Even if you don’t follow in the ways of the Siddhartha, there’s a lot people can learn from the tenets, language, and culture of Buddhism. Imported into China almost 2,000 years ago, there are 185 million Buddhists in China, and Buddhist vocabulary is deeply ingrained in the Chinese language.
Many words can make you sound more like a Buddhist. When you want to say “stupid”, instead of 愚蠢 (yúchǔn), you should say 愚痴 (yúchī), which makes the word sounds more sympathetic, as if the Buddha’s eyes are casting empathy on the stupidity of humanity. For those on a diet who want to say “I’m determined to lose 10 pounds”, say “我发愿减十磅” (Wǒ fāyuàn jiǎn shí bàng), giving the action a solemn tone. But if there is one Buddhist word you need to learn, it’s 无常 (wúcháng), essential to all Buddhist beliefs. It literally means unpredictable, but in a Buddhist context it means everything will die and nothing is permanent.
My house is going to be torn down.
Wǒ de fángzi yào bèi chāiqiān le.
That’s how this world is, everything passes away.
Shìshì jiùshì zhème wúcháng a.
I was fired.
Wǒ bèi chǎo le.
Let it go. It’s just a job. If you feel attached to anything in this ever-changing world, you are fated to suffer.
Fàngxià ba! Zhè zhǐshì gè gōngzuò. Rúguǒ nǐ zhízhuó yú zhège wúcháng de shìjiè shàng de rènhé dōngxi, jiù zhùdìng yào shòukǔ.
The word 因果 (yīnguǒ, karma) is another frequently used word because it can be used to explain away all good and horrible in the world. 因果 literally means “causes and results”, but when it is used in a Buddhist context, it indicates a resigned attitude that puts everything in the hands of fate. It is often used together with 报应 (bàoyìng), which means basically the same thing.
Did you see the hit-and-run news? The police have no leads.
Nǐ kànle nà tiáo zhàoshì táoyì de xīnwén ma? Jǐngchá gēnběn zhuābúdào tā.
We are all creatures of our own karma. They will come face to face with their deeds one day.
Wǒmen dōu bēifùzhe zìjǐ de yīnguǒ. Tāmen chízǎo huì zāo dào bàoyìng de.
I won the lottery.
Wǒ zhòngjiǎng le.
It must be karma. You must have done a lot of good things in your last life.
Yīnguǒ a! Nǐ zhè shì shàngbèizǐ xiū lái de fúfen.
To speak like a more authentic Buddhist, you need to express how you’ve seen through life’s transitory nature; Remember to quote the Diamond Sutra:
All composed things are like a dream,
Or bubbles in a stream.
They vanish like the morning dew,
Or a streak of lightening across the sky.
Yíqiè yǒu wéi fǎ, rú mènghuàn pàoyǐng, rú lù yì rú diàn.
If this is too much to take on, just remember 梦幻泡影 and compare everything in your life to it…
Here are some external sources I grabbed from robotsquid’s page:
Anyone can feel free to add more recommendations to this post with your faves.