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

Activity 1: Story - The Life of the Buddha

Activity time: 20 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Read the story "The Life of the Buddha" so you will be comfortable presenting it.
  • Print two copies of Leader Resource 2. Use one copy to cut apart the images so you can display them at the end of this activity. Keep the other intact to use while telling the story.

Description of Activity

Participants hear and discuss the life of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, founder of Buddhism.

Tell or read the story, displaying Leader Resource 2, Images of the Buddha, as you speak.

Ask participants for their initial reactions. Prompt further discussion with questions such as these:

  • The king supplied his son with everything he needed and wanted. Why do you think Siddhartha left the palace in the first place?
  • Encountering sickness and death can be unsettling. Do you remember some of your first encounters with sickness and death? What happened and how did you feel? Did it change the way you looked at the world?
  • Siddhartha left a life of luxury to become a penniless wanderer in search of the Truth. He left his wife and baby son behind. Do you think he felt like he had to do it? Why? Is that a choice you respect?
  • Siddhartha would have become king. Do you think he might have helped as many people by being a good king as he helped by becoming the Buddha? Keep in mind: Buddhism is more than 2,500 years old. During these two and a half millennia, there have been billions of Buddhists. Currently, 360 million people practice Buddhism.
  • What does the term "the Middle Way" mean? What do you think the Buddha saw as the benefits of the Middle Way? Do you think he has a point?
  • What Four Noble Truths did the Buddha realize?
  • Do the Four Noble Truths mean that we should never desire anything? Is it wrong to desire air? To desire justice? What about desiring enlightenment?
  • How does the Buddha differ from the Hindu and Jewish gods? Is he different from the Jewish prophets?

Say, in these words or your own:

It might look as if people in Buddhist temples are worshipping the Buddha, but they are not. They do honor the Buddha for his teachings, which can help anyone reach enlightenment. In this way, he is similar to other prophets. However, the Buddha did not claim that God spoke through him. He was a human, like you and me. Though he may have reached the divine state of nirvana, you and I are just as capable of reaching that state as he.

Make sure that all participants have had a chance to see Leader Resource 2, Images of the Buddha. Say, in these words or your own:

It is interesting that images of the Buddha differ by culture. For example, the so-called "Happy Buddha" is unique to Chinese culture; it is only one of many representations. Do you think these images say something about the cultures that created them? Do you like one of these images best, and if so, why? Do any of you have your own image of the Buddha? Does it resemble any one of these?

Thank the youth for their participation. Have volunteers tape up the Buddha images from Leader Resource 2 in the meeting space.