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I've noticed that often times on this site the term 'puthujjana' is being used as a pejorative in answers to passive aggressively insult others. Have others also noticed this? If so, should it be allowed or should it be moderated?

Personally, I think it should be moderated when the intent to use 'puthujjana' as a pejorative is clear. The hallmarks of such a usage are an answer where the poster uses 'puthujjana' to refer to anyone who disagrees with the posters assertions about dhamma and then uses self-aggrandizing terms to refer to themself.

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The term "puthujjana" by itself is not a pejorative but it may have been used as a pejorative by some users.

Please see the Buddhism SE Code of Conduct which says the following on Unacceptable Behavior. If you see such unacceptable behavior, please flag the post, and the moderators will look into it. Thank you for your support.

Unacceptable Behavior

No subtle put-downs or unfriendly language.
Even if you don’t intend it, this can have a negative impact on others.

No name-calling or personal attacks.
Focus on the content, not the person. This includes terms that feel personal even when they're applied to content (e.g. “lazy”).

No bigotry.
We don’t tolerate any language likely to offend or alienate people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion — and those are just a few examples. Use stated pronouns (when known). When in doubt, don't use language that might offend or alienate.

No harassment.
This includes, but isn’t limited to: bullying, intimidation, vulgar language, direct or indirect threats, sexually suggestive remarks, patterns of inappropriate social contact, and sustained disruptions of discussion.

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I like this line,

Focus on the content, not the person.

I think people are here to answer questions about (and discuss) doctrine ... not to discuss each other.

It reminds me of a joke about Oscar Wilde:

Wilde claimed he could discuss any subject at any time prepared or not. A companion once took him up on this claim, asking that he discourse on the subject of “The Queen.” Responded Wilde: “The queen is not a subject.”

It's similar to the reason for there being a separate Meta site -- i.e. that discussing the site itself as a topic may be a boring subject for most users.

I take it that the term becomes pejorative if and when it's applied -- explicitly or implicitly to other users. It's not the term that's necessarily pejorative but its application. And whether or not such an application is accurate -- which may be debatable -- I think it's off-topic and potentially "Unacceptable Behavior".


Re. "using self-aggrandizing terms to refer to themself", one of the FAQs says here,

In general, unless you actually are the questioner's teacher, don't assume a teacher's mantle.

That was written in slightly different context (its context was, "just answer the question"), but it was highly upvoted and I think was good advice too. I gather that "asserting yourself to be superior" is canonically a form of conceit and a source of dispute, and I'd generally rather that users avoid disputes and sources of dispute.

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  • I would say that assuming a teachers mantle or asserting yourself to be superior is also just unskillful. I'd assert that rarely is the time when a true Realized One would come on an internet forum and proclaim themselves thus in a skillful way in order to best direct lowly beings. May 10 at 12:56
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The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, 'I will speak without hurting myself or others.'

According to the Commentary, "hurting oneself" means exalting oneself. "Hurting others" means putting other people down.

One should know what it is to extol and what it is to disparage, and knowing both, one should neither extol nor disparage but should teach only the Dhamma.’

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