Nothing suggesting collective kamma is found in the Buddha's teachings and there is no Pàëi or Sanskrit terms for collective kamma in the traditional lexicons. The idea also seems to be absent from later Buddhist texts. The first appearance of the concept is in Theosophical writtings in the late 19th century.
One incident from the Buddhist tradition that could be suggesting something like collective kamma is a story about the Sakyans, the Buddha's kinsmen. Viḍūḍabha, the king of Kosala, massacred `all the Sakyans' including even `the suckling babes', and they suffered this fate supposedly because `the Sakyans' had sometime previously poisoned a river in a dispute over its water (Ja.IV,152). In reality, only a few Sakyans would have committed this evil deed, and although the Sakyan chiefs probably authorized it and a number of others may have approved of it, the majority, particularly the babies and children, would have had nothing at to do with it. Thus the idea of collective kamma idea is implicit in this story. However, the story is not in the Tipiṭaka but comes from the of the Jàtaka and the Dhammapada commentaries, both texts of uncertain but late date. Whoever the author or authors were it seems likely that they were just storytelling, rather than positing the idea of collective kamma as a specific doctrine. The fact that no later commentators took the story as a cue to develop the idea of collective kamma strengthens this assumption. Also, another version of the story, from the Mahàvaüsa Tãkà, says that there were survivors of the massacre, thus undermining and contradicting the claim that `all Sakyans' suffered the negative vipàka of the kamma created by others.
There are various versions of the collective kamma idea. One maintains that large numbers of people can be reborn into a particular group which then suffers together because of their shared negative kamma. Another version maintains that a minority of innocent individuals belonging to a group can suffer because of the negative kamma made by the majority of individuals within that group. In these first two versions, the vipàka supposedly comes in the form of war, famine, plague, earthquakes or other natural disasters. Yet another version of this second theory is that individuals can suffer for evil they have done by having something horrible happen to someone related to them. In any of its versions collective kamma, like the idea of transference of merit, contradicts the Buddhas idea of kamma which emphasises personal responsability.
The Buddha said: `By oneself is evil done, by oneself is evil shunned, by oneself is one purified. Purity and impurity depend on oneself. No one can purify another' (Dhp.165). In the Sutta Nipàta he said: `When they are overcome by death and are going from here to the next world, the father cannot assist the son, any more than other relatives can' (Sn.579). The Jàtaka says: `One makes one's own good fortune. One makes one's own misfortune. For good fortune or lack of it cannot be made for another by another' (Ja.III,263).