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I'm very new to Buddhism. There are many things I don't understand yet. This forum seems to be geared towards people more advanced in their understanding. Can anyone recommend a forum more conducive to new people? Perhaps one that I won't feel stupid for asking a seemingly trivial question or perhaps a little more welcoming?

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    Well, just ask a simple question, one at a time. Looks like you haven't tried yet. Answers need to be expert answers, though. – Anthony Sep 28 '14 at 3:09
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    BTW I'm a Westerner who got into Buddhism in 2011, just for the fun of it. I didn't find the Internet very helpful in the beginning, except for Wikipedia. My University library was very helpful. – Anthony Sep 28 '14 at 3:14
  • Post away Josh! As long as you keep on topic, you'll get an answer. We all started somewhere! – user698 Sep 28 '14 at 12:38
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    Can I just add some encouragement for you to post. Give it a go. We do really try to be welcoming and if you are not feeling it then that is something for us more established users to think about. Really some of the most interesting questions can be very simple. The worst that can happen is that the question will close. – Crab Bucket Sep 28 '14 at 14:09
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If there's a question which you're not sure whether you should ask at all, you could check here on Meta first: you could ask, "Would it be on-topic to ask about YXZ?"

FYI the following are the list of all the reasons why a question might be closed:

  • off-topic because...

    This question does not appear to be about Buddhist philosophy, teaching, and practice, within the scope defined in the help center.

  • unclear what you're asking

    Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question.

  • too broad

    There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.

  • primarily opinion-based

    Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.

  • duplicate of...

    This question has been asked before and already has an answer.

So conversely, if a question is ...

  • About Buddhist philosophy, teaching, and/or practice
  • Clear, and specific (i.e. answerable)
  • Fact-based (not too subjective or personal)

... then it's on-topic.

Note that "seemingly trivial" is not a reason why a question is likely be closed.

The Help page says,

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.

So if it's a genuine question, whose answer would benefit you, then it's certainly on-topic: answering questions like that is a reason why the site exists.

FYI, here is the list of sample questions which were suggested when the site was first being proposed; they include many beginner questions, for example ...

  • Is it necessary for a Buddhist to believe in reincarnation?
  • What should one do during meditation?
  • How do I know which type of Buddhism is for me?
  • What is the main purpose of meditation in Buddhism?
  • How do I become a Buddhist?

... and many others.

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As a veteran of a few different forums I found that they tend to be dominated by the top posters. This is true for all forums and the smaller Stack Exchanges. You pick a forum to participate in, you are personally picking those 10 people to interact with-- so review their posts & profiles.

Stack Exchanges (outside of comment threads) make it difficult for people to get into the long discussions that often turn into flamewars as someone finally says something they think is polite and necessary to say, and in fact comes across as hostile. And then flame wars ensue and people blame individuals instead of the failings of the social technology. I personally think SE came up with a pretty good technology solution.

DhammaWheel, DharmaWheel and NewBuddhist (google them) are not too bad, but all of them have flamewars from time to time. All of them have relegated vegetarianism to a single thread because of the sectarian warfare that shows up when it is mentioned.

After you pick a form of Buddhism you like, (or not), you'd want to pick a specialist forum (e.g. specifically Zen or Dzochen or what have you). I often felt like I got into unproductive discussions on general Buddhist forums because they were giving an answer from, say a Vajrayana viewpoint, when I was looking for an answer from the Chinese or Secular viewpoint. Learning about all the branches is great, but no one is helped by being reminded that one branch of Buddhism thinks the very premise of your question is, oh I don't know, either superstition or contemptible scientism. And some branches of Buddhism like to lump everything into "arrogance"-- e.g. you got a problem? Ah, it's your arrogance that is the problem, the details of your question are irrelevant.-- Maybe true, but not useful and not what I look for in discussions or answers.

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While I don't know of any forums that would be helpful, I can name some great teachers.

Yuttadhammo is a great teacher from the Theravada tradition. I highly recommend his Ask A Monk, Monk Radio (1), (2), (3) and How To Meditate series.

Ajahn Brahm's YouTube videos and Thanissaro's MP3 talks are also very inspiring and informative.

In the Mahayana tradition, Thich Nhat Hanh has written some very accessible books.

Finally, to a beginner I suggest: Take it slowly, one bite at a time. Buddhism has 2600 years of history and intersected with many different cultures so it's not easy to sum up quickly.

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