In a recent discussion on Buddhism.SE, the topic of "being nice" came up for dispute. It was asked whether this meant that we must "pander to fundamentalists" rather than dispute their claims. This meta post is meant to be a platform for that discussion.

Here's the generic description, BTW, of what it means to be nice:


  • Do we need to define what is meant by fundamentalism?
    – Jayarava
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 16:33
  • 3
    @JayaravaAttwood personally, I think that is a red herring; in the post in question, the issue of being nice had nothing to do with the criticism of those who take texts literally or as absolute authority. Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 16:37

4 Answers 4


I think our "Be nice policy" is actually really good. For example it starts with:

Whether you've come to ask questions, or to generously share what you know, remember that we’re all here to learn, together. Be welcoming and patient, especially with those who may not know everything you do. Oh, and bring your sense of humor. Just in case.

Be welcoming, patient and bring your humor. These are great words.

In the summary is says:

In summary, have fun, and be good to each other.

We are in this together just as we are in Samsara together. Let's not forget that. We support each other in our individual journey towards Liberation. Buddhism SE is a great platform for doing that.

This might sound full of attachment but i have come to consider Buddhism SE as my "virtual" home. A place where i can go and just be with Buddhism and other people who share the same interests and ways of life. Being nice is so important for this online Sangha to work.

So what does it mean to "be nice"?

It means to treat other beings with respect, kindness, tolerance, helpfulness, harmlessness and good-will (with respect to the noble eightfold path).

I would like to give a reflection-quote from the Sotapatti Samyutta: Veludvareyya Sutta:

"Again, householders, a noble disciple reflects thus: 'If some­ one were to address me with harsh speech, that would not be pleasing and agreeable to me. Now if I were to address another with harsh speech, that would not be pleasing and agreeable to the other either. What is displeasing and disagreeable to me is displeasing and disagreeable to the other too. How can I inflict upon another what is displeasing and dis­ agreeable to me?"


Maybe a more Buddhist way to say it, is to say "be kind".

We come to this website from all levels of expertise, different backgrounds, different interests, different perspectives, and even levels of patience. But we welcome diversity. In fact, a perceived problem on the site in it's first year in public beta has been not enough diversity in that some schools of Buddhism have been "under represented".

In order to be a place where anyone with an interest in any flavor of Buddhism can come and receive a variety of good answers to good questions, we need to welcome all and have respect for Buddhism as it's practiced across the spectrum.

We can't point fingers at those who study and practice differently than we do and call names. It isn't kind and it isn't professional. This site has an atmosphere of professionalism as well as an atmosphere of support for learning about Buddhism in all its aspects.

With metta. ♥


I have four suggestions:

  • Talk about the text (or even talk about a view) but shy away from commenting on people; for example say "This is not a literalist answer" rather than "You are a fundamentalist and a literalist".

  • If you will talk about people then prefer to talk about "I" rather than about "you", for example say, "I prefer this", and not "you are wrong to prefer that".

    Wikipedia has a short article about "I messages":

    I-messages are often used with the intent to be assertive without putting the listener on the defensive.

  • "It's not enought to be right" (that's some advice my first manager gave me at work). If you discuss a subject, maybe you're right, but being right is not enough. For example if you say "you're wrong" then it may more difficult to get to the stage where you can say "we agree".

  • Comment less; a mechanism which can minimize social friction on an SE site that people have an opportunity to answer and are not required or expected to argue. So (instead of arguing) you can put your time into writing an answer which clarifies what you want to say on a subject, and which you think is a useful answer to the original question.

    The Help gives advice on how and when to comment, and what to comment on, and when not to comment:

    When should I comment?

    You should submit a comment if you want to:

    • Request clarification from the author;
    • Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post;
    • Add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated).

    When shouldn't I comment?

    Comments are not recommended for any of the following:

    • Suggesting corrections that don't fundamentally change the meaning of the post; instead, make or suggest an edit;
    • Answering a question or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer; instead, post an actual answer (or edit to expand an existing one);
    • Compliments which do not add new information ("+1, great answer!"); instead, up-vote it and pay it forward;
    • Criticisms which do not add anything constructive ("-1, see previous comments you scallywag!"); instead, down-vote (and provide or up-vote a better answer if appropriate);
    • Secondary discussion or debating a controversial point; please use chat instead;
    • Discussion of community behavior or site policies; please use meta instead.

To me the word "nice" conjures an image of superficial politeness which is in fact socially oppressive and meant to ensure conformity to norms that have nothing to do with ethics. In my experience Buddhists also use it like weapon to silence dissent and discussion. I hope I am never "nice".

But I do acknowledge the negative value of ad hominen arguments. Unhelpful and unskilful. My bad. I will endeavour to allow the irritation to pass before answering in future. Or just not respond.

  • 7
    I am sorry to hear the first part of this... for many of us, nice means so much more. I hope one day you have more pleasant images associated with the word. Thank you for your acknowledgement in the second part :) be well. Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 17:08
  • 2
    I like the last paragraph of your answer. I hope that by spending time on Buddhism SE you will come to understand the word "nice" in another way than you do now. Have fun and see you on the site.
    – user2424
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 18:56

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