The miss use of Buddhist terminology seems to be spreading, so I feel it is time to get a few things straight. Gautama Buddha taught for a reason, and that reason was to help reduce our suffering. It wasn’t for us to be dismissive of what is happening around us. This is not kind, caring or compassionate. Here are some words I feel are being miss used:
Karma – this was taught to show us that our actions have consequences. Gautama Buddha wanted us to understand the principle of cause and effect. This was a way of ensuring our actions help people and not harm them. It encourages us to think before we do any actions. He did not teach so you can just dismiss something that has happened to another person. It is extremely unhelpful to tell someone it is their karma when the fall down and injure themselves.
Impermanence – this was taught to stop us getting attached to people and material objects. If we understand that things won’t last, we will not get too attached to them and this will help reduce our suffering. It wasn’t taught so you can smugly tell someone, who’s smart phone has just broken, ‘that’s impermanence for you.’
Samsara – this was taught so we can understand that we suffer from the moment we are born, through to old age, sickness and death. If we understand the our life has this thread of suffering running through it, we will search for the cause and the cure – this is the known as the four truths, which Gautama Buddha decided to make his first teaching. It should be noted that samsara is a state of mind and not an actual place. He did not talk about samsara so we can use it to dismiss things that are happening in our lives and the lives of others. I have even heard it used to brush aside what is happening to the planet.
We miss use words every day and most of the time there is no problem with that, but the miss use of these words are being carried out in an unkind and uncaring way. If you are going to use these words please first understand what Gautama Buddha was trying to convey. His teachings are a great help to us all, but when we water down his words we are causing them to lose their true value.