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The way that Buddhist traditions and ideas have filtered into Western popular culture are sometime completely erroneous, oversimplified, or embellished. I have certain questions about Buddhist practices but I fear that my questions may be founded on such incorrect assumptions about Buddhism in the first place.

The obvious answer to this is to research Buddhism online or through books but even then I run into issues distinguishing popular websites/books from ones that are more true to source material. The ones that are more true to source material often lead to a complex investigation of topics and I find myself learning about Buddhism in a very scholarly way - something I would like to do one day but cannot commit myself to right now. This issue is part of the larger problem that since I do not know what I don't know it is very difficult for me to know when a question I have is legitimate or not. If I were to use Buddhism.SE I would have to ask a lot of questions in the form of: "Is it true that Buddhism entails X" which seems inefficient.

Previously, I gave a disclaimer at the top of my question indicating my potential ignorance. However, with my new question I am afraid it may be quite controversial and I fear asking it if I'm incorrect about some of my underlying assumptions. What would be the best way to ask such a question? Is this kind of a question inappropriate for this StackExchange site?

If you would like to know my question or more information please let me know. I just wasn't sure if it was appropriate to post my question directly on the meta.

  • Yes it's appropriate to ask about how to ask or to phrase a question, on Meta, and/or to ask whether any specific question is on-topic. Answers on Meta should focus on explaining whether it's an answerable question and/or how to rephrase the question, so that you can then re-post the question on the main site (answers on Meta should refrain from actually answering the question). – ChrisW Feb 4 '16 at 18:17
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I fear that my questions may be founded on such incorrect assumptions about Buddhism in the first place.

Simply state your assumptions with the question so someone can validate them. Also if you get diverse answers you can use this as food for thought.

... The ones that are more true to source material often lead to a complex investigation of topics ...

Also always do your research by taking the answer as a lead and also validating what you have learned is true through meditation as this site does have a lot of answers which are doctrinally wrong as many who answers not really experts but enthusiastic amateurs even from the perspective of the traditions they have alliance with. Just don't take the answers you find here at face value to be true or right or from an expert in the topic or inline with the doctrine, always use them as food for thought and direction for further research and study on your own.

Also I have noted that some of the answers are becoming better and aligned with the Right View as some of the posters again in dept understanding. Hence keep posting your question as with time the answers will become better. And also since multiple answers are possible is one answer is off you you might get a better answers later on by someone else.

Also be vary on what you read online as some of them may have personal opinions which are not right and also maybe written by people who have grasped the Dhamma the wrong way.

... I gave a disclaimer at the top of my question indicating my potential ignorance ...

You ask due to:

  1. Not knowing about the topic
  2. You are unsure of what you know and want to validate your knowledge
  3. See if you can gain by getting a different perspective of the topic than what you already know perhaps from another tradition

Hence a disclaimer is not needed.

If you would like to know my question or more information please let me know. I just wasn't sure if it was appropriate to post my question directly on the meta.

Post it in the main site with your assumptions.

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It's like a visit to the doctor, where you know you have a complaint but don't know what the cure is.

Similarly you have a question but you don't know what the answer is.

The question is inevitably going to be based on something you know (e.g. that you've read) and/or that you don't know (don't understand), some combination.

So state the question, explain the assumptions, and don't assume you know the answer in advance (if you do know the answer in advance then it's not an appropriate questions).

An example of a question stating assumptions (mentioned in Suminda's answer) was this question.

This issue is part of the larger problem that since I do not know what I don't know it is very difficult for me to know when a question I have is legitimate or not.

It's a little difficult for other people too.

In theory it's on-topic if it's about Buddhism (if it's anything to do with Buddhism) and doesn't duplicate a question that's already been asked.

I think you're saying that's difficult because you're not sure what Buddhism is.

It's difficult for other people because there may be more than one form (one school) of Buddhism. Part of stating the "assumption" in a question might be explaining which school (which teaching) you're asking about.

issues distinguishing popular websites/books from ones that are more true to source material

One form of question then might be, "The popular book whose title is X says Y. Where can I find more about Y, is Y described in source materials Z?"

Many of my questions come from reading English-language translations of source materials, and then asking for some explanations of specific foreign (Pali) words and corresponding 'Buddhist' concepts.

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