Activity 3: Story and Discussion - Two Monks

Activity time: 10 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Read the story.
  • Photocopy Story 1, "Two Monks," one for each participant.

Description of Activity

Participants consider what happens when two rules conflict with each other.

Ask the youth if they have ever had problems because two of the rules in their life bumped into each other. Then tell or read the story, which comes from the Zen Buddhist tradition. Alternately, you might ask for one or more volunteers to read it.

At the conclusion of the story, remark that one of the rules the second monk was supposed to follow was his vow to stay away from women. What was the other rule? (One possibility is the Golden Rule. The monk felt he should treat the woman as he would want to be treated in the same situation. Another is simply "Be nice to other people," "Be helpful," or "Be a gentleman.") Ask whether this other rule is written or unwritten. Is it important even if it is not a written law?

Ask how youth resolve problems that result when two rules conflict. How can people know the right way to act and avoid the wrong way? Should they decide on their own?

Point out the ruler in the Conundrum Corner. Ask the youth to identify two reasons why the ruler is there. Some will probably state the obvious quickly, that a ruler is a ruler and you have been talking about rules. This is especially likely if you have used rulers in Activity 2. (The youth also might say, fairly in this regard, that the presence of the ruler is a weak pun.) The group may have more trouble identifying the second reason. Offer, if they do not, that a ruler measures things. "People with an ethical or other problem sometimes talk about taking a 'measured response to it.' We all have to measure the probable results of our actions very carefully. That's one way we try to do the right thing and stay out of trouble."

Suggest that the group think about both measured responses and unwritten rules during Ethics Play, which is coming up next.

For more information contact religiouseducation@uua.org.

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