Buddhist Folktales

Grades: 
9, 10, 11, 12

Learners will read and analyze Buddhist folktales and determine their relevance to everyday life. There are times when the easiest thing one can do is leave and let others deal with a stressful situation. When one stays and works through the tough times, it can be a gift, not only for those who are also there, but for the one who makes the decision to stay. The Buddhist folktale "The Steadfast Parrot" teaches that lesson. "The Banyan Deer" uses Buddha himself to show rulers how selflessness and sacrifice should guide their dealings with their subjects. The Blossom Tree emphasizes the importance of choosing persons wisely who will have great responsibility. The folktale, Great Joy the Ox, focuses on trust and proper respect toward those with whom we live and work. Padmasambhava and the Felicity Scarf cautions us against pride.

Lesson Rating 
0
Duration 
PrintFour Fifty-Five Minute Class Periods
Objectives 

The learner will:

  • use the geographic themes of location, place and human-environment relations to describe settings and cultures represented in a folktale.
  • identify aspects of a specific culture as revealed in the story.
  • describe and interpret symbolism in the folktale.
  • explain how steadfastness can be a philanthropic act when times are hard.
  • analyze how the Buddha’s example teaches rulers to behave toward their subjects.
  • describe the dangers of pride and the importance of trust in everyday relationships.
Home Connection 

With a member of the family, the learner will share the folktale "Padmasambhava and the Felicity Scarf," pointing out that Padmasambhava did not destroy the king but instead changed his pride to humility. They should discuss the question: "In real life, is it ever possible to overcome a foe by changing him/her rather than destroying him/her?"

Bibliography 

"The Banyan Deer." Martin, Rafe. The Hungry Tigress: Buddhist Legends and Jataka Tales. Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, © 1990. Used with the permission of Parallax Press. www.parallax.org "Reprinted from The Hungry Tigress (1990) by Rafe Martin with permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, California."

"The Blossom Tree." Hyde-Chambers, Fredrick and Aubrey. Tibetan Folk Tales. Boulder & London: Shambhala, ©1981, pp.7-13. Used with the permission of Shambhala Publications, Inc. "From TIBETAN FOLK TALES by Frederick and Audrey Hyde-Chambers, ©1981. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston, www.shambhala.com"

Dugan, Dana, and Matt Furber, "Dalai Lama Extols Virtues of Compassion," Idaho Mountain Express and Guide, 14 September 2005, http://archives.mtexpress.com/index2.php?issue_date=09-14-2005&ID=2005105238#.WEb3GbIrKpo 20 September 2005

"Great Joy the Ox." Martin, Rafe. The Hungry Tigress: Buddhist Legends and Jataka Tales. Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, © 1990. Used with the permission of Parallax Press. www.parallax.org "Reprinted from The Hungry Tigress (1990) by Rafe Martin with permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, California."

"The King as Rain-Maker." Living Heritage Trust of Sri Lanka Web site. http://livingheritage.org/king-rain-maker.htm (13 June 2005)

"Padmasambhava and the Felicity Scarf." Hyde-Chambers, Fredrick and Aubrey. Tibetan Folk Tales. Boulder & London: Shambhala, ©1981, pp.21-23. Used with the permission of Shambhala Publications, Inc. "From TIBETAN FOLK TALES by Frederick and Audrey Hyde-Chambers, ©1981. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston, www.shambhala.com"

"Paul Bunyan, an American Legend." Bemidji, Minnesota – USA Home Page, 2004, http://www.visitbemidji.com/bemidji/paultales.html (20 September 2005)

"The Steadfast Parrot." Martin, Rafe. The Hungry Tigress: Buddhist Legends and Jataka Tales. Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, © 1990. Used with the permission of Parallax Press. www.parallax.org "Reprinted from The Hungry Tigress (1990) by Rafe Martin with permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, California."

Instructions

Print
  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Put the term philanthropy on the board and ask for a definition (Giving time, talent and/or treasure and taking action for the common good). Once the definition is given, remind the learners that there are times when a person is a giver but does not give a tangible item. Ask for examples of what might be given.

  2. Explain that it is important to understand people and their environment when studying folktales. These stories, "The Steadfast Parrot," "The Banyan Deer," The Blossom Tree," "Great Joy the Ox," and "Padmasambhava and the Felicity Scarf" are Buddhist folktales. Using a resource book or the Internet, look up Buddhism and find the countries where it is practiced in large numbers. On a map, locate India and Tibet’s absolute location (longitude and latitude) and relative location (general descriptors of where the places are located).

  3. In a brainstorming session, have the learners describe these areas as a place by listing recognizable physical characteristics (landforms, water bodies, climate, soil, natural vegetation, animal life) and human characteristics (inhabitants, settlement patterns, languages, religions, how inhabitants make a living).

  4. For background information, read about Buddhism and its founder, Siddhartha Gautama (later known as Buddha).

  5. Read "The Steadfast Parrot" together. Identify what type of folktale it is (fairy tale, myth, legend/epic, tall tale, fable, religious story/parable).

  6. The parrot used the words happy, content, peaceful, free to describe what the fig tree meant to him. It was not only a place where he would perch during the day, it was his refuge. Since a refuge is a "shelter or protection from danger or distress," imagine how difficult it was for the parrot to stay with the fig tree since it was no longer protecting the parrot from danger and distress. What words of the storyteller reveal the depths of the parrot’s true feelings for the fig tree? Instead of steadfast, what other words could have been used to describe the parrot and name the story?

  7. Describe the symbolism in the story. What lesson does this folktale teach which helps us understand what is important in life? What are some real-life situations when steadfastness in the face of difficulties would be crucial to those involved? Was the parrot’s act philanthropic? If it was, what was given? What is the importance of such a gift in real life?

  8. Read "The Banyan Deer" together. Identify what type of folktale it is (fairy tale, myth, legend/epic, tall tale, fable, religious story/parable).

  9. Discuss the details of the folktale:

  10. Three kings are included in this story. On the board place a three-sectioned T-chart with the headings: human king, Banyan Deer King, Other Deer King. Under each name, fill in words and phrases that characterize each of the three kings. What do these terms reveal about the character of each of the kings?

  11. By offering himself to save the life of the pregnant doe, the Banyan Deer teaches a lesson to other rulers by saying, "What ruler can be free if the people suffer?" He claimed it was his right and duty to take her place. What did he mean by saying it was his right and it was his duty? How did he act for the common good? Does this example of selflessness give today’s rulers a model for governance?

  12. After learning the lesson from the "Compassionate Teacher of Kings," the ruler states that "a king should care for the least of his subjects." The ruler then frees all beings in his realm from the threat of being trapped, hunted or killed. Give examples of how a modern-day ruler would translate this statement into action.

  13. Read "The Blossom Tree" together. Identify what type of folktale it is (fairy tale, myth, legend/epic, tall tale, fable, religious story/parable).

  14. This story within a story is a folktale of caring, justice and fairness, respect, responsibility and trustworthiness. Using both the situation of the wealthy merchant and his trusted herdsman and the tale of the king and his blossom tree, elicit examples in the story where each character trait is exemplified.

  15. What is the lesson of this folktale? Does it have present-day relevance?

  16. Before reading the next story, ask the learners if they are familiar with "Babe, the Blue Ox." In a quick brainstorming session of no more than a minute, ask the learners to share what they remember about Babe and his friend, Paul Bunyan. (Option: Go online or use another resource to get background information on the "mythical king of the lumberjacks," Paul Bunyan and Babe, the Blue Ox. See Bibliographical References.)

  17. Explain that the next story is about "Great Joy," another strong ox who teaches his master an important lesson. Read "Great Joy the Ox" together. Identify what type of folktale it is (fairy tale, myth, legend/epic, tall tale, fable, religious story/parable).

  18. Look at the words of Great Joy and the brahmin. What do they reveal about themselves through their words? What do they reveal about themselves through their actions? What examples are there in real life where "actions speak louder than words"?

  19. Great Joy the Ox revealed dignity, strength, loyalty, kindness and self-respect. What qualities did the brahmin reveal at various times in the story?

  20. Before reading the next folktale, ask the learners what the expression, "Pride goeth before a fall," suggests. What are some examples in sports or other areas where this expression came true?

  21. Read "Padmasambhava and the Felicity Scarf" together. Identify what type of folktale it is (fairy tale, myth, legend/epic, tall tale, fable, religious story/parable).

  22. Padmasambhava is an important personage of Tibetan Buddhism and is often called the "second Buddha". In Buddhist culture the kata, or felicity scarf, is given as a sign of deep respect. It may also symbolize a bond between the giver and the receiver, since it is often returned to the giver. In the story, why was it important to the king that Padmasambhava pay homage to him? Was this an example of "pride going before a fall"?

  23. Why didn’t Padmasambhava hurt the king, but instead taught him a lesson about respect? (As part of his faith, Padmasambhava felt that one should not eliminate negative forces but instead redirect them toward spiritual awakening.) In real life, is it ever possible to overcome a foe by changing him/her rather than destroying him/her?

  24. Ask the learners to identify what is revealed about Buddhist culture in the folktales. How do the stories match the teachings of the Buddha? (Teacher’s Note: Have the learners read "Dalai Lama Extols Virtues of Compassion" [See Bibliographical References] before discussing this question.)

Assessment 

Form teams of two or three learners. Using the word steadfast, form words that reveal the lesson of the folktale "The Steadfast Parrot." An example has been started below. Use all nine letters. F R I E N D S H I P T L O V E A D E V O T I O N F C O U R A G E S T Create four more puzzles which reveal the lesson of each of the remaining four folktales.

Cross Curriculum 

Check the local telephone directory or go online to determine if there is a local Buddhist community available to speak to the class about "generosity." Ask for information on their philanthropic activities. If the class wishes to support their efforts, a "giving" activity may be developed. To research the work of non-local groups online, refer to "engaged Buddhism: organizations".

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Identify and discuss examples of philanthropy and charity in modern culture.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss and give examples of why some humans will sacrifice for the benefit of unknown others.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define and give examples of motivations for giving and serving.