Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Activity 1: Story - Indra's Magnificent Jeweled Net

Activity time: 10 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Read the story so you will be comfortable presenting it.
  • Set the pan and pitcher on a work table where the group can gather immediately after you tell the story.

Description of Activity

Tell participants one theme that links the Eastern faiths is the interrelated nature of living things. The story, "Indra's Magnificent Jeweled Net," explores this theme.

Tell or read aloud the story. Ask participants for their initial reactions. What did they think of the story? What did it mean to them? Did it resonate with their Unitarian Universalist beliefs?

Continue discussion with questions such as the following:

  • Indra's net can be interpreted as an image about the emptiness or the illusion of reality. However, in this telling of the story, we hear mostly about the interconnectedness symbolized in the net. Do youth agree with the central point of the story, that all living things are indivisibly connected?
  • Is this the same point as the Unitarian Universalist seventh Principle: "We affirm and promote ... respect for the interconnected web of all existence of which we are a part?" Can you agree with the seventh Principle and not agree with the full implications of the story?
  • Do youth agree that a person cannot take any action, good or bad, without affecting every other person? What are the implications of that idea?
  • The story states, "However powerful ... appearance might be, it is yet only a reflection of what is real." Do the youth agree with this statement?

A web or net is a common metaphor for interconnectedness. Share with participants that water can also illustrate interconnectedness. Explain that it is impossible to disturb one point on the surface of a body of water without affecting all the rest of the water.

Invite the youth to gather around the pan and the pitcher. Pour water into the pan to a depth of at least one inch. Allow the water to settle until the surface is calm. Invite everyone to watch closely and ask one youth to just barely touch the surface of the water. Observe that even a slight touch affects all the water in the pan!

Ask another youth to more strongly flick the surface of the water. Again, observe. Ask the group for their thoughts. What was the difference? The effect might have been bigger with the stronger disturbance, but was it more comprehensive? Did the tiny touch reach just as far as the bigger one? Process with these questions:

  • Is the water an apt analogy for people? Are human connections as fluid as water? Does this hold true in our close communities? Does it hold true for humanity across the globe? Across history?
  • What about other life, such as plants, wild life, domesticated animals, and bugs?
  • If beings are interconnected, would we, as UUs, say there is a moral imperative to not take harmful actions, not only because of their effect on ourselves, but because they affect others? What about the opposite-if all life is interconnected, is there a moral imperative to do good.

Including All Participants

Situate the pitcher and pan so participants with impaired mobility can observe the demonstration after the story without moving position.