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Recently a user asked a question like

Is it possible to stay full time at a temple/religious location for an year or so?

Since over a year I've this disconnect with everything around me, people and work and everything else and now, sometimes have suicidal thoughts.

I wish to stay away from all this and find a meaning to life. I don't have much money with me.

I want to stay at a temple or some similar institution for some time, maybe a year or two, maybe longer. Is there any such institution where I can stay.

What policy does ISKON follow? I am willing to do work or volunteer for their activities etc but I can't spend much money. Please suggest if I should post this to some other site if Hinduism.SE isn't appropriate.

I'm a 25 year old boy in India.

So here, the question gets more personal rather than general and I don't want users to keep on posting personal issues and ask for solutions here. By all means I respect their feelings, and am sorry for their personal problems but this could be a major issue for the site in the long run, because I've seen such questions on Yahoo Answers where users provide utterly rubbish solutions.

I would certainly allow a question which asks for information on how to become a pundit or how to spend life like a simple person by leaving moha maya behind.

Hence, questions asking for help or solutions related to personal issues should be considered off-topic.

I will close that question after a day or two after I hear the views of other users over this issue.

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I think this is a tricky issue. Let me preface this by saying that we shouldn't lose track of the purpose of the site. Yes, we spend a lot of time on this site discussing the details of various stories and quotations from sacred texts, and I certainly participate in that, geeking out with obscure questions about the scars on Ravana's shoulders. But we should never forget that this is fundamentally a site about a religion. And the Hindu religion is something that over a billion people turn to in order to help them with personal issues.

But having said all that, let me be clear that this site is not the appropriate venue for giving personal advice. Helping people with personal issues, whether they're of a spirtual or emotional nature, is simply outside the scope of the site. But I don't think we should simply turn this user away empty-handed either.

I think we should handle things the way suggested in this answer on Christianity.SE Meta, which had a similar issue of whether to allow "pastoral advice" questions:

The most important thing is that we resist the temptation of providing an answer. I know that Christians are supposed to love others, and questions like this will undoubtedly tug at the heart-strings, but answering questions like this will always be a disservice to the questioner.

Why? The analogy of a medical diagnosis is a good one. Would any of us make a clinical diagnosis on the basis of a post on the internet? I don't think so. And neither should we make a spiritual one. We simply don't know the people involved, their motivations, their support network, their beliefs, their hurts... By answering requests for pastoral input we are more likely to do harm than good.

What we can do is the following:

  • Add a note in the FAQ that clearly states that this is a Q&A web site, not a church, and that this means that requests for pastoral input are off-topic.

  • Immediately close questions like this as off topic. Explain why the question has been closed.

  • Immediately delete answers that actually give personal advice.

  • Signpost the questioner to other agencies: their local minister, doctor, Citizens Advice service or whatever appears appropriate. Add a note that explains that we're offering suggestions, but they are no more than that. The questioner must take responsibility for their own actions.

  • Make it clear that we'd love to help directly, and explain why we can't.

I put the second-to-last bullet point in bold because I think it's relevant to the question the OP asked. In this case the OP isn't asking us to solve his personal issues for him, he's just trying to find a temple he can stay in. I think a simple, sufficiently general answer would be perfectly fine, something like "Advice on personal issues is off-topic on this site, but if you're looking for a temple to stay in, here is a link to a directory of Hindu temples and religious sites. You can contact those temples directly for questions about lodging."

One last thing: I think the answer that's been posted to the OP's question is exactly what we should NOT allow. It gives explicit personal advice, which should definitely be off-topic in this site. Following the suggestion from the Christianity Meta quote, I think we might want to delete that answer.

  • Ok so I read your answer carefully, according to you we should answer but only to the questions which are general in nature and also we should answer in general and not as per our opinion – Mr. Alien Aug 24 '14 at 10:19
  • @Mr.Alien Yes, our only response to the personal issues part should be a general statement about how personal advice is off-topic in this site. And then we can address his question about lodging at temples by pointing him to a link to a directory of temples or something. – Keshav Srinivasan Aug 24 '14 at 14:41
  • We can address them by commenting as well so I'll tell him to edit out his question and ask only like "Which temples allow us to stay / reside and other rules and regulations" etc ... – Mr. Alien Aug 24 '14 at 14:55
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I'd rather run the risk of considering an off-topic question if the asker is in severe crisis mode. While I understand that this may convert the SE into an advice hotline, giving advice based on Hindu tenets should be allowed. If necessary, the community can edit and reword such a question to make it related to Hinduism. I don't think anyone us want to turn away from someone who is contemplating suicide especially when we can help in any insignificant way.

  • The Christianity.Stackexchange provides a good explanation for why giving advice in a site like this to people in crisis is a bad idea: "The analogy of a medical diagnosis is a good one. Would any of us make a clinical diagnosis on the basis of a post on the internet? I don't think so. And neither should we make a spiritual one. We simply don't know the people involved, their motivations, their support network, their beliefs, their hurts... By answering requests for pastoral input we are more likely to do harm than good." I think the risk is just too high that people will give harmful advice. – Keshav Srinivasan Feb 12 '15 at 6:34
  • So I think it's best if we just redirect them to people who are more likely to give them good help. – Keshav Srinivasan Feb 12 '15 at 6:41
  • So let us try not to close such questions as off topic before making that redirect. That is fair, I think – user1195 Feb 14 '15 at 6:46
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IMO, the question under discussion is not asking for personal guidance. The OP is just asking for a suggestion of religious institutions where he can serve for an year or so. Let's forget about his personal problems that he has mentioned in his question. Having said that what remains is his request for suggestion of a few religious institutes where he could volunteer his time.

I don't have much money with me.

I want to stay at a temple or some similar institution for some time, maybe a year or two, maybe longer. Is there any such institution where I can stay.

What policy does ISKON follow? I am willing to do work or volunteer for their activities etc but I can't spend much money.

I don't think giving him the names of such institutions and relevant information would do any harm. So, I suggest that we edit the question (removing details about his personal problems) and re-open the question. Please provide your comments.

  • No need to remove details about personal problem as there may be someone with a viable suggestion. +1 for suggesting to stay focused on the relevant portions of the question. – user1195 Feb 14 '15 at 6:48

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