Questions About Buddhism Validating Personal Choices Online. Is It Worth It To Answer?

I see questions online all of the time from people asking whether or not Buddhism would validate a significant personal choice of theirs.

I’m sure everyone has seen a number of questions about whether or not the 5th precept applies to their recreational drug of choice.

The next most common question would involve wrong livelihood.

Is it skillful to answer these questions?

Often the questions involve a significant part of their lives. I tend to think they will do what they want anyway ( not necessarily wrong in the grand scheme of things ). I think the true intent behind such questions is the seeking of validation or permission.

I think such question are often framed unconsciously in the persona asking as right vs wrong as established by an authority. Is it a “sin” or not. Will there be punishment? In that context, even if there is some ancient writing about their question it can often seem less than useful as the reasoning will require an understanding of skillfulness, a certain level of commitment to the dhamma, and an understanding of the dhamma. Often the people asking such questions are not ready to take their Buddhism to that level.

For example, years ago I came across a sutta describing being an actor as wrong livelihood. I didn’t think it would speak to a contemporary lay person in a modern culture curious as to whether or it was a “sin” who also has a popular conception about Buddhism as a nice guy fortune cookie writer. A sutta like that would likely be useful to a lay person with a serious practice in Buddhism, who is seeking “cessation” of attachments and beginning to wonder about how they are leading their own life. In other words, someone who doesn’t that need that sutta. :slight_smile:

Given that such questions are asked in a non-Buddhist context of “sin”, in ignorance of skillfulness, a more beginning level of commitment to the path, and a likelihood of the answer making no change in the person’s final decision should anyone bother answering such questions?


That does often seem to be the case. I guess it’s worth explaining that they are training rules that one should aspire to follow, and, ideally, to exceed. Approaching them with a lawyer mentality is missing the point.


Yes, it’s tricky. Sometimes it seems like people are trying to assess whether Buddhism fits with their current lifestyle, beliefs or morality.
It’s probably worth attempting to answer to such questions, while acknowledging the questioner might not like the answer given.

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I think they’re misusing/wielding the dhamma.

Seems like they’re scared of hell or something so they’re wondering if what they’re doing will affect their rebirth, or maybe they don’t want to look bad in their buddhist community.

Instead they should see the dhamma as a tool to stop suffering, then you wouldn’t need to ask others what to do, since they can’t know what works for you, and instead you would resort to seeing for yourself what works.

How do you feel when you lie? good or bad? how do you feel when you use bad or harsh language? good or bad? Does engaging in unwholesome or distracting activity add anything beneficial to your life or is it just a waste of time and energy?

For example I can spend 3 hours watching pointless vidoes on the net, but how would I feel at the end of it, would I be any better off?

Only you can know for yourself.

As for answering other people’s questions, that can sometimes help you learn something new, but it can also just be a waste of time as well.