Several times I have asked questions here and had no one seem to connect with what I am asking about. I get all kinds of answers about things I was not asking about, and it is like watching blind men shoot at ducks. (I don't mean this disrespectfully, I guess my ducks must be imaginary.)

I have tried adding more info and links to my Question, and giving reply comments to Answers, but usually, it just seems to dig itself deeper and deeper in to a hole. This always amazes me, because I feel like I am asking about simple, commonly understood terms! My recent question about Mindfulness and the Observer is like this. (This has nothing to do with being off-topic for the site, that objection was not brought up. People were happy to join the fray.)

I sometimes come to the conclusion that raising a question did more harm than good, and sometimes I even say that I regret asking. Is there a good way to try to correct such a problem, besides asking the Range Safety Officer to hit the Destruct button?

2 Answers 2


Tl;DR: if you have a question, something you could try is post it on meta first. Say something like,

I'd like to ask this question:


Is it clear, unambiguous, answerable, and about Buddhism? Can you suggest any ways to make it clearer, any concerns with it, or shall I go ahead and post it on the main site to get answers there?"

After you post a question there's less you can do. The way it works is:

  1. You release imaginary ducks down-range.
  2. Expect people to fire at will.

Once people pull the trigger there is never ever any calling it back (which is why Range Safety procedures are defined). At most you can inspect the result and correct your aim (or stop firing).

Range Safety Officers stop proceedings if (but only if) the range is not safe -- i.e.:

  • The targets are not down-range when released
  • An answer is aimed anywhere other than ... down-range
  • Anyone crosses the firing line (i.e. walks downrange into the line of fire)

If your ducks are immaterial, a moving target, and/or presented edge-ways, don't be surprised if no-one scores a solid hit. As long as people seem to know the difference between up-range and down-range, I won't tell them how to aim (nor what to aim at).

Have you seen the Moderation policies for Questions? It's permissive. Don't be surprised if people go ahead and try to answer questions whose intent they barely understand. As long as the question makes sense to them they answer, even if it's not the same as the sense/meaning it makes to you.

If you think that "mindful" is a simple, commonly understood term then you may be missing the point:

  • This is a site about Buddhism
  • Buddhism has a history, almost all of it non-English
  • When using English to explain something uncommon (e.g. Buddhism) specialists may use common words in precise, technical, but slightly uncommon ways

When I depicted my experience of programming I used English words in a jargon-laden way. A non-programmer (non-specialist) might read the English but not understand the intended meaning ... e.g. words like "run", "simulate", "thread", "error path", "automate", "test", "incremental", and "in the zone".

Even so I imagined that someone with a background (i.e. training, vocabulary, and experience) like mine might understand my technical answer; if not then too bad but at least no harm done.

Incidentally I don't understand various words you use; e.g. I met "hetaira" in Classical/Ancient History ... but "hetaira archetype" sounds like jargon from some body of knowledge I've never studied (I could only guess its meaning, like the the "blind man" you refer to in your OP). I'm not saying this to complain but to tell you that words which may seem common to you aren't common to me.

Anyway I'm sorry you find the answers disatisfactory. You seem to be asking whether other people have the same experiences as you, and describe them using your vocabulary! Well yes and no, right?

Also if the question was, "has anyone else had this experience?", then perhaps the moderators should have closed it as a "polling" question. I tried to answer it as a question of definitions (e.g. what does "mindful" mean, does Buddhism use "observer" or observation of "self" in its descriptions of entities).

  • I got lots of laughs out of your answer. The range I was thinking of was a missile / rocket firing range, but oh, well. The archetype reference is to the Jungian archetypes, which I thought were as well-known as the MBTI (essentially everyone) but I am continually surprised at how what I have heard of and taken for granted for years is unknown to many people. But then, I do not watch the news, and so things like Paris bombing or Tsunami can go right by me a week later, as I watch Imaginary Icebergs sail past.
    – user2341
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 2:15
  • 1
    Rails, ducks and rockets was one mixed-up metaphor, not to pursue in every direction (that dog didn't hunt). One thing though, I for one found answers to your question helpful. I learned electronics when I was 12-ish by reading through the Radio Amateur's Handbook several times, again and again. When I read it I didn't understand most of it. So I read it and understood 10% of it, read it through again and understand a bit more, etc.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 11:41
  • I've seen (i.e. read) words like citta ('mind') before, but hadn't previously begun to understand the difference between the (at least) three different words which are all translated as 'mind'.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 11:42
  • I used to read the Handbook when I was a child also. I was basically self-taught in electronics, and know more about that than programming (which used to be my career). I guess there is no substitute for time. Learning the subtleties takes a long time. Unlearning them, takes...
    – user2341
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 13:21

Communication relies on common vocabulary. For outer phenomena the vocabulary is pretty well-defined, thanks to much common experience and lots and lots of public discourse over the centuries. For the inner phenomena the vocabulary is pretty bad so far, esp. in English language. When you use words in the sense they are not necessarily used by others, what do you expect?

Also, in addition to vocabulary, there needs to be a common frame of reference - the background and assumptions that make up the context for the conversation.

Which is why you have trouble communicating - you are not a Buddhist, so you are speaking within a your custom frame of reference, and you imbue your words with your own custom meanings.

One of my teachers said, 80% of time spent to get to the first Bodhisattva level is spent on studying the vocabulary - and only remaining 20% of that time are spent on mastering the teaching. This makes sense to me now, since the message of Buddhism is rather evasive and relies on a very intricate network of concepts to be understood. After all, we are using words to get beyond words and conceptual mind to go beyond conceptual mind.

The kinds of things Buddhism likes to talk about seem obvious but in fact have nuances. "Everyone knows what Observer and Mindfulness are - regardless of what I call them everyone should have a similar experience" is a rather naive assumption.

  • OK, but 'Observer' is a common term. In minutes I came up with three links to pages that discuss it. I have heard it in different contexts (but always recognizably the same as my experience) for years. It never occurred to me that if I threw the question out there that people who had not had the experience would answer, and that there seemed to be no one who had. It is not a custom term, it is well-known and in use. I have trouble imagining that someone who had had the experience would not instantly recognize the use of the word later. That Buddhists seem to not have it is a mystery to me.
    – user2341
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 13:26
  • You are sooooo stubborn. But then, you're old, what do I want ;)
    – Andriy Volkov Mod
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 13:33
  • "Firm as a rock where right and wrong are concerned, yield immediately to others in things that do not matter." The difficulty is determining which it is. "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment." Another way of saying it is "I'm 17 with 33 years experience." And, I usually act like it.
    – user2341
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 21:45
  • Lol, it's all good, I don't mean to be rude or disrespectful. You are fine the way you are. Just not very open minded when you assume you understand things which in fact you do not. But isn't it the case with all of us here? ;)
    – Andriy Volkov Mod
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 22:50
  • I can't assume otherwise, that is the very definition of assuming. "Do you think that's air you are breathing now?"
    – user2341
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 13:15

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