Was my question closed for being philosophical?

No extant questions ask about upaya and impermanence. Are we not allowed to ask "philosophical" questions? If that made sense, even, I have no idea why I'm using the site.

Is 'impermanence' skillful means?

2 Answers 2


I don't understand why it was closed.

I also don't understand what "too philosophical" means.

If it were open I don't know what a good answer might look like.

And I don't have any firm suggestion for how to improve it.

One suggestion might be to ask more specifically about skillful means, for example,

What is skillful means? When and why was "skillful means" introduced into Buddhist pedagogy? Is all Buddhist teaching an example of skillful means? Are all skillful means half-truths, or benign lies? Can doctrine about "nirvana" be categorized as "skillful means"? How about other doctrine, for example the doctrine of impermanence?

I don't know whether the above would be a good question, or the question that you wanted to ask, but maybe it wouldn't be closed.

Another suggestion might be to give one or more examples of why you think that "impermanence" might be a "skillful means" doctrine -- that might clarify or focus the question and explain why you're asking it. Understand why the question is asked sometimes helps people to answer it.

Another suggestion might be to explain (in the question) how to tell whether an answer is correct. Are you asking for a canonical reference? A dictionary definition? A personal experience of some kind?

I find the comments a bit of a mess and hard to follow. It this meant to be a question about rebirth or something, are you saying "people are eternal so impermanence is a lie" or something like that? Or is that a side-track from talking with Martin?

I think it's reasonable to close a question when both the following are true:

  • It's not clear what is being asked; so different people might post different answers to different questions (to different interpretations of the question).
  • It's not clear why it is being asked; the Moderation policies for Questions allows questions that are unclear -- if you've a reason for asking then someone's answer might answer your question even when no-one except the OP is sure about what the question is.

If both of the above are true, then it's an open-ended question with too many correct answers (or no way of telling whether any particular is "correct"), which might be better suited to a discussion site (or chat) than to Q+A.

Another confusing thing about the question is that (according to Wikipedia) upaya is a term used in Mahayana Buddhism, including Tibetan. It might be better to specify more precisely which school of Buddhism you're asking about, perhaps even which author.

Or perhaps you're asking this question because some other Mahayana doctrine (you mentioned "birth and death") which are permanent and not impermanent.

  • OK thanks for the detailed reply. i'm happy to improve the question, step by step, as you suggested. i don't think it's any less clear than any other question, just because you don't know what an answer would look like. assuming we roughly have the same knowledge, that can just mean it's a good question
    – user2512
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 11:29
  • @user3293056 I expect you know more about Mahayana doctrine than I do; so if the question implies or expects some knowledge about Mahayana (you mentioned the mahayana parinirvana sutra in chat, for example), then the point of the question is less clear to me than it is to you.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 11:41
  • @user3293056 I made a trivial edit for grammar and formatting. Do you want to add something, e.g. from the mahayana parinirvana sutra, which you think implies that something may be permanent, such that the doctrine of impermanence is untrue? Or say that you're assuming that any doctrine being "skillful means" implies that it's partly untrue?
    – ChrisW Mod
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 11:56
  • i don't really want to add my own impression, because in fact i think the question is so interesting that it would just make it look loads worse haha. cheers
    – user2512
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 12:01

Yes, it was closed for being both highly philosophical, hypothetical and speculative in nature.

Question is of poor quality with no elaboration on question-body.

I suggest you take a look at our guidelines for asking questions:

Before edit:

Question seems poorly constructed and lacks both context, definition of words (for new comers) and references. I'm not saying references should always be provided but in the case of asking about such a fundamental concept as "Impermanence" and asking whether its "partially-true", question-body should reflect that.

Question seems open-ended (ie. too philosophical, hypothethical) and should be narrowed down.

In its current format and I'm here talking about question-body before the edit, question lacks all of the above mentioned components.

After edit:

I still think question-quality is too low. Please provide:

  • A definition of "ultimately true"
  • A definition of skillful means - apparently "skillful means" is used in question-body on the main-page, while "Upaya" is used in question-body on Meta. Are you asking about "Upaya", which is from the Mahayana Tradition and therefore looking for answers from this tradition or do you have another definition of skillful means? Clarification is needed.
  • A definition of what kind of answer you are looking for, e.g. a scholarly or practical (meditational) answer. This is done to further narrow it down for the potential answerer. Open-ended questions with multiple possible answers, do not belong on a Q&A-site.
  • References to the source of the material used (actual links so that users do not have to search for them themselves)

Please provide the above mentioned edits and we will look at the question again.

I actually think this is an interesting question but context and definitions are not clearly formulated. Buddhism is huge and vast and for new comers it can be difficult to understand which concepts belong to what tradition or what a particular tradition holds as views on different topics.

  • that adds nothing to what you've already said. i defined and quoted on upaya, should i do for impermanence too? then my wonderful question will be reopened, right?
    – user2512
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 19:16
  • there's no mention of philosophy or speculation in the faq, i wish you'd stop citing it for your reasons... neither is it a hypothetical "what if" question. i'm not saying you're always a bad mod, but think you've really dropped the ball here
    – user2512
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 19:18
  • ok, apologies. i accept that you are being honest, and that philosophical questions about buddhism are off-topic. thanks
    – user2512
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 19:28
  • @Lanka When you have time, can you be more specific about what is missing from the question-body, and/or suggest how to improve the question if possible?
    – ChrisW Mod
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 1:04
  • Answer updated. Have a look and let me know if further clarification is needed.
    – user2424
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 11:56
  • 1
    The question quotes a definition of Upaya now. That reference/definition includes the text "ultimately true". I don't think we can expect/require the OP to fully understand the definition of the doctrine which they're asking about (though it's better if they do). Do you think it can be reopened now, or is it still missing something fundamental?
    – ChrisW Mod
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 12:09
  • 1
    @ChrisW. Thank you for the edit. I think we should reopen the question based on the current edit.
    – user2424
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 12:30

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