatalistic. Suffering, according to the Buddha, is due to past and present karma as well. There is no fatalism in Buddhism.

The karma you mention in your question seems to be more of Jainist theories of karma than Buddhist theories of karma.


Fatalism is the error of the ajivika sect of the Buddha's time, which the Buddha unequivocably rejected. That is how we can say that Buddhism is not fatalism. Logically, the reason is that even though our present is conditioned by the unfruited karma of our past, the effective principle of karma is volition or intention, which, being identical with reality (the Absolute), is fundamentally unconditioned and therefore free. The Absolute must be both ignorant and free, because it is (by definition) unconditioned. Primarily ignorant, once it becomes self-reflexive in samsara it becomes self-determining and therefore the cause of future unfruited karmas. This is also the proof of rebirth. Thus the Buddha stated that he knows the past and the present, but the future is indeterminate.

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    +1 I like the way you're explaining some of these :)
    – Andriy Volkov
    Nov 4, 2015 at 21:00

This question might have been asked and answered well already, e.g. please read this answer.

Some reasons why 'belief in karma' is not 'fatalism' include:

  • 'Fatalism' is often understood to mean "fate assigned to us by God", however Buddhist believe that "we are the author of our own karma"
  • Karma affects us, but it is not the only factor which affects us
  • Karma means, something like, 'an act of intention': our present intention affects our future (our future and present state is not pre-determined by fate, but is instead determined by our intentions)

To elaborate more, someone are clever, some less, which can be explained by the karma. But if the conventional human brain can be affected by the existence of karma, how can you say buddhism is not fatalism.

Whether intelligence is a result of birth (i.e. genes) or education (i.e. action) is a complicated subject (for example a book called The Blank Slate argued that it's the result of both).

For example, you can:

  • Intend to learn the first verse of the Dhammapada
  • As a result of having formed the intention, perform the actions which are necessary to achieve that (e.g. read the verse repeatedly until you have memorized it and can repeat it from memory)

In this example, because you had an intention, your brain was then affected: but it is not 'fatalism', instead it is you having an effect on your own brain as a result of your own choice.


The person who asked this question is wrong,as Buddhists we completely dump the theory "Karma is the last decider"

We believe in "Five niyamas"

Click this to learn "Five niyamas"

Karma is just a one variable in this not the final decider.

I guess this breaks the question and no further explaining is needed.Click the link given above and you will understand that Unlike many other beliefs Buddhism does not take away the right of free will because if it did there is no point of a Lord Buddha.

The very core of Buddhism is defying the tide and going against it with ones own free will and courage.So clearly Buddhism is not a fatalism because fate has no power over the will of a "One who is in the path".

Because no matter what he or she will reach nirvana and karma no matter how powerful it is can't change that.


Strictly speaking Fate is described by the Greeks as being fixed and unchangeable. Karma is changeable, mutable and immutable.

People use the word Fate to try to describe karma to people unfamiliar with Buddhism.


Fatalism means things cannot be changed. However, Buddhism teaches that everything is impermanent which means everything changes all the time. Thus Buddhism is not fatalism.


Buddhism teachings teach that ultimately there is no future OR fate in the future. The future is only an idea that we make up in our heads and the past ultimately doesn't exist as well. Your fate is right now as you read this. It also changes quickly.


Buddhism is not fatalism. It doesn't teach that everything that happens to you is fated. In fact, it teaches the opposite. (SN 36.21)

Yes. You inherit your genes from your parents and you inherit part of your ideas and knowledge from your environment, country, books, teachers etc. This is called "old karma" in the suttas (SN 35.146).

You experience the results of your past karma but not all that happens to you is caused by kamma, says that suttas. For e.g. some things are caused by the weather or bile or wind or somebody hurting you. That's not caused by your karma. (SN 36.21)

The mind precedes all states (Dhp 1 - 2). Karma starts with the mind.

Karma is always based on intention. ("Intention is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect." - AN 6.63)

Buddhism is not fatalism because it says instead of regretting the past or holding remorse, you should instead cultivate the shame and fear of wrongdoing to instill the mindset of virtue. It says you should not cling to the remorse and regret, because it will harm your mind. (AN 3.99)

Your intentions today can change the present and the future. (Dhp 116 - 122)

But to have the right intentions, you need to learn, think and contemplate. To do this, you need some intelligence. ("They’re wise, bright, and clever" - AN 6.87)

You don't have to be as intelligent as Nobel prize winning physicists, but you need some minimum intelligence (from your old karma), for this purpose. The very fact that you are asking this question shows that you have that minimum intelligence, in my opinion.

  1. Hasten to do good; restrain your mind from evil. He who is slow in doing good, his mind delights in evil.

  2. Should a person commit evil, let him not do it again and again. Let him not find pleasure therein, for painful is the accumulation of evil.

  3. Should a person do good, let him do it again and again. Let him find pleasure therein, for blissful is the accumulation of good.

  4. It may be well with the evil-doer as long as the evil ripens not. But when it does ripen, then the evil-doer sees (the painful results of) his evil deeds.

  5. It may be ill with the doer of good as long as the good ripens not. But when it does ripen, then the doer of good sees (the pleasant results of) his good deeds.

  6. Think not lightly of evil, saying, "It will not come to me." Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise, the fool, gathering it little by little, fills himself with evil.

  7. Think not lightly of good, saying, "It will not come to me." Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise, the wise man, gathering it little by little, fills himself with good.

  8. Just as a trader with a small escort and great wealth would avoid a perilous route, or just as one desiring to live avoids poison, even so should one shun evil.

  9. If on the hand there is no wound, one may carry even poison in it. Poison does not affect one who is free from wounds. For him who does no evil, there is no ill.

  10. Like fine dust thrown against the wind, evil falls back upon that fool who offends an inoffensive, pure and guiltless man.



In Buddhism you cannot change your past. It's obvious natural l aw. We cannot change the future too. Because we don't know the future as well. What we do is working to achieve our present planned destinations. What you did yesterday cannot be undone. Only we can do is change the planned activities to get different results. Cause and effect. We are not changing the future instead we are achieving what we worked for. Fatalism is a part of Buddhism. Problem is we cannot argive as Buddhism is out of reality. It's out of our knowledge and wisdom. No proofs. So it's like believing in God. There is no proofs of

  1. Cycle of rebirth
  2. Karmic energy and karma
  3. Attain parinibbana or exit of cycle of rebirth
  4. We do not know what happened to Gouthama. Where is he now? Yes there are some parts in Buddhism we can use in our day-to-day life but what it propose us to make our life's goal is totally misleading . Buddhism is a Gautama's private experience. It's not the truth of nature. We cannot prove it without beyond doubt. That's why it's faith. There is neither existence of a God or existence of a cycle of rebirth. We are divided due to false beliefs which are out nature. Thanks
  • Buddhism says everything is subject to change. And it also says cycle of rebirth which is due to karma. There is a contradiction. Sep 4, 2021 at 2:31

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