The Secret Meaning of Karma
Daoism advocates doing good works. It does not regard good works merely as alms to others and sacrifice by oneself. On the contrary, it holds that the result of good works benefits not only others but also oneself, for these good works contain the perfection of one's own personality, and while benefiting others, they create conditions for the perfection of one's own cultivation. Thus doing good works is an active process.
Correspondence between cause and effect
In Daoist teachings, the relation between cause and effect refers to the relation between one's words, actions and thoughts and the influence and effect caused by them on oneself. One's words, actions, and thoughts are the cause, and the influence they exert on oneself is the result. Cause means reason and effect means result, referring particularly to the retribution brought about by the cause. Cause and effect, or words, actions, thoughts and retribution are closely related. Cause is the root and reason that gives rise to the effect, while the effect is the retribution for the cause. One's words, actions and thoughts will always cause certain effects and produce certain retribution and reward. It is impossible not to receive retribution after the cause has been created. As the saying goes, good will be rewarded with good, and evil with evil; if the reward is not forthcoming, it is because the time has not yet come; when the time comes, one will get one's due reward. In Daoism, karma is classified into two kinds: karma outside this world and worldly karma. The cause of the karma outside this world is Wisdom and its effect is Detachment. Here the effect is called a Dao Fruit ( 道果 daoguo ). The cause of worldly karma is good and evil, and the effect is sorrow and joy. Sins will certainly receive retribution and bear the fruit of sorrow, while good will be rewarded with good and bear the fruit of joy. What is generally discussed is worldly karma, but those practicing Dao should take both kinds of karma into consideration. In the human world, one should never forget the reward of good and retribution of evil, and do more good works and accumulate more merits in order to free oneself from sorrow and obtain joy. On this basis, one should go further to cultivate great Wisdom, acquire great merits and obtain great Dao Fruits.
Karma Depends on the Person
Karma is inevitable. For each person, certain causes bring about corresponding effects. Each person determines it by himself. Everyone should bear responsibility for his own conduct, and should never shirk it. The person who sins will certainly receive retribution of evil, while the person with good works will be rewarded with good, and it is impossible for someone else to undertake it instead. One kind of retribution is that in this world, and if it is too late, there is still the retribution in the nether world or in the Fengdu Hell. What each person does and what cause he plants is all determined by his own choice. In this sense, the cause lies in the mind. So the section "The Meaning of Karma" ( 因果義 yinguo yi ) in the Pivotal Meaning of the Daoist Doctrine ( 道教義樞 daojiao yishu ) quotes scriptures of the Numinous Treasure ( 靈寶 lingbao ), saying, "reward for good and retribution for evil just arise from the mind." Simultaneously, the Chinese attach importance to the clan, and personal honor and disgrace are closely attached to the destiny of the clan. The Commentary of the Book of Changes ( 易傳 yizhuan ) says that clans that accumulate good will certainly leave surplus jubilation for the later generations, while clans that accumulate evil will certainly leave surplus sufferings for the later generations. In the Book of Supreme Peace ( 太平經 taiping jing ) this is called Inherited Burden ( 承負 chengfu ), which refers to surplus jubilance and sufferings, especially sufferings, accumulated through generations. Descendants can turn calamities into happiness only if they immediately abandon evil and do good, convert themselves to the Great Dao ( 大道 dadao ), and get rid of "the old Vital Breath ( 氣 qi ) " and the evil Vital Breath accumulated over a long period of time.
The idea of Karma is the ideological basis for carrying out conversion by good teachings and encouragement and practice of good in Daoism.