I saw someone asking (in this question) for some sources to learn Pali language so he can broaden his understanding of Buddhism.

The reason given by the user who had asked it to be edited was it being off topic.

But here's the thing I am confused about.

We are interested in Buddhism and that's why we come here: so when someone asks us for a good source to learn, should we be like robots and say, "you are off topic", or should we lend a hand to that person who is in search of 'the path'? I mean after all isn't that the advice in Buddhism: to be good friends to fellow searchers of path?

Can't we be more sensitive than being objective in certain circumstances?

2 Answers 2


I think that question relating to Pali should be on topic as this helps clarify certain options expressed in the Suttas of which most English translations are not perfect and in many cases miss leading because there are not easy ways to express what is in Pali directly in English. On one had we have some subtitles like different words have different shades of meaning generally map to one word in English and on the other where you cannot reliably express some thing easily.

Also though Pali has it's roots in Magada language, it was a language which was created to write the Buddhist texts as if it was in a commonly used language due to the evolution of the language the meaning would change. It is paramount to understand the some Pali to get to deeper or serious practice as trying to do this in English. Languages like old Singhala does have the same expressive power but since the site is not in such a language Pali questions should be on topic.

Also if Pali becomes off topic this will cut out any body who have done in depth study of Theravada Buddhism.

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    I agree. Pali and Buddhism have a very special relation, so I think that practical questions about the language (such as about learning resources or about meaning of some Pali passages) should be on-topic. Of course, theoretical questions about Pali grammar should be off-topic, as they are a better fit for Linguistics.SE
    – michau
    Nov 7, 2015 at 12:10
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    I am wondering how pragmatic this is though. Pali experts are generally Buddhism experts but I am not sure out of all who have expertise in Pali view them self as Linguists. This kind of rigidity can easily kill the growth as many of the real experts have already left. Nov 7, 2015 at 12:27
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    If somebody needs help with understanding a Pali passage, and the answerer uses some linguistic terminology to explain it "see, this word is the subject, so you should understand it that way" - I'd consider it on-topic. But if somebody asks "what is the position of subject in Pali sentences?", I'd say it's off-topic here and better suited for Linguistics.SE.
    – michau
    Nov 7, 2015 at 13:17
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    Look at it in this way. Only Buddhism is written in Pali. If the person points to a particular passage then it is direct. If the person does not then it is in direct as though there will be any example passage which fit this he has not made reference. By adding and removing quoted passage you toddle between the two categories. Also question are there Pali experts in Linguists.SE or are there Pali experts in Buddhism.SE. If it the latter asking on Linguists.SE would be a wast of time may not get any responses and this indirectly means deeper it has curtailed deeper understanding of Pariyatti Nov 8, 2015 at 3:40
  • See: Pariyatti (also this ) > Patipatti > Pativedha which is the normal route of realising. Nov 8, 2015 at 3:46
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    If the option to make Pali on-topic wins, I guess we should open another meta question to discuss what kind of questions should be allowed. I'm actually a linguist and I know that one can ask many questions about Pali that are only relevant to people who are into languages or linguistics, not for people interested in Buddhism.
    – michau
    Nov 8, 2015 at 8:32
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    I think best is to accept the Pali related question on this site and periodically transfer these question to the Linguistic site. This was in case some one sees it here who can answer it can have a stab and so can some one in the other site. Every one wins. Nov 8, 2015 at 8:52
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    I think we should allow questions about Buddhism which depend on a knowledge of Pali (but not necessary welcome questions about Pali itself). So for example, questions about Pali (e.g. declensions and conjugation) could be off-topic, while questions about the meaning and/or translation of Buddhist texts written in Pali (e.g. suttas, also all the specific words like anattā etc) are on-topic.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Nov 8, 2015 at 10:33
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    My thinking is that understanding of Pali is directly or indirectly related to understanding Buddhism as it is only Buddhism write in Pali through artificial question can be created about Pali which bight not be related to Buddhism. But in essence every understanding Pali is an attempt to understand Buddhism, unless creating artificial questions. This is my take on this. Nov 8, 2015 at 10:38
  • As I said best is aspect any Pali question to see if it attracts any responses than move it to Linguistics SE. This way both the sites users will see the question and ultimately will end up in the site where it is more suited and definitely on topic. If you close it as off topic, it will not get a chance to get answered. Nov 8, 2015 at 10:42
  • The question was answered, and it had an accepted answer. Do you think that the site's community would (and should) welcome many further questions, whose subject is Pali but not Buddhism?
    – ChrisW Mod
    Nov 8, 2015 at 10:59
  • May way this question can be moved to Linguists.SE as this is more appropriate than being closed. We should accept Pali question on this site. If it is more on the Linguistic accepts it can be moved as there is a site for this. I have seen this moving happening other sites. Nov 8, 2015 at 13:45
  • @Suminda I think your solution is good.
    – michau
    Nov 8, 2015 at 16:10
  • @michau : for illustration, do you think you could post an example of question about Pali that would not have any relation to Buddhism per se?
    – Andriy Volkov Mod
    Nov 8, 2015 at 16:18
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    This particular question about resources for learning Pali isn't suitable for Linguistics.SE. In short, some Buddhists may want to learn the language, while linguists would rather want to learn about the language. I think the question should stay here, perhaps as a community wiki.
    – michau
    Nov 10, 2015 at 12:02

We defined this site's Moderation policies for Questions to be (relatively) liberal or permissive: i.e. we allow (and try to answer) many kinds of question which other StackExchange sites wouldn't.

One of the (few) reasons why people may choose to close a question is if a question is "off-topic".

In this case the question is about Pali, rather than about Buddhism. Those subjects (Pali and Buddhism) may be related, but they're not the same subject: and (for example) perhaps we don't want the site to be used to ask a lot of questions about various details of Pali grammar.

Whether something is on-topic or off-topic is to some extent a 'community' decision, i.e. people can vote to close and/or vote to reopen.

The experience of the founders of other SE sites is that there is some need and benefit to keeping sites on-topic -- for example if people are interested in this site because it's about Buddhism, perhaps they'd be less interested (and less willing to answer questions) if the site were about other topics too.

  • Thank you, i understand :)
    – Theravada
    Nov 6, 2015 at 21:41

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