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

Activity 3: UU Buddhists

Activity time: 25 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • A poster of the UU Principles
  • Newsprint with the eight elements of the Eightfold Path, from Activity 2
  • Newsprint, markers, and tape

Preparation for Activity

  • At least three weeks before the workshop, invite a member of your congregation who identifies as Buddhist or is a student of Buddhism to be a guest. Ask them to prepare a short introduction that includes how they became affiliated with both religions, what the two have in common, how they differ, and what it is like to live both faiths in the world.
  • If such a person is not available, prepare to discuss with the group the commonalities and differences between the two religions.
  • Obtain or make a poster that lists all seven UU Principles. Display the Principles poster and the newsprint with the elements of the Eightfold Path where both will be visible to all participants.

Description of Activity

Participants compare and contrast the seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism with the Eightfold Path of Buddhism.

Referring to the poster and newsprint, briefly review both the seven Principles and the Eightfold Path with the youth. Say, in these words or your own:

Both these documents are guideposts for living. The Principles appear within a document that defines the parameters of the Unitarian Universalist Association; in other words, they are part of an organizational document. The Eightfold Path was recorded specifically as a teaching tool. However, both are presented and used as guidelines for living well and growing as an individual and in community. With that in mind, take a moment to look over the two lists.

Lead the group to discuss the two religions, using these questions:

  • What are some similarities between the two sets of guidelines for living?
  • What are some differences? Why do you suppose the religions differ in these ways?
  • The Eightfold Path has not changed in 2,500 years. This version of the UU Principles was adopted in 1985, and, in accordance with our bylaws, we review the Principles for revision periodically. Where do you think the staying power of the Eightfold Path comes from? Do you think the seven UU Principles could have the same staying power?
  • Which set of guidelines resonates with you more personally? Which inspires you more? Which do you feel spurs you more to action for personal transformation? Which do you feel spurs you more to action in the world?

For the sake of your guest, keep this conversation within 10 minutes or less. Use newsprint for a "parking lot," a place to record any topics that emerge that the group would like to discuss but which are not pertinent to the immediate discussion.

Inform the group that a guest will enter shortly, someone who is both Unitarian Universalist and a student of Buddhism. Tell the group, in these words or your own:

Did you know that quite a few UUs identify themselves as Buddhist? Some of them belong to the Unitarian Universalist Buddhist Fellowship, a community of UU Buddhists from all over the world. Our guest has been invited to talk specifically about the intersection of Unitarian Universalism and Buddhism. What other questions would you like to ask our guest?

Ask a youth to write down suggested questions from the group. If the group needs prompting, suggest they might like to know if the guest's Buddhist beliefs encourage them toward social action, or if the guest attends a Buddhist temple in addition to the UU congregation.

Invite the guest in and make them comfortable. Let the guest and participants talk. If the youth run out of questions, refer them back to their list or suggest they share some of their earlier observations about the similarities and differences between the Eightfold Path and the UU Principles. If you have the youth's permission, show the artwork created earlier.

Thank the guest for spending time and sharing stories with you.

Conclude the activity with the observation that constant reflection and examination of what best furthers our spiritual work-what we have been doing with this exercise-is part of both Buddhism and Unitarian Universalism, one strong parallel between the two faiths.