The doctrine of karma in Buddhist Philosophy is based on the doctrines, the present life of man is the result of his past life and the future depends upon the present. According to Buddhist religion, Because of their karmas, men are not similar, but some are long living, some short living, some healthy and unhealthy etc. When a disciple with broken head and blood flowing from it came to Buddha, Buddha said, “Oh, Arhat, bear it as it is… you are bearing the fruits of your karmas for which you would have suffered in hell for centuries.” According to the doctrine of Karmas every man is responsible for his actions. The actions must bear fruits. The future of every individual depends on his present actions.
According to the doctrine of Karma, the fruits of the actions are according to the character of the actor. If some had man has committed sin, he will have to suffer for it in the hell. But if some good man has by chance committed some evil action, he will get rid of it after suffering a little in this very life. It is like this that if a man put some salt in a small cup of water, the water will become salty and not worthy of drinking. But if the same amount of salt is thrown in the water of the Ganges, no visible defects will be observed.
When the doctrine of Karma becomes all powerful the human freedom disappears. When everything is predetermined according to Karmas, then how can the individual effect any change it it? Gautama a Buddha has not given any clear answer to the freedom of man vis-a-vis the doctrine of Karma. But he has accepted the possibility of over coming the entire law of Karma and the actuality of the free actions. According to Buddha the doctrine of Karma is not mechanical. Though the present is determined by the past, the future is free and depends on our will. O priests! if any one says that the man must bear the fruits of his karmas, there is no religious life in that condition, nor is there any opportunity of the absolute destruction of suffering. But if someone says that the reward which a man gets is according to his action the priests! in that condition there is religious life and the opportunity of the destruction of all suffering. As a matter of fact, if the doctrine of Karma is mechanical then there is hardly any place for religion and ethics in human life. The doctrine of Karma shows an order in the field of spiritual development as well as that of terrestrial process. It does not lessen the importance of efforts and responsibility. The philosophy of Buddha is against absolute determinism as well as against absolute indeterminism.
In the Buddhist philosophy, the succession of the world has been called Bhava-Chakra. In their cycle, the chain of the cause and effects is always operating. It is this effect which has been emphasized in the doctrine of the dependent origination. Both birth and death are two links in the same chain. As the old is destroyed, the new takes birth. Not only human beings, but all living beings are caught in this cycle of thaw world.
But there is an escape form this worldly cycle. According to the Buddhist philosophy the Karma ceases to have any effect in the ultimate spiritual status. In that stage the karmas and their effects are destroyed forever and the man rises above both merits and demerits. After attaining liberation the actions cease, but this does not mean inactivity. Really speaking, al Karmas do not bear fruit, but only those Karmas result into effects which are promoted by the passions Originating in ignorance. After the attainment of liberation the Karmas remain, but they bear no fruit as the burnt seeds do not sprout in the plants.
Rebirth in Buddhist Philosophy:
Buddha does not believe in any permanent soul. Consciousness is an eternal process which there is the relation of antecedent and subsequent between different movements. But there is no unchanging, immutable soul behind his process. hence logically there is no place for rebirth in Buddhist philosophy. After death the samskaras of the Jivas remain. These samskaras are according to his karmas and it is due to these that a link between one birth and another is maintained. This Sanskara is expressed in the last thought of a dying person. Along with this power of Karma attachment or clinging is also required. This upadan is the power which is the cause of new birth according to old karmas. Without it the Karmas themselves have no power. After the attainment of liberation, the attachment is destroyed and Upadan annihilated, resulting into the negation of the rebirth. There is no similarity between the past and the present individual except that the new is according to the karmas of old. Sometimes even consciousness has been admitted as remaining after death. Whatever we are or whatever we have thought is the result of it, consciousness has been rightly conceived as the esse4nce of our soul. In fact, this proves the close relation between consciousness, action, thought and will. After the attainment of Nirvana, one is liberated both from the consciousness as well as from actions.