I flagged the answer by Dhammadhatu to the linked question because it contains the phrase "later day corruptions". However, the answer and the offending phrase remain.

Is there any proof of Karma theory & rebirth?

This is a Buddhism site not a Theravadan site, so I fail to see why no action was taken.

Please can a moderator explain the decision in this case, the policy on inter-school dialogue and Dhammadhatu in particular?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Jun 12 '17 at 17:11

I appreciate the work you're doing Chris, and I like your commitment to a diversity of views. That said, 'corrupt' isn't an acceptable way to describe the Mahayana or Vajrayana, so the moderation criteria could probably do with an update. In light of the current matter, I suggest adding a section as follows:

Please think very carefully before criticising Buddhist teaching (especially the teaching of a school other than your own). If you do criticise teachings:

  • make sure your criticism is demanded by the question;
  • be objective;
  • explain your reasoning (otherwise your criticism is simply dogmatism);
  • don't cause offense.

In this case I think it's debatable whether the criticism was necessary, but if it was Dhammdatu could have simply said "the Buddha didn't teach reincarnation" and told us what he considered to be the orthodox canon. That would have made the point objectively, given us adequate justification and not offended anyone except possibly some Mahayana or Vajrayana zealots.

  • I think that these suggestions go further than saying only "make sure your criticism is demanded" ... I think it says "don't criticize", at all! In other words an answer should say that there are other views, and maybe leave it at that ... without using "disrespectful" phrases.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Jun 13 '17 at 15:38
  • I included the 'demanded' part because someone with an axe to grind will look for any opportunity to grind it... but the most important thing is to be respectful to other people and other traditions. As Lanka pointed out, Right Speech should be our paramount criterion.
    – user10515
    Jun 13 '17 at 16:17
  • I posted another answer to reply to your comment?
    – ChrisW Mod
    Jun 14 '17 at 5:11

Thank you for asking.

Respectful inter-school dialogue

You probably know already but may I mention again that this isn't entirely a site for "dialogue", it's more for question-and-answer. Of course there are many pairs of people involved:

  • The OP and the person who answers
  • The person who answers, and the reader

But we'd like to minimize controversy ... and even to minimize dialogue, except in Q&A format.

I mention this because I think that minimizing dialogue, minimizing the need for dialogue, minimizing or avoiding the questionable statements in answers, is one way to minimize controversy and "offense".

This site not exactly "inter-school", either. I mean it's meant to be inclusive of all schools, welcoming topics about all schools. It's only "inter-school" to the extent that:

  • If someone posts a topic with the tag, for example, then people without Zen experience can listen (can read other people's answers, probably shouldn't write an answer themselves)
  • If someone posts a topic without a school-specific tag, then anyone might try to answer from the perspective of any or all schools.

Please can a moderator explain the decision in this case, the policy on inter-school dialogue and Dhammadhatu in particular?

Your question (thank you) prompted me to review and summarize the site policies -- the "policy on inter-school dialogue" can now be found summarized there.

There's no official policy on "Dhammadhatu in particular". The policies tend to prescribe the permitted content of posts, and aren't user-specific.

Unofficially there are some users who are controversial: who post a lot, who seem knowledgeable for one reason or another, who often post helpful content, but whose content is also sometimes somehow abrasive. When the content is questionable then I inspect it and if it breaks a rule then I edit or delete it (and other moderators presumably do the same). If it doesn't break a rule then I don't delete it.

I think we want to permit diverse views, without imposing a moderator-defined orthodoxy.

A few users have been quite vocal about protesting moderation, so I try to avoid moderating except when there's a defined policy ("defined" by having been proposed and upvoted by the community of users) which clearly supports any decision to moderate.

My decision to not moderate in this case was based on the fact that it didn't break any of the criteria I might usually use; for example:

  • Aghori's question didn't have a school-specific tag -- if it did then any inter-school comments in answers would be off-topic.
  • Dhammadhatu's answer didn't identify other users -- if he'd written "Lanka's answer is wrong" or "Saptha's answer is stupid", then that would have broken rules against discussion and/or against ad hominem content.
  • I couldn't think of a polite or less-controversial way to phrase Dhammadhatu's "later day corruptions" opinion.

I see that Lanka has now edited the answer to rephrase it as "original Buddhism (before the later day variations)". I suppose that might be controversial still, but I hope it's less immediately offensive.

When I reviewed the site policies today, to write the new "FAQ index", I found one or two policies that I maybe should or could have applied to Dhammadhatu's answer. They're the policies defined in this meta-answer and this-meta-answer i.e.:

  • Beware that topics which don't define a school-specific tag are "tricky"
  • An answer can or should state (only) that other points of view exist, but must not be disrespectful
  • An answer should include an "explicit mention of the tradition on which the answer is based".

I'd prefer it if people (including Dhammadhatu) were a bit more tactful in the first place, when they answer questions. There are other users who participate without their answers being "flagged", so it's not impossible.

Please say if you think the current policies could be improved in any way.


This is a follow-on from this comment, which says:

I included the 'demanded' part because someone with an axe to grind will look for any opportunity to grind it... but the most important thing is to be respectful to other people and other traditions. As Lanka pointed out, Right Speech should be our paramount criterion.

I'd like to agree but I'm not sure, about Right Speech being our paramount criterion.

  • The suttas talk about Wrong Views almost as much as they talk abut Right View. Assuming the suttas are examples of Right Speech, does that imply that people are welcome to, and can expect to, criticize (and disrespect) anything they regard as Wrong View?
  • Part of this explanation of Right Speech includes the quote,

    In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing & disagreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them.

    Someone might think that "in an answer to a question on this site" would count as "the proper time for saying them" and therefore feel justified to say things they consider to be "factual, true, beneficial" even though those may be "unendearing & disagreeable to others"

  • Users of this site sometimes talk about "defending dharma", or reference quotes such as,

    Monks, even a monk who has long penetrated the Dhamma in this Doctrine and Discipline would do well to refute the wanderers of other persuasions with the Dhamma periodically in just the way Anathapindika the householder has done.

  • Some users of this site don't consider themselves Buddhist.

Do you think this type of speech, disparaging of other views, might be sometimes appropriate ... but maybe only somewhere else, and maybe not on this site?

There are other parts to the definition of Right Speech, for example,

And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

I worry though that the definition of Right Speech is too broad.

You wrote, "I included the 'demanded' part ('make sure your criticism is demanded') because someone with an axe to grind will look for any opportunity to grind it" ... I fear that people self-justify, permit, excuse their own rudeness (perhaps on the pretext that, for example, what they say is true).

So perhaps we need stricter (more restrictive) guidelines than that.

For example one of the Stack Exchange policies includes,

Be nice.

  1. Rudeness and belittling language are not okay. Your tone should match the way you'd talk in person with someone you respect and whom you want to respect you. If you don't have time to say something politely, just leave it for someone who does.

And there's the policy which was suggested and upvoted here:

So, in summary, instead of deleting questions, or asking to rephrase, or to make obligatory survey in the answer, I propose to delete derogatory statements only and allow single commentary to state existence of other point of view, and leave everything else as it is.

So for example a "derogatory statement" might be something like "later corruption", which should be replaced by a phrase which admits the existence of other views without disrespecting them, for example, "later views".

This may imply some censoring. Derogatory statements which might be permitted elsewhere as "free speech" or "personal opinion" or "academic freedom" would be moderated for the sake of, I don't know, "political correctness" or politeness.

It would mean a change away from "Say whatever you want to, as long as you think it's true", and instead, "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all."


I think you're being over-cautious. I would argue, in favour of a blanket ban on offensive speech that:

  • I (and I assume most others) don't consent to being insulted or seeing my religion insulted;

  • the Stack Exchange rules prohibit offensive comments;

  • the exceptions you've quoted from texts apply to the Buddha and senior monks and no one here to my knowledge holds such a position, and furthermore 'unendearing and disagreeable' only means (imho) that the listener doesn't like hearing it, it's not the same (again imho) as 'offensive'.

Can you link to question or answer here, or a provide hypothetical example which you think supports stopping short of a blanket ban?

Human nature can be a difficult thing, and religion can bring out the worst in it unfortunately. But I think that people appreciate clear guidelines, and I honestly think that an outright ban on offensive remarks (which is really just a requirement that people take care to express themselves with a degree of decorum) would be a good thing - or at least worth trying for a while.

I appreciate your concern that censorship is a slippery slope, but I think you and the other moderators, with the support of the wider SE Buddhism community will be able to overcome the challenges as they appear. :)

  • 1
    Yes I think I was overcautious (timid, and/or ignorant about how to edit it) when I didn't moderate the post in question. Now that I've reviewed the FAQs, may I be less so in the future. Lanka did edit it eventually, and I hope it's now acceptable. Please flag any other posts that you may find offensive ... and/or edit them to suggest a specific improvement.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Jun 15 '17 at 8:35
  • Don't worry, you and the other mods are doing a great job! For my part I will try to remember the minefield you guys have to tread next time I post :)
    – user10515
    Jun 15 '17 at 9:50

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