Audience analysis

I’m listening to an audio recording of teachings on the Garland of Views that HH the Dalai Lama gave in Miami in 2004. About 45 minutes into the second recording, His Holiness talks about how to explain the diversity of teachings in Buddhism:

If we were to ask what is exactly the Buddha’s own final standpoint—why did Buddha teach such diversity and sometimes quite opposing, contradictory teachings in his scriptures—so the Buddha’s own final standpoint may, from the point of view of Madhyamaka, be that of the Middle Way philosophy, but it is also a fact that Buddha did teach [the foundations of many other schools of Buddhism]. So what we see here […] is recognition of how the Buddha’s teaching of the dharma really has to be understood in the context of its appropriateness to the given audience. So in a sense Buddha is not a case of an enlightened being who only wants to reveal one truth to everybody. It is a case of Buddha having to select what is most beneficial and what is most effective, what is most suitable in a given context and a given situation.

In other words, the Buddha taught a variety of lessons in a variety of contexts in order to reach a variety of audiences–each lesson, even if it seems to contradict an earlier lesson, is customized to meet the needs or expectations of a particular audience.

How wonderful to have discovered this example the day after I taught audience analysis in my freshman comp classes!

Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

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