What does the dhamma need in order to spread ? And how can we help it?

What is most important is to understand how he did that.

Agreed, and part of how he did that was by tapping into and using ideas of the cultures he taught. So if one wants to help spread dhamma, perhaps what one has to do is spend less time learning about ‘Buddhism’ and more time learning about one’s own culture and understanding how one’s own culture can be given a Buddhist inflection.


So, those who are not good at debating or for some reason hate it, should practice and become good at it, same as they would get good at any other activity. It’s one, if not THE most important good deed they can do. It’s certainly a frustrating skill to learn from time to time, but all that is worthwhile takes effort and dedication.

… not what i see. No one converted me by debate, except perhaps my own mind; nor was this a debate; there rarely were any sides or arguments. Had my mind only used debate, i would never have been converted.

Debate is logic and rhetoric; mind is more than that, i think. Debate is contention, argument; eventually it must cease. Persuasion has limited effect; imo eventually other things must sustain and deepen practice.

It seems to me that in the EBTs, debate is merely an exercise, and perhaps for those promoting other dhammas, but is cautioned against for within the sanghas.

[For some reason, a link to a search on suttacentral.net on debate
doesn’t seem to be working. But take a look, if curious.]

https://suttacentral.net/sn56.40/en/sujato ends with “That’s why you should practice meditation…”

1 Like

Its a truly difficult thing not to get angry in a debate. And if you defeat someone in debate Its more likely they will become resentful rather than feel enlightened.

I feel there is great power in giving the dhamma at the opportune moment. No one is going to take medicine unless they feel sick.


Is that why one of the 5 things Buddha repeatedly claims to need before being able to die is “having disciples skilled in refuting with arguments the thesis of wanderers of other sects” ?

In the suttas, we see Buddha countless times participating in debates, we see him learning other monks how to debate, we even see him scolding some monks because they won a debate, but did so with wrong arguments that could have been refuted by their interlocutors. We also see monks going to the debating hall every day in order to convert people to buddhism.

Debating was highly important in India of that time. Spiritual leaders would meet and, if one lost the debate, all his followers would convert to the one that won the debate. This is a very healthy attitude of people who are in search for the truth and take this pursuit seriously enough - people who do not let ego stand in the way of finding the truth. With a big ego that can’t handle debates, traversing the jungle of views is impossible.

I’ve had a topic about debating here in the past. I noticed many people are against debating and have a completely opposite attitude towards it than we see in the suttas. 100% of these people are from english speaking countries, not from continental europe or other places that don’t have an anti-debate culture.

The reason people get frustrated with debates is that they wrongly expect effects to happen right after the debate. You can have such luck with atheist but not with christians. You need to give you arguments time to take effect. A person will change little by little every couple of months until he finally changes completely.

It all depends on your debating skills. The best person to learn from when it comes to debates is the Buddha himself. I’ve never seen anyone better in debates than him. Always find common ground and try not to ever get angry. And always have a specific strategy and specific narrative based on that individual person. Without knowing your interlocutor and what makes him tick, it’s impossible to have too much effect in a debate.

I’m probably one of the most aggressive people in debates that you can find on buddhist forums. Yet, in real life or when debating in my natal language, I’m about 100 times less aggressive. I do my best not to have a single inch of angriness or frustration appear, no matter what goes on in the debate. It was very difficult for me to improve this big weakness of mine, but it does improve with practice and the right mindset. When it’s a debate I consider truly important, such as converting someone I care about to buddhism, the stakes are too high to afford such mistakes.

The best solution I have found so far regarding minimizing anger in debates is remembering how Buddha debated and realizing that you’re losing your efficiency if you get angry. The good deed you are trying to do will be nullified because of a personal weakness, something you can’t afford.

IMPORTANT ADVICE: Sometimes, especially if you are a beginner in this activity, it might seem that you are ineffective and be fast to conclude that debates don’t work. You gave all you could, the arguments were in your favor, yet you had no success.


There are so many wrong ideas spread in society. It’s so easy to manipulate people, politics and advertising prove it better than anything else. People are generally easy to manipulate. All you need is to tape into their narcissistic tendencies. You need for your idea to “have a corridor” in the person, you need it to have the potential to tape into his narcissism. Only then it can be succesful. If there is nothing to win, narcissistic-wise, for the person, he will not budge.

A practical example: When refuting christianity, you don’t touch Jesus. Your narrative should be that the current religion, the one primising eternal heaven and etc. is “religion for the masses” and that there is also another step in religion for more advanced persons. After all Jesus was a monk and he did his best convincing other people to become monks. All 4 apostoles of the bible claimed heaven is one thing and “kingdom of god” is another(something the church has no official answer for). You can easily prove how the eternal heaven idea can not work, using the same arguments Buddha did. But your focus should be on how the masses want something easy and few want to walk the extra mile. This is the kind of idea that tapes into a persons narcissism and uses it into your favor. There are many better examples but you got the idea. Any marketer knows that arguments themselves have little effect if you don’t put them into a boarder narrative and somehow tie them to peoples narcissism and feelings.


Giving these conditions, the only reason one is not successful at persuation is simply not being skilled in it, same as one can lack skill at football or any other activity. Same as politicians and advertisement people got masters at it, you too can become a master at it. The Buddha certainly did.

Another thing to remember: While I’ve never seen a person totally change his mind and agree with you after a debate, not even if he was an atheist, I also NEVER saw a person not change at least 50%, if not 100%, if given enough time, like months or years. (I am speaking about personal friends and family debating)

Jesus hardened pharaoh’s heart. Not many Christians consider that in my experience.

pharoah = ?

1 Like

There is a character in the Exodus story who comes to be known as the פַּרְעֹ֑ה (parcōh). People who believe that the Exodus a) is a ‘true’ story, and b) actually happened in Egypt, associate this figure with Pharaoh Ramesses II, but there is little evidence linking these two figures.

In the Exodus story, God “hardens Pharaoh’s heart” (Exodus 7:3) as so that he will not let the Hebrew slaves free. Therefollows the plagues upon the Egyptians on account of Pharaoh’s having not let them free, on account of his heart having been hardened.

Lol. I didn’t know about that. It’s just another out of thousands of surreal evilness or stupidity episodes present in the old testament. For more: http://www.evilbible.com/
When discussing this with christians, some will be so shocked about it that they’ll ask to check it in the bible, the romanian paper version, not on some english website on the internet, thinking it’s surely something fake.

From my experience, the problem with the monstruosity of the old testament is something even the most radical christians will concede. That’s why it should always be brought up, because I’ve yet to see a person not to concede that it’s an evil and barbaric book that could not be more at odds with what Jesus preached. Even priest concede this very easy. Most christians are like “don’t ask us about that, it has nothing to do with christianity, we’re all about the new testament”.

The strongest argument against christianity and the only one that, in my experience, can heavily shake even a radical is the problem of this being the first life. This is in my opinion by far the achiles heel of the religion of Constantine. The way to present the argument is like this:

Do you believe in justice in this world ? Do you believe that good deeds and bad deeds do have an effect ? Or do you rather thing it’s all random ?

  • he will of course say yes

Then, continue with: There are no people in this world as evil and stupid as to punish an innocent person for the deeds of another person. Have you ever seen a tribunal, from any country, even the most backwards, ever do such a thing ?(you need to ask, not just tell, you need to hear this from his mouth) No tribunal in this world, not even in North Korea, would even convict the son for the deeds committed by his father. Nowhere in this world will you see a tribunal sending the son of a criminal to prison, for a crime committed by his father. Such an idea is primitive, injust, and simply ridiculous to any intelligent and fair person. Don’t you agree ?

So… why are some people born with no hands and feet, while others are born with extreme wealth and all good qualities that a human can posses ? How could this brutal punishment, such as cutting of hands and feet, be done to an innocent person for the deeds committed by a different person ?

There are some answers they can give, but all will lack substance, and they will know it. No need to even bother too much debating what they will answer, **the bomb has been already placed.**Don’t get angry at the stupid replies that will come after this question, rather try to ridicule them with a smile on your face and an “c’mon man” attitude. Put pressure to make the person feel backwards and stupid, because that’s what those answers are, but in a subtle way.

From my experience, this has a huge impact on any person, even on radicals. They will start thinking about it at home and then move to believing in reincarnation. 33% of people believe in reincarnation even in my country, a christian version of saudi arabia. Arsenie Boca, a famous monks, nr 1 most esteemed in Romania, believed in reincarnation too. It’s not too difficult for a christian to swich to believing in reincarnation. He pretty much can’t stop doing it after being presented with the bomb.

But this will not necessarily make him a buddhist. Even at this point of conceding so much, the last thing to concede is the existence of God. So give another couple of months for the reincarnation beliefs to settle in before moving further. Move forward only when you feel you can touch this last point.

Never start your debate (and by debate I mean years of debate with a person, not 1 single debate) with attacking the existence of God or, god forbid, anything bad about Jesus. Jesus is your common ground. And also, focus on showing that atheism is refuted too. It’s very important to do this and position yourself as on the same side with the christian, the side of religion vs atheism. You need to make it very clear that you’re strongly against atheism because it is refuted.

In my experience religious people in general usually argue the opposite. Whatever the founder, or X god, or Y monk, did, it was always somehow, in the ‘big picture’, for ultimate good, somehow. That’s the way religions are built IMO.

Not when it comes to the old testament. Remember christian priest did read the bible, and they know very well the problem with the old testament. That’s why they simply don’t consider christianity to have anything to do with it. Normal people have no idea about what’s written in that book but, after they find out, they quickly concede this too. It’s a book totally opposite to anything Jesus every preached, the big attachment in christianity is to Jesus. But I don’t know about protestants, they might put more emphasis on scripture and dynamics in such debates might be different. If that is the case, then you can kill them in a debate by simply bringing up the old testament problem. How did that garbage end up in the bible if it was inspired by god and has so much weight as they claim it has ?

First main goal is showing that the religion of Constantine has little to do with what Jesus preached. Jesus is one thing, the religion of Constantine another. By doing this, you get rid of pretty much the whole religion, because pretty much the whole religion is different than what Jesus taught. You get rid of the vise-on-the-head aspects too, or at least weaken them. Same as what the historical Buddha taught is very different from mainstream buddhism either in the west or the east. It’s actually very good to bring up how buddhism developed because it’s more easy for them to see and understand the process, not being emotionally attached.

Nazist, communist, islamic terrorists, the KKK, etc. have brains too. Should they not be persuaded towards abandoning those ideas for better ones ? Should one never engage in a debate with them and never try to make them question those beliefs ?

Remember “thus from corrupt dhamma comes corrupt discipline” ?

I still don’t know if there is a god. Ending suffering via N8P is my main concern.

What arguments are there that a God might exist ? To my knowledge, there is just one, the one that Buddha called “the theory of the turtle”.

What is it that you want to spread exactly? And why?

The dhamma, as said in the title. For the same reasons that the Buddha or anybody else wants to spread it. Spreading the dhamma is pretty much the main purpose of this very forum.

People only question their beliefs when they aren’t working. Too often, even then, they plow ahead with the gambler’s faith that “their win is just around the corner”.

I teach people how to rock climb. They come with their own beliefs. After gravity softens them up, they listen better. Constructive debate presupposes a willingness to listen. When people aren’t listening, debate is pointless.


pretty true


Could you be more specific?

This is why the Buddha often stayed silent when discussing things with certain people or redirected the conversation towards different topics.

He could sense the rigidity in people.

(but if someone asked him three times he would always answer).


I agree, ancient India valued debate as a high expression of intellectual social behavior. And the Dhamma probably could not have grown there without debate, thus not in this world.

It was not the only method the Buddha or the Sangha used even in ancient India to teach the Dhamma. Correct?

As a contemporary practice… I doubt its usefulness for several reasons: debate skills don’t seem to be at the same level; debate ethics, verbal ethics don’t seem to be at the same level; cultural appreciation of Debate doesn’t seem to be at rhe same level. Even if the first of those obstacles was removed, i doubt the third could be removel without long difficult effort; “let’s go to the debates every Friday night” is not something people in these generations are likely to be heard saying.

Debate is not the only nor IMO the most effective way at this time in which to share the Dhamma.