What to do when someone doesn't answer your question but only what they think you are asking?
Someone else asked a similar meta-question here: What shall I do if a question seems to go off the rails?
When you ask "what to do?", are you asking a general question about site policy, or are you asking a more specific question about how to get this specific question of yours answered?
I'll assume the latter.
On this thread I tried to go to some lengths to ask a specific question, and it was assumed that I was asking the exact question that appears in a sutta
The question has been anchored on three different texts, at different times (because it's been edited):
- A misquote of what the Buddha said
- A quote from an essay which implicitly (though not by name) referenced a sutta
- An quote from an Encyclopedia
At a minimum it's fair to say that the question has changed.
I did quote that sutta, but the question wasn't the same, it had two components: how to interpret the reply in that sutta; is my interpretation right anyway.
Well, it is permissible for any user to only answer part of a question.
It's permitted on this site (more so than on other SE sites) to ask questions which aren't completely lucid and/or which some people don't understand: see Moderation policies for Questions, which says that we avoid closing questions where it's "unclear what you're asking."
A corollary to that (to not closing a semi-understood question) is that people may partially answer whichever parts of the question they think they do or might understand.
If most people answered only "how to interpret the reply in that sutta" maybe that's because that's the part of the question they understood.
Incidentally when I have asked questions I have sometimes asked, "this is my understanding, am I right or please correct me?"; but more often I ask, "I read this word used in such-and-such a place, tell me what does it mean?" The latter kind of question might be better (easier to answer), because it's asking people to understand and explain e.g. (more or less lucid) Buddhist scripture rather than asking them to understand and even argue with my (more or less muddled) personal misunderstanding and/or ignorance.
I for one didn't understand the second part of the question, which asked, "I was wondering if that above silence means that any dharma can fulfill the role of that empirical self"; for example,
- I don't know/understand what "that empirical self" is
- I don't know what "role" it "fulfills"
- I also don't know what "silence means" (which reminds me, a line from a novel, "silence is a text that's easy to misread")
- Nor why you might prefer or suggest an explanation for the silence, given that the Buddha gave his own explanation for his own silence towards the end of the referenced sutta.
- Or you wrote, "he's still Adam" and I think, "Well apparently he's named 'Adam', you're calling him Adam, but what does it mean to say that he is?"
I'm not saying it's your fault I didn't understand it (maybe I should have understood it, maybe other people understood it), but I didn't, and that's why I didn't try to address it.
I'd already commented on the start of the question, which you semi-fixed: so I thought I could at least try to answer the first half of the question even if I didn't understand the second. I didn't want to just complain about the question without answering it. I also thought that if the second half of the question was based on any misunderstanding of doctrine referenced in the first half, then maybe clarifying the first half would make the second part moot.
But the three answers didn't seem to me to actually answer the question, only repeat that the self isn't "real". I know that the self isn't real in Buddhism, nowhere was I suggesting otherwise.
There are 5 answers now, and none of them that I can see (except maybe this answer and this comment) say that the self isn't real.
The question of whether there is a self kind of reminds me of this Zen story, which I think is more than just a joke (it's worth considering): Nothing Exists
If you'll forgive me, my poor joke on the subject would be something like this:
- Doctor! Doctor! I have an arrow wound! It hurts, and especially when I touch it or play with it!
- (Doctor:) Well, don't play with it then -- then it won't hurt like that.
- It hurts if I touch it with my hand!
- Don't touch it with your hand.
- It hurts if I touch it with a screwdriver!
- Don't touch it with a screwdriver.
- I can see a hole, and it hurts if try to fill the hole with something.
- Don't try to fill the hole with something.
- It hurts if try to remove (cut out) the hole.
- Well don't try to cut out the hole either. What part of "there is no view of self that would not lead to suffering" do you not understand?
As for the part of the question that I didn't understand,
An example would be: "Adam tastes the apple". Supposing this "taste" can be considered a kind of self, then if Adam just tastes the apple, there is "continuity" and he's still Adam.
I think that Buddhism recommends against identifying with sensations, nor indeed with any of the 5 skandhas:
This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my atta.
Which, I don't know, does that contradict what you said, "It seems to me, and I may be wrong, that the skandhas can be identified as a self" in the OP.
I'm still not sure that I've understood your question, let alone answered it.