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I am questioning myself and my practice of answering questions and was stopped by the following website.

http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/archives/sutra/level4_deepening_understanding_path/interferences/fourteen_questions_which_buddha_rem.html

There are fourteen unspecified points (lung-du ma-bstan-pa bcu-bzhi), which are points about which Buddha did not specify an answer when asked. Often this set of fourteen is referred to as the “fourteen questions to which Buddha remained silent.”

The Mahayana Version To those who believe in a true findably existent “me” or “self” (bdag, Skt. atman) and a true findably existent universe, Buddha did not answer when they asked are the “I” or the “self” and the universe:

eternal, not eternal, since they undergo gross impermanence at the time of their destruction, as both, in the sense that some beings and their environments, like the Creator Brahma and his heaven, are eternal; while all else, such as his creations, are not eternal and end at the time of their destruction, neither, since it is impossible to know? Are “I’s” or “selves” and the universe:

finite, infinite, both finite and infinite, in the sense that limited beings (sentient beings) are infinite in number, but the universe is finite in size, neither, since it is impossible to know? Does the “I” or the “self” of a Buddha:

continue to exist after death, not continue after death, both, in the sense that the body does not continue, but the life-force (srog) does, neither? Buddha did not answer these because there is no such thing as a true findably existent “me” or “ self” for either limited beings (sentient beings) or a Buddha, and no such thing as a true findably existent universe. Therefore, there can be no question whether such things are eternal or not eternal, or finite or infinite. It is like asking do rabbit-horns, turtle-hair or chicken-lips last forever or only a limited time. If Buddha said the “me,” and so on are eternal, these people would fall to the position of eternalism. If he said they are not eternal, they would fall to the position of nihilism, since they would not understand his answer. Therefore, it was more skillful not to specify an answer at all.

To those who believe in a true findably existent body and life-force, Buddha did not answer when they asked are the body and life-force:

the same entity, totally separate and different entities? He remained silent for a similar reason, since they would only misunderstand anything he said.

The question is in 2 parts, but they are really part of the same question of how questions and answers benefit our practice.

A) Do you agree that the Buddha did not address these points in his sermons?

(B) How does this questioning and answering aid our practice that moves toward awakening and what benefit can be derived from asking the type of questions we ask and answering the type of questions we answer?

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    I'm a little confused about (B). Are you asking, in general, about the purpose of making questions and providing answers about buddhism? Or are you asking, eg. how would "after death a Tataghata exists?" aid our practice? – Thiago Sep 14 '14 at 16:35
  • I was wondering how the Buddha would deal with questions as we raise here. Is there any indication that Shakyamuni encouraged free and open discussions? Tibetan Buddhism oftens have debate like discussions with the monks to sharpen their understanding. – soulsings Sep 14 '14 at 22:25
  • "Is there any indication that Shakyamuni encouraged free and open discussions?" -- a voluminous part of the discourses are debates, questions and answers, between Shakyamuni, disciples, lay followers and members of other sects. – Thiago Sep 14 '14 at 22:56
  • Thiago, do you have an example of discussions and debates that you could link to? Better yet if you could find any that are about the 14 unanswered questions. Add an answer if you do. – soulsings Sep 15 '14 at 22:03
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I think the answer is in the article. They were not answered because they were formulated around finding the consequences of premises which are not true, the findably existent self or universe.

There is at best no sense in answering them "I believe the moon to be made of cheese: is it Wensleydale or Gorgonzola?"; more likely they would lead to misunderstandings and cause suffering.

  • I agree with Suminda - Great answer which deserves +1. – Lanka Mar 31 '15 at 0:13

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