Young monks getting provisions before a teaching. Boudhanath, Nepal
This is a couple months old, but Professor Jay Garfield has an excellent interview with “The Stone,” a philosophy blog at the New York Times.
Check it out! I’ll definitely be using this in my introductory classes next year. He makes clear and accessible points about the internal diversity of Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths, reincarnation, the process of going for refuge, and the Buddhist teachings on personal identity and selflessness.
(This post is a PG-rated follow-up to my post on Louis CK, and a follow up to the 2×2 Four Noble Truths post.)
When I was working with my sixth graders, I wanted to give them a way to think through and understand the idea of dukkha. The Four Noble Truths do not make much sense if this central idea is not grasped, but I wasn’t quite sure how to make this idea accessible to them without either bludgeoning them with the truth (impermanence, death, loss, pain, etc. — not very appropriate developmentally) or skipping over it entirely.
It was at this point that I remembered once hearing Lama Zopa Rinpoche, a contemporary Tibetan Buddhist teacher, speak about “that skinny man from England with the big lips who teaches the Lam Rim [Stages of the Buddhist Path to Awakening].” This was the way in!
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
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