The Bhagavad Gita and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Nurses

BGKrishnaArjuna

Krishna teaching Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita

D.D. Kosambi, the Indian Marxist historian, once dismissed the Bhagavad Gita as “700 fratricidal verses.” And while this text has been extolled by champions of nonviolence such as Thoreau and Gandhi, Kosambi does have a point: Krishna – God himself who has taken on human form – urges Arjuna, the reluctant warrior, to fight in battle against his teachers, cousins, and friends. Why? Because his dharma requires him to do so. Arjuna must act in this battle in order to preserve the order of the universe, even if it means slaughtering his kin. Continue reading

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Questioning Questioning

Socrates

Socrates, from Raphael’s “School of Athens”

Recently, I was talking to a friend (and fellow blogger) who teaches Physics. In the course of our conversation after I observed her (inspiring) class, she said to me, “I never ask students a question they don’t have the tools to answer.” This statement gave me some pause. I thought to myself – only half in jest – I never ask my students a question they are able to answer.

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Louis CK and the Four Noble Truths

Louis CK teaching Buddhism

Louis CK on the debate grounds of a Tibetan monastery.

My last post explored ways to teach about the Four Noble Truths, and I want to continue that here. One of the most challenging ideas to convey is the idea of dukkha – the dissatisfaction, dis-ease, stress, unhappiness, suffering that, according to the Buddha, pervades the unexamined and unawakened life. It can be easy to tell students about this idea, but the mere telling doesn’t guarantee that the students will understand or appreciate the idea in any kind of complexity. Continue reading

Four Noble Truths Lesson Plan, Part One

4NT in Tibetan

Or, Why 2×2 is greater than 4

The Four Noble Truths are at the heart of the Buddha’s teaching. In fact, all subsequent teachings – be they by him or by any other Buddhist teacher – fit somewhere into this fourfold structure. For years, I had presented them in a list, but more recently – especially as I’ve worked to make these ideas clearer to my 6th graders – I’ve been organizing them differently. And, as a result, the students seem to understand the underlying logic and structure of these ideas better than they might have.

There’s also the fact that I rename one of the truths. (I will have to hope the Buddha understands.) Continue reading