From What is the Buddhist view in Socratic questioning?, I get that it is important to ask questions to get out of sufferings. However, when we are getting stuck it is very difficult to realize that we are stuck. With concepts such as sunyata, nirvana, papanca, dharma, detachment, does Buddhism have any guideline to ask questions in such situation? Or is the answer simply "when you are aware that you are in papanca, then try to get to nirvana and the questions will come"?

5 Answers 5


With concepts such as sunyata, nirvana, papanca, dharma, detachment

I suppose you internalise or become familiar with these concepts, so they (i.e. the concepts, not the descriptions of the concepts) appear (in your mind) as an antidote and/or a diagnosis when that's appropriate.

Analogously a couple of other concepts (from the suttas), perhaps fundamental, is to recognise, "this is (arising of) 'stress' (and/or craving, attachment), and this is 'cessation' (thereof)".

does Buddhism have any guideline to ask questions in such situation?

I think Buddhism recommends very simple questions.

For example, MN 61 (taught to Rahula when he was young) -- "Is this good or bad?", or more specifically

This [...] action [...] — would it lead to (is it leading to, did it lead to] self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Would it be [is it, was it] an unskillful verbal action, with painful consequences, painful results?

This is a single, general-occasion or all-purpose question, suitable any time.

Another example of a question like that might be, Is That So? That's like asking, "Ok, so this is a "view", but am I sure it's true -- the only truth?"

There's Buddhist doctrine about "views" -- e.g. right view, wrong view, also cessation of views:

  • DN 34

    What four things should be given up? Four floods: sensuality, desire for rebirth, views, and ignorance.

    (or more specifically "view-flood", possibly "flood of views")

  • AN 7.51

    Because of the cessation of views, monk, uncertainty doesn't arise in an instructed disciple of the noble ones over the undeclared issues

  • There are suttas (e.g. here) which seem to warn against taking views at all, and/or that "views" are one of the many things that a noble one is liberated from (I haven't found a good reference for this though, this might be an inaccurate paraphrase or out of context).

It warns that there are certain types of question that are inappropriate -- see A thicket of wrong views

I found this topic informative too -- How are 'conceit' and 'identity-view' not the same? -- helping to define what "a view" is or isn't.

Buddhism also (in my opinion) associates papanca with conceit, by saying they are both a cause (or are both the cause) of arguments (especially doctrinal or sectarian arguments) -- I suppose it's saying the motive is egocentric i.e., "I am right!", or, "My view is better!", and so on.

Or is the answer simply "when you are aware that you are in papanca, then try to get to nirvana and the questions will come"?

I was tempted to say, "That's not quite the answer: a better answer is ...", but I'd better not, isn't that so? :-)

"Trying to get to nirvana" is a dubious (i.e. possibly misleading) proposition -- on the one hand there is Right Effort, but on the other hand that might be the very definition of "craving".


Just an experience sharing, the best way to find answers is not always to ask questions to outsiders, but to ask question to oneself, which is a form of contemplation. An effective way is to practice meditation. From Samatha meditation in order to reach a certain level to tranquility, followed by Vipasyanā meditation to reach insight and Dharma wisdom as a whole.

You will be amazed how much you can clear up by answering your own questions instead of finding different ways to ask outsiders. Bare in mind this is by no means of "never ask anyone any question anymore", but you just have to uplift your "Dharma wisdom" from the inside and not just the outside.

Using intellect instead wisdom to discuss Dharma... will prevent you from realizing the true benefits of the Dharma.


I'm just sharing my personal experience on this.

I use to find myself caught in papanca very often, which is why I feel this question so close to my heart.

When I become aware of proliferation, the first thing I try to do is to find the causal root of that specific type of unstoppable inner monologue. I try to pay attention to the intention or tendency causing the "outflux" of proliferation, which can finally be reduced to the three main taints of the mind: craving, aversion or ignorance.

For instance, sometimes "my" mind travels without course when being faced to some socially awkward situation. I know I tend to feel anxious when, for example, I unexpectedly meet an acquantance on the streets by chance. When that happens, the mind starts to wander and becomes worried by some non-sensical thoughts (like "what should I say to that person?", "what if I embarrass myself?", "what if I have nothing to say", or things of that kind). When I notice that anxiety (by noting "anxiety", or "preoccupation"), papanca stops automatically; then, I look for the underlying cause of that specific situation, which in this case was aversion to criticism or rejection, which in turn is due to an attachment to an specific idea of self. Finally, after figuring that out, I let go of those taints, and keep doing what I was doing before proliferation came to be.

If it helps, I also realized that most mental reactions have a specific bodily response. When I try to let go, besides paying attention to the mind, I pay attention to the body and its tension. After letting go, both my mind and body feel relaxed and at peace again.

Notice, and let go...

Have a wonderful day!


"when you are aware that you are in papanca, then try to get to nirvana and the questions will come"?

The phrasing of your question suggests a slight aversion (i.e., "try to get to nirvana") to papanca that is currently hindering you. Consider this:

If our foot is caught in a bear trap, we do not struggle away trying to get to freedom simply because that very struggling to get away would just cause more injury to our foot in the trap. Instead, one must first deal with the panpanca and release whatever has trapped us. Don't fight the papanca. Escape it. The suttas provide much guidance on particular hindrances and their escape. Study whichever sutta pertains to the papanca that hinders you most at any moment.

When papanca are no longer apparent, then proceed in your Noble Search. Invariably, you will find more papanca!


Nyom Ooker and interested,

The idea of coming to Nibbana, at least to the Ariya-path first, if capable to remember and knowing it clearly, is good. And to gain such requires first to address the right person/people: Association with People of Integrity Someone bond and holding on house, like an elephant trapped in a mud hole, how could he help others out?

"To what extent is there an awakening to the truth? To what extent does one awaken to the truth? We ask Master Gotama about awakening to the truth."... -MN95

and second ask in proper ways, pu the right question or trust that the admirable teacher speaks of what should be followed to give into.

And what are the four wise questions one should ask outwardly or remember, when wise instructed, inwardly to ask? "What if I let go off is for my long term happiness/suffering?" "What if I hold on is for my long term happiness/suffering?"

{Note that this is neither an answer from nor for "Buddhism", not given for exchange, trade or other bond in the world but for upward and liberation only}

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