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What is Karma in Taoism?

Karma in Taoism is one of the three crucial energies. Find out what this energy is used for and how to accumulate it to power your life.

Karma, in the 4 Ascendant Taoist Tradition, is one of the 3 Crucial (a.k.a. Primal) Energies: karma, qi, and abundance.

Making progress toward either spiritual enlightenment or significant personal happiness is extremely difficult without collecting karma.  If either of these goals is something that you want then you need to build your knowledge about karma to high levels.  Otherwise, your life will constantly frustrate you.

 Karma in Taoism is Different

To grasp Taoist Karma, you must first fully grasp that you are not studying Buddhism or Hinduism.

Their concepts do not apply here.

You must also accept that pop cultural concepts of karma, like “instant karma” are absolutely incorrect.  While popular, there is not a single shred of reality to the pop ideas.

Separate the Human Realm from the Tao Realm

The true nature of karma can be difficult to grasp.  In the world of human interaction (the human realm), humans crave right and wrong and justice.  This craving leads to the desire for a universe that provides divine law that mandates these things.  Karma for Buddhism and Hinduism is an expression of that desire.

This is not true in the Tao.

It is beneficial to us as humans as a society to have justice and to adhere to right.  Humans function better in a good world and in the presence of good than they do in the presence of evil.

The Tao does not mandate that humans create a just world, however.

The Tao is all things: good and evil, creation and destruction, birth and death, beauty and ugliness.  For this reason, it does not favor a particular good or bad.  It is up to humans, as part of the social and martial sphere, to use their free will and create a desirable world.  The Tao is not going to do it for you.  It would violate Free will.

To understand karma, you must understand that the universe is driven by choice and free will.  It is in the actual construction of the universe. The basic divine law of choice and free will is what is mandated by the Tao and what comes from the Tao.

Karma is the energy that powers choice.  It is the fuel that runs this mandated portion of the universe.

Karma and the Taoist 3 Pole Model

If Karma isn’t rewarded according to good and evil, what rules govern it?

To answer that question, we have to understand the 3 Pole Karmic Model of the 4 Ascendant Taoist Tradition.

Graphic illustrating karmic poles of taoism

There are three poles of Karma: A Positive pole, A Neutral Pole, A Negative pole.

In the beginning, people will commonly refer to positive as Good; neutral as Neutral; and negative as Evil.  This reference is incorrect because it juggles the spheres and leads to problems with understanding karma past the most basic level, but let’s do it for now just to get started.

Karma is accumulated by making choices that fit within a pole.  If you want to accumulate positive karma, then you do positive things, and those positive things add up together to form positive karma.  You gradually climb up the positive pole, and the higher you climb, the more power that you have.

Karma Accumulation Follows Karmic Math

If you are trying to accumulate positive karma, and make a negative choice, you subtract this negative from your positive karma, and so lose power.  If the choice is sufficiently negative, you could end up spending all your Karma or even shifting to the negative pole.

It is equally possible to accumulate negative Karma, and acquire tremendous power.  However, when an evil person does something positive, that person loses Karma as well!

Taoism across most sects favors the accumulation of Positive or Neutral in Karma.

Historically, those adepts that have pursued great evil karma have been killed to avoid creating a world that would be ultimately detrimental to human survival.

Karma is important, because it gives your choices the ability to be successful.  For the most part, when we are powerless to choose, we become unable to manage our selves in the big 4 human activities.  This shortcoming guarantees unhappiness.

Karma makes enlightenment much more likely, but is not a requirement to achieve enlightenment.  Karma is also not part of reward system that will ultimately lead to enlightenment.

To Your Best on the Spiritual Path,

Taoist master signature

Keeper of the Gate of Man and Heaven

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2 Responses

  1. So by making choices in a given pole it will give you the karma of that pole, how can you tell what pole you’re in and how can you tell what pole your choices are in? do you get better at telling if you’re making a positive, neutral or negative choice over time? does the neutral pole have the same system as the positive and negative when your in one of those poles and you make a choice in the other pole you get subtracted that amount of karma in the pole you are in?

  2. Hello and thank you for your comment.

    Your question is mostly about self awareness, “How do I know what I am and how I should behave?”

    Becoming self aware is part of an overall process both in the pursuit of happiness and in the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment. You acquire self-awareness through following practices like the 3 level method, and using the Taoist mind to solve your day to day problems.

    Specifically to Karma:

    Humans have a natural sensitivity to karma. That sensitivity, combined with trial and error, will very quickly reveal specifics of karmic rules to you. Your best bet is to activate that natural sensitivity and put that tool at your own disposal. Otherwise, you will be caught in a cycle of constantly asking others what their tool reveals about karma. It is better to be in a situation of asking questions about the tool rather than asking about karmic values.

    Activating the karmic tool is difficult because it is masked by the Social Mind. The Social Mind functions at greater ease without having people capable of choice, so a large part of its structure is dedicated toward preventing karmic accumulation. What that means is that you must weaken the Social Mind to allow the karmic tool to function. That leads you back to 4 Ascendant Taoist practice like that of the 3 Level Method.

    In response to your actual questions, “Yes.”

    If you want to a general method for accumulating a constant, but low level amount of karma, refer to the gratitude invocation.

    Warm regards!

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