There was recently a discussion about an answer not being "Buddhist", here in the commentary: https://buddhism.stackexchange.com/a/44281/8527

I said that under the current policy moderators should not judge what is and isn't Buddhism.

Andrei cared to provide his take on this and as i understood his comments, he appealed to "common sense":

The side that thinks that posting any answer is okay as long as it's well-intended should try and provide at least some connections to a teaching of any mainstream school of Buddhism.

That might look good but what constitutes "some connection to any mainstream school of Buddhism"?

As far as i can see, in practice, any alleged connection qualifies as "some connection" here atp.

Currently moderators might ask for substantiation and delete an answer if no substantiation is given. There are, afaik, no requirements which a substantiation has to meet.

This is how it works out in practice:

There is a user here who basically holds that half of the earliest texts is fake and the other half is mistranslated.

This person is definitely not aligned with any school.

However because this person can dig up a verse or a line of verse & offer his subjective interpretation/tanslation of said verse and on that basis he is allowed to post.

Basically a moderator might ask for substantiation but has no authority to rule on the validity of provided evidence.

Therefore i suggest that the duly elected moderators should be allowed & required to make these judgement calls.

If not then then i suggest they stop asking for substantiations. Just let people post whatever because the current policy disfranchises new users who aren't familiar & savvy enough to fend off the moderator's bluff and that whilst giving a free pass to anybody savvy enough (doesn't take much obviously) to post whatever nonsense they want eg:

  • rebirth is superstition
  • killing is a trifling deed
  • loose women are hungry ghosts
  • devas & gods are aristocrats
  • nirodha means process
  • digha nikaya is mostly fake
  • Saying the belief "rebirth is superstition" is nonsense isn't very nice. Saying "rebirth is superstition" might be false in the context of buddhism, but for people with different beliefs than you it most certainly isn't nonsense. Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 15:02

2 Answers 2


To some extent, moderators do rule on what is and isn't Buddhism -- for example:

  • If an answer quoted Ram Dass or the Bible as an authority, I'd tend to delete that on the basis that these aren't considered and doesn't claim to be Buddhist. But that doesn't happen often.
  • Even more rarely (and infamously) a moderator might delete some answers for being overly based on an understanding of Mathematics or something like that, instead of being based on Buddhism.

But when the site started, users worried about the site's becoming too sectarian. And so we DON'T say, for example, "If it's not based on the Pali texts then it's not Buddhism". Instead the rule is that if a group self-identifies as Buddhist -- if "Zen" for example calls itself "Zen Buddhism" -- then it's on-topic on this site.

I guess there are generally several categories of questionable answer; and our policies for these, based on the various FAQs and Help topics, are:

1. Rude or hostile That is something for moderators to judge, and delete or edit
2. Doesn't answer the question If it might be trying to answer the question then I generally won't intervene, unless and until the community downvotes
3. Based on a non-Buddhist reference That's something for moderators to delete
4. Based on no reference at all That's probably not deleted, but may have a comment or post notice added -- note that references aren't required on this site
5. Based on a Buddhist reference but reach a wrong conclusion

It's the last category though, i.e. #5, that seems to be what you're mostly talking about -- where you're saying that moderators should delete a "wrong answer" as "non-Buddhist".

  • But that's contrary to normal Stack Exchange guidelines, which say that a wrong answer shouldn't be flagged (for moderator attention) and should instead be down-voted.
  • It's also contrary to what the community wanted when this site was started -- i.e. moderators shouldn't be ruling on whether an answer is orthodox.

There have also been (other, later) users who feel that the moderators don't do a good job, in fact that the wrong people are chosen to be moderators -- they argued that the moderators should be senior Buddhists, perhaps ordained people, able to rule on what's orthodox or acceptable; and/or that moderators should consult with venerables to decide what content is good. But that's not what happens on this site.

It's kind of people (I assume it's kind of you, you being kind) to stay and contribute answers that other people might find helpful.

There's no way to guarantee that everyone (else) will only post answers which everyone (you) will agree with.

Duty Calls

[[A stick man is behind computer]]
Voice outside frame: Are you coming to bed?
Man: I can't. This is important.
Voice: What?
Man: Someone is WRONG on the internet.
{{title text: What do you want me to do?  LEAVE?  Then they'll keep being wrong!}}

What do you want me to do? LEAVE? Then they'll keep being wrong!

So I think the SE model is to permit several independent answers to any question, and to minimize friction (e.g. extended arguments in comments) and hostility.

Other SE sites assume that readers -- individuals who ask and answer questions, and the community who review answers -- have ways to decide for themselves whether any answer is "useful". But that's not the job of moderators:

A lot of the moderation work is mundane: deleting obvious spam, closing blatantly off-topic questions, and culling some of the worst-rated posts on the site. The ideal moderator does as little as possible ...

It's also true what you say, that experienced users will learn to post in a way that doesn't get deleted or suspended by moderators. From my selfish perspective -- i.e. as a moderator who wants to do little -- that's actually something of an improvement, i.e. compared to posts which must be deleted or which require the user to be suspended.

  • In regards to this: "It's also true what you say, that experienced users will learn to post in a way that doesn't get deleted or suspended by moderators. From my selfish perspective -- i.e. as a moderator who wants to do little -- that's actually something of an improvement, i.e. compared to posts which must be deleted or which require the user to be suspended."
    – user8527
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 8:27
  • Do you not realize that these people are the most destructive to the community? Not only do they give wrong advice but they appear authoritative to those who are new and fuck up the process by which a new [unlearned] person develops expertise as to become a valuable asset to the community which makes those learners even more taxing than they ought to be on the community.
    – user8527
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 8:33
  • In the end you get discord in the community, wrong answers from low/wrong information members challenge experts who are of course the backbone of the community. This will eventually drive the experts away, not create new experts and effectively ruin your community.
    – user8527
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 8:41
  • Am i missing something or what? Seems like an obvious problem if a user is able to do this.
    – user8527
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 9:37
  • When there is discord like this you make sure that Ariya will eventually leave, see precedent in the Sutta suttacentral.net/an5.166/en/sujato
    – user8527
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 9:46
  • @8527 I seem to read a slightly different message in that the sutta -- that an Ariya will speak, and if someone simply but repeatedly contradicts what they say then they won't argue; that the Buddha may reprove someone; and that someone ought to feel compassion (and not just watch it happen), if someone is being harassed. Be that as it may (interpreting the sutta) I interpret my job as being to keep users from harassing each other. The way SE is formatted, each answer independently focuses on answering the original question -- not a "discussion", with some focus on contradicting other answers.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 11:22

Here, we are focusing on answers and not questions.

The moderators will definitely delete answers which are:

  • Spam
  • Rude and abusive content - this may include rude criticism of other Buddhist schools
  • Not an answer - usually meant as a comment, or a new question, or it is completely unrelated to the question (e.g. question asks about meditation and the answer literally talks about Buddha statues)
  • Clearly off-topic - e.g. 100% Christian preaching or 100% Muslim preaching
  • Very low quality and unsalvageable - severe formatting or content issues like completely unintelligible posts, rambling, gibberish

All non-deleted answers are expected to:

  • Not meet the answer deletion criteria mentioned above (i.e. spam, rude and abusive content, not an answer, clearly off-topic, very low quality and unsalvageable)
  • Be on-topic i.e. most or all of the answer is related to any mainstream school or tradition of Buddhism (including Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana and sub-schools like Zen, Pure Land, Ch'an, Madhyamaka, Yogachara, Sarvastivada, Sautrantika, Kagyu, Nyingma, Dzogchen, Nichiren, Secular Buddhism etc.)

All on-topic answers which are technically wrong or inaccurate should be downvoted and not deleted. The Stack Exchange policies are quoted below.

According to this Meta SE answer for the question "How does deleting work? What can cause a post to be deleted, and what does that actually mean? What are the criteria for deletion?", the criteria for answer deletion is:

For answers, any post that is not an answer (should be a comment, doesn't answer the question, etc.) should be deleted. Answers that are wrong or that dispense poor advice should be downvoted, not deleted.

These are general guidelines; some communities in the network may uphold more specific reasons to delete posts or not. For example, on Puzzling.SE, answers to a puzzle without explanation are subject to deletion, and some technical sites will delete answers which are not only wrong but also harmful when tried.

So, this means we can add additional criteria for deletion, if we have extremely good reasons.

Also, according to this Meta SE answer for the question "Why shouldn't I delete wrong answers?":

"Wrong" as in "completely unrelated to the question"? Go ahead and delete those.

"Wrong" as in "yes, that will solve the problem, but that's a bad idea"? Those should be downvoted. Think of it as a lesson - showing a bad solution can be helpful as well, especially if it's an obvious solution that others may gravitate towards and/or when accompanied by an explanation (say, in a comment) of why it's a bad solution.

"Wrong" as in "this doesn't solve the issue, but it an obvious attempt at providing a solution" is trickier. The appropriate action here would depend on what the answer actually was. In most cases, I would go with downvoting as well or, frankly, not voting at all.

What is a good answer that should be upvoted?

  • Technically on-topic, correct and accurate, with elaboration
  • Addresses and answers all parts of the question
  • Related to the tags of the question. For e.g. if the question's tags include only theravada and pali-canon, then the questioner limits the scope to Theravada and Pali Canon only.
  • Preferably substantiated using scriptural quotes or commentaries or the opinion of experts, but this is not strictly required as the poster could answer using his or her experience and expertise. Please see this answer for the Buddhism Meta SE question "Is “opinion based” a reason for closing a question?"
  • Answers to questions requesting for references (and tagged using reference-request) should include relevant references

Adding comments from moderator Andrei Volkov to this answer:

It is not our job to police what is and what is not real Buddhism. However when an answer is completely off topic (for example someone posts a Christian-only answer which by itself may be perfect, just not on topic on this site) then we agreed to try and ask the poster to add some connections to Buddhism or delete the answer. Just a matter of common sense, right? In this case we were on the fence, it may or may not be on topic, which is why I asked it as a question and the other moderator used the word "seems". Other users were less careful with words.

Let's try and resolve this peacefully by making concessions from both ends. The side that considers these things not Buddhism should try and keep their minds open for other opinions. The side that thinks that posting any answer is okay as long as it's well-intended should try and provide at least some connections to a teaching of any mainstream school of Buddhism. It will help everyone to avoid these misunderstandings. Thank you all.

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