September 10, 2009

Core Scriptures

In a post reacting to a Texas law on biblical literacy, Barbara O’Brien expands on a suggestion for teaching scripture from all great religions by providing her own ideas for Buddhism.
So today’s just-for-fun question is, if you were asked to create a lesson on Buddhist scripture for Texas public school children, how would you go about it? Although there may be sutras equal in number to the sands of sixty thousand Ganges, I find there’s very little in them that makes sense “out of the box” to people with no knowledge of Buddhism. The entire Mahayana canon is way too metaphysical for children, in my opinion, as is much of the Pali canon. You have to keep in mind that the educators teaching the classes probably won’t know any more about Buddhism than the kids do. Further, while the Buddhist scriptures may present incomparable wisdom, most are a slog to read. Sorry, but it’s the truth. There are always the Old Reliables -- the Metta Sutta, the Kalama Sutta, the Dhammapada, and the the Jataka Tales for the younger ones. Anything else?
By what criteria are the Metta Sutta (which Metta Sutta?) the Kalama Sutta, the Dhammapada and the Jataka Tales the Old Reliables? Restrict your purview to this set, and certainly they are old and also the reliable way to understand how the Buddhist neophytes of the West view Buddhism. Just remember not to read the whole texts or to think about them in context.

1 comment :

  1. I don't think the Kalama Sutta is a good choice, as this already is one of the most mis-quoted and mis-interpreted suttas in the canon. The Dhammapada as well can be a bit esoteric. But I think there are good candidates, such as the Instructions to Rahula at Mango Stone (MN 61). Rahula was supposed to be just a young boy when he received this lesson, and it's very basic.

    The Udana as well has some nice short lessons that are very clear, like the Danda Sutta. I think anyone who wanted to create a curriculum on Buddhism for school children would do well to use the resources at Access to Insight. There's also the Web site Dharma the Cat.

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