Some people ask, ‘If good begets good and bad begets bad why should many good people suffer and some wicked people prosper in this world?’ The answer to this question, according to the Buddhist point of view, is that although some are good by nature, they have not accumulated enough good merits in their previous birth to compensate for the bad effects of unwholesome karma in this present life; somewhere in their past there must have been some defect. On the other hand, some are wicked by nature and yet are able to enjoy this life for a short period due to some strong good karma that they accumulated in their previous birth. For example, there are certain people who by nature have inherited a strong constitution and as a result enjoy perfect health. Their physical power of resistance is strong and hence they are not prone to illnesses. Although they do not take special precautions to lead a hygienic life, they are able to remain strong and healthy. On the other hand, there are others who take various tonics and vitamins—enriched foods to fortify themselves, but in spite of their efforts to become strong and healthy, their health does not show any improvement. Generally speaking, whatever good and bad deeds people commit within this life-time, they will definitely experience the reaction within this life or hereafter. It is impossible to escape from their results simply by praying, but only by cultivating the mind and leading a noble life. This is not to say that everything that we suffer or enjoy today is completely controlled by our past actions, which we call Karma. The Buddha says that if this was so, then there would be no purpose in living a moral life, as we would then be simply victims of the past. Buddhists assert that while our lives were conditioned in the past, it is entirely within ourselves to change that condition and to create our future and present well being. Buddhists do not subscribe to predestination or fatalism as the only possible explanations for the human condition. Buddhists are encouraged to do good deeds not for the sake of gaining a place in heaven. They are expected to do good in order to eradicate their selfishness and to experience peace and happiness at each present moment. When each present moment is carefully controlled the future well being is assured.
‘He for whom there is neither this shore nor the other shore, nor yet both, He who is free of cares and is unfettered. Him do I call a holy man’. (DHAMMAPADA 385)
(Source: Dr. K Sri Dhammananda, WHAT BUDDHISTS BELIEVE)