Monday, March 11, 2013

Banksy and the Foundations of Buddhism

The first Noble Truth of Buddhism claims everyone suffers.

It's the question of suffering that drives Buddhism as a religion.  Suffering - and how to overcome it.

I started out class today asking if students agreed with the premise that everyone suffers.  I then shared a story from last night.  After dinner, my kids had a choice of dessert: ice cream or a brownie.  Gwennie chose ice cream, but changed her mind to brownie and threw a fit.  ...Needless to say, suffering ensued.  She was suffering because she had a bowl of ice cream.

As a class, we discussed whether or not her suffering was valid.  Most students said she wasn't really suffering.

Next, we looked at a picture by the graffiti artist, Banksy:

Obviously, there's a lot to discuss in this painting.  I brought up John Green's comment: "Can we take a moment to pause and consider that most t-shirts see more of the world than most of us?"

So, we discussed globalization.

And irony.  Most students are familiar with the word, but they don't understand it yet.

And we discussed suffering.  Would this child be justified in saying that my daughter doesn't understand true suffering?  That's obviously Banksy's point.  How can someone look at this without having their first-world problems put in perspective?

But, does that negate the Buddha's claim?  I'm sure many of us have heard of people with extraordinary wealth who were not happy.  Does this picture negate their suffering?  Is the person on earth who suffers the worst torments the only one who truly suffers?

I think Banksy's point was clear, and it is valid.  And if nothing else, the picture makes us stop and think.

Buddhism teaches that suffering is rooted in desire.  As a class, we examined this as well.

Most classes re-watched a two minute crash course segment on Siddartha Guatama and the origins of Buddhism/ how he discovered the Four Noble Truths and became The Buddha.

The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism:

1: Life is suffering
2: Suffering comes from desire/wanting
3: Suffering can be ended by ending desire
4: The Eight-Fold Path helps people overcome desire

Students, if you want extra credit, read and discuss the blog with an adult.  Then, once you've done that, write the following quote on a piece of paper and turn it in tomorrow:  "Woe to me and my first world problems."

And here is a video of Kino Klub:

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