Universal Rules of Dhamma Discourse

This is a friendly place for Dhamma discussion

Participating in this forum should be taken as an opportunity to practice Right Speech. As such, please show the forum and your fellow practitioners the same respect shown in a temple. We, too, are a community spiritual center — a space to share Dhamma ideas, understandings and questions in a supportive atmosphere.

We are delighted to have you participate in this forum, but if you choose to do so please note that we will understand your participation as a commitment to adhere to the simple principles given in these guidelines. They are intended as an aid to help you safeguard this community and keep the forum a kind, supportive, and enriching place for Dhamma discourse underpinned by Right Speech.

The Main Theme of this Site is Early Buddhism

We are interested in discussing Early Buddhist Texts, their meaning and historical context, how these teachings evolve and relate to later traditions, and how they may be applied in the present day. If you’re interested in more general Buddhist discussion, there are plenty of other great forums out there.

For a clear definition and guide to what are considered EBT’s please see this concise introduction in Sutta Central by Bhante Sujato

Right Speech

Right Speech is defined in the Early Buddhist texts as refraining from speech that is false, malicious, harsh or gossiping. The way to purify one’s speech is further explained by the suttas as follows:

Here someone, abandoning false speech, abstains from false speech; when summoned to a court, or to a meeting, or to his relatives’ presence, or to his guild, or to the royal family’s presence, and questioned as a witness thus: ‘So, good man, tell what you know,’ not knowing, he says, ‘I do not know,’ or knowing, he says, ‘I know’; not seeing, he says, ‘I do not see,’ or seeing, he says, ‘I see’; he does not in full awareness speak falsehood for his own ends, or for another’s ends, or for some trifling worldly end.

Abandoning malicious speech, he abstains from malicious speech; he does not repeat elsewhere what he has heard here in order to divide those people from these, nor does he repeat to these people what he has heard elsewhere in order to divide these people from those; thus he is one who reunites those who are divided, a promoter of friendships, who enjoys concord, rejoices in concord, delights in concord, a speaker of words that promote concord.

Abandoning harsh speech, he abstains from harsh speech; he speaks such words as are gentle, pleasing to the ear, and loveable, as go to the heart, are courteous, desired by many, and agreeable to many.

Abandoning gossip, he abstains from gossip; he speaks at the right time, speaks what is fact, speaks on what is good, speaks on the Dhamma and the Discipline; at the right time he speaks such words as are worth recording, reasonable, moderate, and beneficial.

(AN 10.176)

Whether you are a monastic or layperson, please do not make personal claims of path attainments, meditative attainments or supernatural powers on this forum.

Improve the discussion

Please help to make this a joyful place for discussion by improving the discussion in any way, however small. If you are not sure your post adds to the conversation, reflect over what you want to say and how you want to say it. You can always contribute later.

Is Your Post Worth Making?

Use the advice given in the Ambalaṭṭhikā­rāhulovāda Sutta (MN 61) to help you determine whether or not you should make a post:

When you reflect, if you know: ‘This verbal action that I wish to do would lead to my own affliction, or to the affliction of others, or to the affliction of both; it is an unwholesome verbal action with painful consequences, with painful results,’ then you definitely should not do such a verbal action.

But when you reflect, if you know: ‘This verbal action that I wish to do would not lead to my own affliction, or to the affliction of others, or to the affliction of both; it is a wholesome verbal action with pleasant consequences, with pleasant results,’ then you may do such a verbal action.

Look At Existing Topics First

Another way to improve the discussion is by discovering ones that are already happening or have already happened. Use the search function to help you browse through existing topics here and spend some time reading these conversations before replying or starting your own. This way you’ll have a better chance of meeting others who share your interests.

Additionally, it can be helpful to other users when you link related discussions you’ve encountered in a conversation you are participating in.

Be agreeable, especially when you disagree

Be respectful of the topics and the people discussing them, even if you disagree with some of what is being said. It’s fine if you do wish to respond to something by disagreeing with it: the Buddha said we should praise what should be praised, and criticize what should be criticized. But remember the advice of the Araṇavibhaṅga Sutta (MN 139): criticize ideas, not people.

Please avoid:

  • Name-calling.
  • Ad hominem attacks.
  • Responding to a post’s tone instead of its actual content.
  • Knee-jerk contradiction.
  • Passive-aggressive tactics.
  • Psycho-analysing other commenters.
  • Threatening people with kammic retribution!

In addition, before posting consider the five ways the Buddha advised us to speak to others:

I will speak at a right time, not at a wrong time; I will speak about what is true, not about what is not true; I will speak with gentleness, not with harshness; I will speak about what is meaningful, not about what is not meaningful; I will speak with a mind of loving-kindness, not with inner hatred.

(MN 21 & Kd 19.5.2)

Why is the Buddha’s speech so persuasive? It’s because he always spoke clearly, kindly, and rationally. If you do the same, you’ll find that people will be much more open to your ideas.

Accept admonition gracefully

If you write something that doesn’t abide by these guidelines, we’ll call you out on it. If you are moderated in any way, please take the opportunity to reflect and receive in good faith.

Typically, the moderators will seek to settle issues that arise through informal dialogue with the people concerned and will attempt to smooth things over. Responding to moderation in such a way that moves towards understanding and harmony tends to happily resolve problematic issues.

Moderation Actions

If an issue cannot be resolved like this, or if it’s more serious, you may receive an official warning. This is a yellow coloured private message that contains the words “official warning”. If you receive three official warnings you will be suspended from the forum for one month. If you receive two more official warnings after a suspension has been lifted, you will be permanently banned.

In situations deemed to be an emergency, the moderators reserve the right to suspend/ban someone immediately, without warning. This measure, should, where possible only be undertaken in consultation with the whole moderation team and/or admins. Such actions should be rare exceptions, they are never to become the norm.

The moderators’ primary duty is to maintain a safe, kind environment for all users and they must use their discretion to this end. This may, for example, entail:

  • Encouraging Right Speech within a thread.
  • Pulling people up when their speech is unkind.
  • Redirecting a thread that has deviated significantly from its original post.
  • Editing or deleting content.
  • Closing a thread.
  • Closing an account where it is suspected a user has created a second account in order to distort discussion.

The moderators will not disclose the details of discussions had with you in private to other users. In turn, as all private moderation will be kept private, please don’t ask us to tell you how we’ve moderated others.

Responding To Moderation

If you feel a decision is unfair, please represent your side of things in a friendly, constructive manner. The moderators want to be as fair to you as possible, but keep in mind that they are often acting on behalf of other users who have raised flags and need to balance everyone’s interest.

Responding well to admonition is regarded as a basic sign of integrity in Dhamma communication. If you respond with anger, insults or by attacking the admonisher, other users, the site, or those running it, expect to find yourself permanently banned.

Skilful participation helps us all

Engage in discussions that make this forum an interesting place to be — and avoid those that do not.

Debate Constructively, Don’t Quarrel

Step away from discussions that have become combative. Rigorous debate can be an important part of Dhamma enquiry and many debates are recorded in the Early Buddhist Texts. However, it’s even more important to recognise the difference between a debate and a quarrel. The Buddha said: “I assert and proclaim [my teaching] in such a way that one does not quarrel with anyone in the world” (Madhupiṇḍika Sutta, MN 18).

Evaluating Your Posts

Before attempting to correct someone else’s ideas, use MN 103 and AN 4.100 to help you carefully assess whether making such a post would be wise. If you are unsure about whether your contribution will be beneficial to others because of, for example, its phrasing, or timing, try to find a better way to express yourself, or don’t post.

Discourse provides tools that enable the community to collectively identify the best (and worst) contributions: bookmarks, likes, flags, replies, edits, and so forth. Use these tools to improve your own experience, and everyone else’s, too.

Let’s try to leave our temple better than we found it.

If you see a problem, flag it

Moderators have special authority; they are responsible for this forum. But so are you. With your help, moderators can be community facilitators, not just janitors or police.

When you see bad behaviour that doesn’t conform to these guidelines, flag it. Don’t reply, it encourages the bad behaviour by acknowledging it, consumes your energy, and wastes everyone’s time. Just flag it. If enough flags accrue, action will be taken, either automatically or by moderator intervention.

Moderators don’t preview new posts in any way; the moderators and site operators take no responsibility for any content posted by the community.

To learn more about the flagging system, visit our [flagging guide] (Sutta Central Guide To Flagging).

We might not always be wise, but we can always be kind

Nothing sabotages a healthy conversation like rudeness:

  • Be civil. Don’t post anything that a reasonable person would consider offensive, abusive, or hate speech.
  • Be alert to the fact that people with a wide range of sensitivities and vulnerabilities may use this forum and be accordingly gentle in your posts.
  • Use the forum to improve your own Dhamma practice. Don’t post anything that you would not say to that person’s face, in a temple, in front of the Buddha.
  • Keep it clean. Don’t post anything obscene or sexually explicit.
  • Respect each other. Don’t attack, harass or grief anyone, impersonate people, or expose their private information. Internet harassment is a crime.
  • Respect our forum. Don’t post spam or otherwise vandalise the forum.

These are not concrete terms with precise definitions — avoid even the appearance of any of these things.

This is a public forum, and search engines index these discussions. Keep the language, links, and images safe for family and friends.

Keep it tidy

Make the effort to put things in the right place, so that we can spend more time discussing and less cleaning up. So:

  • Don’t start a topic in the wrong category.
  • Don’t cross-post the same thing in multiple topics.
  • Don’t post no-content replies.
  • Don’t divert a topic by changing it midstream.
  • Don’t sign your posts — every post has your profile information attached to it.

Rather than posting “+1” or “Agreed”, use the Like button. Rather than taking an existing topic in a radically different direction, use Reply as a New Topic (found under the share a link icon).

The Watercooler Category

If posting to the Watercooler category please take particular care to make sure your post belongs there. As noted above, this forum is about Early Buddhist Texts. We do, nevertheless, have a Watercooler category for more informal, relaxed, light-hearted exchange. We still encourage that posts to this category are related to the Dhamma, but this is not a fixed rule and an amount of leeway is allowed for other topics. However, there is no leeway with regards to the guideline that all posts to the Watercooler must be of a friendly, light-hearted and harmony-promoting nature. The Watercooler is a place to support each other and make connections, not to prove a point or for heated debate. Threads that stray from this category’s purpose will be moved, closed or deleted.

Only post things you have a right to

You may not post anything that contravenes any copyright laws. Normally short quotes and the like are fine, but full texts and other material can only be posted with the proper licencing permission. Make sure that the terms of any licence are clear, either by including them in the post, or providing a link. You may not post descriptions of, links to, or methods for stealing someone’s intellectual property (software, video, audio, images), or for breaking any other law.

Terms of service

Yes, legalese is boring, but we must protect ourselves — and by extension, you and your data —against unfriendly folks. We have a Terms of Service describing your (and our) behavior and rights related to content, privacy, and laws. To use this service, you must agree to abide by our TOS.

NOTE: This document is based on the “Universal Rules of Civilized Discourse”, which is supplied by default with Discourse. It has been modified to make it more Buddhist! It is subject to being updated from time to time, so please review it every so often.


The contents of this post are identical with that of the Forum Guidelines before they were modified in 2019 to include the section on Extremism. For this reason I am archiving and unlisting the thread. (Both actions are reversible.)