Some people are more richer other others, some are more intelligent than others, some are more beautiful than others...

Are all these predestined? I heard that one's karma in his/her past life affects his/her present life. So if one is not as intelligent/sucessful in the present life, can we attribute this to his/her bad karma in the past life?

4 Answers 4


Kamma is volitional or intentional action as Buddha said, “It is volition, bikkhus, that I call kamma. For having willed, one acts by body, speech, or mind.” It’s results ripens or takes effect in three ways; to be experienced in this very life, the next rebirth or at some subsequent occasion. Thus, as long as we travel on in the cycle of rebirths, our stockpile of kamma will yield its due results. We have no escape from kamma so long as we make no effort to make an end to kamma by becoming at least a Stream Winner. Until one gets into the path, as Buddha said, “beings are the owners of their kamma, the heirs of their kamma; they have kamma as their origin, kamma as their relative, kamma as their resort; whatever kamma they do, good or bad, they are its heirs.”

In this way, the effect of ones past kamma determine the nature of ones present situation in life. This is a universal principle, on which Buddhist morality is based. It does not assert that everything is due to Kamma. If everything were due to Kamma, a man must ever be bad, for it is his Kamma to be bad. One need not consult a physician to be cured of a disease, for if one's Kamma is such one will be cured.

Kamma is only one of the five all-embracing five orders or processes which are laws in themselves. The other four ‘Niyamas’ which operate in the physical and mental realms other than the Kamma Niyama are… Utu Niyama, Bija Niyama, Citta Niyama, & Dhamma Niyama. Utu Niyama is that of the physical order such as seasonal phenomena of winds and rains. Bija Niyama is the order of germs or seeds. Citta Niyama is the order/power of the mind. Dhamma Niyama is that of those who tread the Path. Kamma is, therefore, only one of the five.

It is this doctrine of Kamma that can explain all the inequality of mankind. But it does not mean fate as it is possible to change or reduce the effects of these past actions through present actions. That is why if a person who has much money, but no true, righteous friends should practice sila. Such people who have no friends, very often single but keep on hoarding wealth have in their past lives given lavishly in generosity as dana but without any sila/morals in them. A person who is very generous but not virtuous (without the any personal virtue like the observance of the five precepts ) would inherit this kind of bad kamma. Even today many rich people are highly generous but the inevitable karmic law is that no degree of generosity can cover up the lack of virtue in personal life. This karmic law cannot be deceived. This is why it has been laid down that "give dana with confidence and always be virtuous" (daanam dadantu saddhaaya - seelam rakkhantu sabbadaa). The two aspects should be complementary to each other.

  • Thank you for your insightful response. But I think, considering the complexity of the Karmic low, we should talk in probability / conjecture and say may have been this and that in their past lives* etc… and avoid definitive relation
    – user10552
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 11:07
  • You are very right @user10522. Buddha has advised us not to question or analyse how the Kamma takes affect as it is too complex and intricate. It is just that I felt the OP demanded at least one example, and there's no harm in reminding others of the best kind of giving.. "give dana with confidence and always be virtuous" (daanam dadantu saddhaaya - seelam rakkhantu sabbadaa) Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 14:04

These ideas are found in the Cula-kammavibhanga Sutta, however this sutta is questionable both in terms of its composition (see this discussion) & its actual reality.

We can see in the actual reality of the world some of the most wealthy people do very evil things to acquire their wealth & some of the most beautiful people live emotionally afflicted lives. It is highly improbable that such people did something exceptionally good in a past life & then became so evil & neurotic in the next life. Further, we can know exactly the steps a person look in this life to become wealthy, as written in their biographies (eg. Bill Gates). This shows their wealth is unrelated to any actions performed in a past life.

  • 2
    But this does not explain the existence of prodigies right? How is it even possible that some people have talent in math, music, etc. at a very young age? Their talent is so overwhelming that normal ppl like me cannot even come close to matching their skill in my lifetime.
    – Donald
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 1:08
  • Also, I think Buddhists often explain that if retribution has not befallen someone, then it is only because the time is not ripe.
    – Donald
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 1:11
  • 1
    If beauty is related to past actions, since a person can be born very beautiful and another unsightly, why not wealth can have past actions (in other lifes) contributing to actions in this life?
    – user4878
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 21:38

No, it is determined by many other qualities in a person.

Courage, awareness etc.

  • Then why do people have different IQ? Why are some people born to rich parents and others born to poor ones? Why are some people luckier than others?
    – Donald
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 14:32
  • That is based on Karma. Karma is like someone's heritage. Heritage doesn't mean it is his success, but rather what he or she got. Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 22:46
  • How is it possible that one already has karma since we were born? Is that an indication that we have past lives?
    – Donald
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 1:32
  • It is. So is the animal world. Lord Buddha speaks of observing the world around oneself and notice how things taken form (reaction) based on cause (action). One could find animals showing certain human like behavior and vice versa. Believing in rebirth is part of Samma Dhitti, one of the bases of the Noble Eight Fold (Component) path. Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 8:05

In some sense yes. Everything is happening for a reason. So do your choices in another incarnation reflect your choices in this incarnation? Yes, because each time it is you that is doing the choosing.

So in a sense you could say. Yes you are affecting yourself.

  • But is there a 'YOU' that re-incarnate?
    – user10552
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 17:40
  • Is there evidence that shows that out current choices will affect our next life?
    – Donald
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 1:10
  • @LanceHAOH Are you looking for evidence to show that the Buddha taught this or some sort of science experiment?
    – Hugh
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 13:56
  • @LanceHAOH Evidence that the past affects the future? Dunno? Try jumping of a cliff to make sure. Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 16:18
  • @Hugh I am looking for evidence to show that our present lives are indeed affected by what we did in our past lives.
    – Donald
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 0:51

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