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Fitting the audience[edit]

I edited this page because the original author, I believe, missed the more important aspect of upaya and focused on the subject of -is lying with good intention considered 'skillful means'?

In my reading, the important concept to grab in skill-in-means is that one use teachings that fit the audience to be taught, not does the intent justify the means. I left most of the end as it appeared origianlly. Caroline Fisher

To Do[edit]

  • Within the Mahayana schools, I understand that the canonical explanation for upaya pertains to the metaphor of "different medicines for different diseases".
  • "Clever" has some tricky connotations in English. See Thanissaro Bhikku's Kusala Sutta which he translates as "Skillful". (I understand kusala to be the Pali equivalent of kaushalya/kausalya)
  • As a curiousity, there is such a thing as the Pali Upaya Sutta.
  • Even though the word upaya doesn't seem to appear much in the Pali canon. if you search on "skillful" at, you get hundreds of hits, which I take it refer to kusala. Is it really so irrelevant that skillfulness appears so frequently in the Pali canon? You may say that it's often/usually not used the same way that Mahayanists use it—but very notably, the Ahara Sutta outlines five of the various Hindrances (apparently, a subset of the ten fetters), and for each Hindrance the Ahara identifies distinct "mental qualities...skillful and foster appropriate attention to them". There is much more on that general topic in The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest by Nyanaponika Thera, The Wheel, No. 26, Buddhist Publication Society, 1993. Also very notably, the phrase "just as a skillful turner" introduces the many meditation practices of the classic Satipatthana Suta. Awareness of breath, posture, mindfulness, not to mention the contemplation of the repulsiveness of the body, the cemetary contemplations...hey, whatever works, right? Note also the Pali canon's famous simle of the raft, which you leave behind after use. For what it's worth, the disease/medicine metaphor also seems to have a precursor in the Pali simile of the arrow (which, like mental suffering, the Buddha removes rather than responding to the useless questions of the patient, like metaphysical questions). While the Mahayana schools certainly generated a larger number of different practices, it seems very likely to me that the notion we know today as upaya originated in an earlier tradition. If that sounds too much like a theory, then I would say that "The Pali canon contains abundant precursors to the Mahayana notion of upaya, notably in the Ahara Sutta, the Sattipatthana Sutta, in the simile of the raft, and the simile of the arrow" or words to that effect.

user:munge 08:16 modified 23:30 UTC 28 Dec 2004

Munge, I would tend to agree with your thesis. It appears that the 'ownership' by the Mahayana of Upaya is more of an artefact of Western scholars than anything else. Certainly there does not appear to be any traditional reference that indicates Upaya to belong solely to the Bodhisattva path. (20040302)
Well, the Mahayana do seem to have greatly amplified the teaching of "expedients", may have introduced the notion of a provisional teaching, and may have invented the metaphor of the physician in a crucial way, to "different medicines for different diseases". Plus there's a Upaya-Kusala sutra somewhere in the prajnaparamita literature (might be same as Chapter 20 of 8000-line version, or might be something different). I'm still working on it. That said, in a bookstore today I did see some kind of reference in the Pali Canon, something like "let no two of you take the same way" or some such; it was in a book edited/translated by Conze, in a chapter titled "Skill in Means". Meanwhile, looking it up on the Web, I find this interesting article: Skill-in-means and the Buddhism of Tao-sheng (subtitle) "A study of a Chinese reaction to Mahaayaana of the fifth century", David C. Yu, Philosophy East and West,, 1974, pp413-427 user:munge crossout --Munge 04:54, 11 Jan 2005 (UTC)
Two points: 1) "Let not two of you go the same way" turns out to be irrelevant; that phrase seems to basically be about telling Buddhist evangelists to spread out. But the same text apparently advises those evangelists to be "influencing men according to their schools". 2) One of several sutras in the Nikaya tradition called the Samadhi Sutra advises those with tranquility but not insight to seek counsel from those with insight; those with insight but not tranquility to seek counsel from those with tranquity; those with neither to seek counsel from those with both; and advises those with both to be "tuning" such skills. --Munge 04:54, 11 Jan 2005 (UTC)

WikiProject class rating[edit]

This article was automatically assessed because at least one WikiProject had rated the article as start, and the rating on other projects was brought up to start class. BetacommandBot 16:23, 9 November 2007 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the proposal was no evidence to support proposal. JPG-GR (talk) 19:47, 1 January 2009 (UTC)

UpayaUpāya — diacritics assist pronunciation and exacting scholarship — B9 hummingbird hovering (talkcontribs) 11:54, 26 December 2008 (UTC)


Feel free to state your position on the renaming proposal by beginning a new line in this section with *'''Support''' or *'''Oppose''', then sign your comment with ~~~~. Since polling is not a substitute for discussion, please explain your reasons, taking into account Wikipedia's naming conventions.
  • Diacritics make linking more difficult and appeal to pedantry. We are optimized for lay readers, not for scholars; we should use such terms only where it is conventional to do so in writing addressed to a non-technical audience; this is especially true in the titles of articles, which we want readers to be able to find. Compare Mahayana and Devanagari, both of which contain ā in Sanskrit. Oppose proposal without evidence. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 15:35, 27 December 2008 (UTC)


The scrupulous transliteration should of course be included in the article (it wasn't); but this doesn't require a page move. Septentrionalis PMAnderson

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.


Is there a reason that the term is spelled this way in the first paragraph or is it just a bizarre typo? babbage (talk) 18:17, 26 May 2010 (UTC)

Skillful vs. expedient[edit]

I would agree that "expedient means" comes closest to capturing the original meaning, but I think "skillful means" is a much more common term. It should be mentioned in the first sentence or two that these are the same thing.

I agree with the above paragraph, though I did not write it. makeswell (talk) 17:46, 24 July 2011 (UTC)

Upaya is a dialectic?[edit]

I saw this sentence in the lede, "It is essentially the Buddhist term for dialectics." and removed it because, after a google search for 'what is the meaning of dialectics?' I found that dialectics refers to something other than what upaya refers to, and is defined as referring to on this page. Maybe I'm wrong. Correct me I guess. Anyways, I removed the sentence. makeswell (talk) 17:46, 24 July 2011 (UTC)