Karma, Taylor Swift and What It Actually Means

(Photo above Courtesy of Republic Records)

‘Cause karma is my boyfriend

Karma is a god

Karma is the breeze in my hair on the weekend

Karma’s a relaxing thought

Aren’t you envious that for you it’s not?

Ever felt this way about someone who hurt you? After listening to Taylor Swift’s “Karma,” from her new album, we thought it might be a good time to revisit what karma actually means from the Buddhist perspective.

Karma isn’t just bad; it can be good too.

The Sanskrit word karma means “to act” or “action.” These actions are explained in three ways: our thoughts, speech and behavior.

So, Taylor isn’t totally wrong to say that the people who hurt her will also experience suffering from their actions. But this view of karma reinforces the antiquated idea that karma is unchangeable or our “fate.”

Shakyamuni Buddha, or Siddhartha as he is sometimes referred to, taught that our fate is not predetermined; instead, by taking the best actions in the present, we can lead the best life in the future.

Naturally, the next question is, How can I take the best actions in the present?

Based on the Lotus Sutra, the 13th-century Buddhist reformer Nichiren Daishonin taught the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, for people to tap into their inherent courage, wisdom and compassion to take action from the best internal place.

Essentially, the best action we can take is to believe in our ability to positively change our circumstances and environment, and the same goes for other people.

As the Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda describes:

Just as the light of the stars and the moon seems to vanish when the sun rises, when we bring forth the state of Buddhahood in our lives we cease to suffer negative effects for each individual past offense committed.

August 2003 Living Buddhism, p. 47

The moment we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we become the protagonist of our destiny rather than a victim of it. Karma is no longer an impediment but the opportunity to prove the inherent transformative power that exists in life. And even better, we become an inspiration to others.

Buddhism exists for the happiness of everyone, without any exceptions. So, even the person Taylor is singing about doesn’t have to be defined by what they did. Rather, they can use this mistake as a chance to develop into a person of great character (and so can Taylor too).

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