Words of the world

Keeping it simple-

Language is important.


I don’t think political correctness makes sense, or works. On the other arm, being outrageously gutsy and offending everyone for the sake of manipulation is not good either.

In terms of the teachings, language is vitally important. Unfortunately, in my opinion, Buddhism gets mixed very liberally (in “THE WEST”) in with liberalism. This corrupts the language of the teachings sometimes. A word like “compassion” takes on a different vibe in liberal settings than it does in say, a meditation center. In itself, that’s not exactly problematic. The problem is that confusion is attached deeply to conventional views of things “as they is” and said confusion gets carried along and transmitted with language.

Then you get the extreme of “it’s just words.” Language isn’t important for practitioners. You meditate, maybe read a little, and the words are just “concepts.” A distraction. That’s really silly. Language is powerful and pervasive and ignoring it is like ignoring… emotions. It’s like ignoring emotions. Yes, emotions aren’t everything, and if you’re enlightened maybe they have no power to sway you or control you but we’re not there yet, so ignoring them means suppressing and (seeing them arise in unpleasant and surprising ways, like a temper tantrum, or bouts of depression).

It’s also a cop out to imagine practitioners don’t need language, because it’s conceptual (and thus not reality itself). (The argument there, I hope is relatively clear; words are concepts, concepts are not exactly reality {chair does not equal “chair”} so they’re irrelevant or distractions.)

Language will get used. It will keep going and going. It will change things. Dharmic people, Christians, anyone serious about the path, should be careful and discriminating about language. After the parinirvana of Trungpa Rinpoche, I wanted to write about that. He was a master of language. His mastery of language allowed the implantation of real Buddhism in America. Look at an academic scholarly book about Buddhism. They’re for the most part not only boring and irrelevant, but lifeless, because the language they use is wrong. It’s not connected to the dharma. They use too many hyphenates too. That’s always a bad sign.

Anything but simple, unfortunately. Here is where I raise my sword and make the exciting part of the speech before the battle. Let me humbly suggest that anyone serious about practice at all, of any tradition, be very thoughtful about using language, especially using it like normal folks. There is a distinction between a practitioner and a normal person. Don’t forget that. Part of that should mean that language is wielded. It’s not some distraction that we’re above. It’s not casual.

Interestingly, I haven’t really prescribed any sort of method for using language, aside from, in a gossipy sort of way, talked down to various “normal” ways of misusing language. Maybe I’ll write about my ideas about that next time. To continue the slander, here are a few more thoughts about what NOT to do with language.

– be politically correct

– be arrogant

– capitalize important words unless it’s traditional (“God” is okay, “Freedom” is not)

– unconsciously use buzzwords

– be “professional” as a way to be arrogant, manipulative, or avoid reality

– be “ironic” about something being enjoyable because it’s a piece of garbage

– imitate the style of spirituality by using detached, cool, or deep-sounding words and phrases


Very well. Happy Amitabha day. That’s all for now.


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About jakekarlins

Aspiring writer and artist, dharma practitioner, yogi.

Posted on April 5, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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