Do people inherit their characters from previous lives? If a man was a sinner in his previous life, will he be inclined to sin in the current life? If a man was virtuous in his previous life, will he be inclined to virtue in his current life?

It seems that the moral character of previous lives has no effect on the current life because there are many kinds and virtuous people who have been born in the most unfortunate circumstances. Such people were undoubtedly sinners in their past lives, but are virtuous now.

And many cruel and sinful people have been born in the most fortunate circumstances. Such people were undoubtedly virtuous in their past lives, but are sinful now.

Am I correct?

  • Your notion of fortunate and unfortunate circumstance could be subjective. A seemingly unfortunate circumstance , for eg a poor man's family , could be really a fortunate one as there could be some other postive aspect in that family which can make them happy .. when compared to a richmans family . For eg . A rich man may not be bestowed with good health etc. Fortune is a changing factor.
    – Athrey
    Dec 3, 2022 at 15:27
  • @Athrey There are some unambiguously unfortunate circumstances. You can imagine, for example, a poor, blind, orphan who dies of malaria. Dec 3, 2022 at 19:39

2 Answers 2


Yes, it's called samskaras. Imagine you're a really short tempered guy and you didn't fix this problem in this life, then even in another life, you are still going to suffer with this problem.

  • Why is it that there are people who were sinners in their past life but virtuous in their present life? Dec 4, 2022 at 10:03
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    So many things can affect samskaras like suppose someone was a coward in his previous life but in his present life he was born at a place where he have to fight for his survival so for surviving he have to win against his own fears so in this case he changes his samskaras bcz of the environment also people around you and people you mostly spend time with can also affect your samskaras Dec 4, 2022 at 10:08
  • Is there any quotes from scriptures or scholars about how samskaras can be changed? Dec 9, 2022 at 15:25
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    @TerjijKassal Samskaras are basically nature of a person like some are introverted,some extroverted I don't k own how to change that I've been trying to change my introvert nature for a while now Dec 9, 2022 at 16:48
  • Are people who were virtuous in a past life more likely to be virtuous in their present life than people who were not virtuous in their past life? Dec 9, 2022 at 16:53

Answer to this question , cannot be known thru speculation ,logical conclusion , opinion etc as it is beyond any human scrutiny. ( so the ans. cannot be to the point , but tangential)

In light of scripture s (to my knowledge ), .. The person who is sinner/virtuous at a point in time , acquires a karmic blue prints for sowing such intentions / actions, which is sure to produce an inevitable effect that needs to be reaped, ..May be it could fetch a jiva a new birth conducive to reap it's effects(Amushnika phalam) or it may reap in the same life.

(when , where , how cannot be guessed)

Satapatha Brahmana says-
A man is born into the body that has been made for him (
(Sri SN Saastri)

tat tatra yathaa raajaanam...
Just as, when a king visits some place within his kingdom the leading citizens of that place, as well as certain others appointed by the king to perform specific duties, wait for him with food and drink and a palace kept ready for his stay, similarly, for the transmigrating self who is about to take up a new body, the elements that are necessary for the creation of that body, as well as the presiding deities of the organs, such as Indra and others, wait with the means of enjoyment of the results of his past actions, saying Here comes Brahman, our enjoyer and master
(Br.up.4.3.37, Sri Shankara Bhaashya , Translation Sri SN Saastri)

tatra asya idam sariiram parityajya..
Now a question may arise---- When the jiiva goes leaving one gross body, he has no power to take another by himself. Nor are there others who, like servants, would wait for him with another body made ready, as a kings retinue waits for him with a house kept ready. How then can the jiiva get another body? The answer is: He has adopted the whole universe as his means for the realization of the results of his actions. Therefore the whole universe, impelled by his work, waits for him with the requisite means for the realization of the results of his past actions
(Br.up.4.3.37, Sri Shankara Bhaashya , Translation Sri SN Saastri)

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    But my question is, if a man was virtuous in his life, will he continue to be virtuous in his next life? Dec 3, 2022 at 19:41
  • A virtuous man leading an ethical life following a moral code , reveals his quality of consciousness(purity of mind.) These tendencies / intentions(desire , fear , moral injunctions, subliminal impressions,ego et al) are part of his subtle body , so they are carried fwd.across lives bcos , Next life means new gross body.. yet what you ask is not ascertained by scriptures, as prarabdh karma , an offloaded portion of sanchita, (cannot be known ,to some extent can be known thru astrology)that takes effect on a current gross life which is not in one's control.
    – Athrey
    Dec 4, 2022 at 8:50
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    The effects may be reduced upon taking up bhakti path, by surrendering to Lord.Only kriyamana karma(current actions) is in the locus of one's control , so one can choose to be virtuous abiding shaastras..So the ans. is continuation,is most likely to happen but shaastras don't seem to guarantee, Although virtuous acts are never go in vain , the are sure to fructify yielding good results. and is a pathway for progress
    – Athrey
    Dec 4, 2022 at 8:50
  • So are people who were virtuous in a past life more likely to be virtuous in their present life than people who were not virtuous in their past life? Dec 9, 2022 at 15:29
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    @TerjijKassal , karmic imprints accrued (by virtuous people) for their good deeds and intentions ,never goes for a toss. In my understanding No one can say whether in the same life, next life or in another , it takes effect. Not sure, if an adept astrologer can have a comment on when? , how ? etc.
    – Athrey
    Dec 10, 2022 at 10:57

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