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Activity 3: Story and Discussion - Heaven and Hell

Activity time: 12 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Cardboard sword in Conundrum Corner (see Opening)
  • Story 1, "Heaven and Hell"

Preparation for Activity

  • Read through the story "Heaven and Hell"
  • Photocopy Story 1, "Heaven and Hell," one for each participant.

Description of Activity

Youth react to a story with a Buddhist approach to heaven and hell.

Use the cardboard sword from the Conundrum Corner to introduce the story. Ask the group what it might have to do with heaven and/or hell. Hear some guesses. If somebody in the group has heard the story and knows the part that the sword plays in it, accept the answer, saying, "I think you might be right," and go on to the story.

Read or tell the version from Story 1, "Heaven and Hell." Alternately, you might ask for one or more volunteers to read it or use three volunteers (samurai, monk, and narrator) to act it out.

When you have finished, ask for reactions. Use the following prompts:

  • According to the story, what are some descriptions of what heaven would feel like? Hell?
  • Is there a connection between free will and the samurai's reactions?
  • Ask youth if they think this Zen Buddhist story is a teaching story and, if so, what is it teaching?
  • How might these teachings be useful to us in our day-to-day lives?

If you will not be doing Alternate Activity 3, Acting Out Heaven and Hell, and you have additional time, ask youth how the depiction of heaven and hell differ from ideas of heaven and hell they might have now or had as a child or have seen in other contexts. Remind participants that Unitarian Universalists have varying notions of heaven and hell. Since none of us can know for sure, there is no wrong or right answer concerning one's belief in the afterlife.

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For more information contact religiouseducation@uua.org.

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