This "insider's view" of Buddhist lives makes a welcome change from the usual "outsider looking in" approach. The videos cover the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha in four 30-minute sections and would be ideal for use in smaller units with comments and questions from the teacher.
The handbook helps with suggestions and information sheets, suitable for 14 and 15-year-olds. The cartoons are simple and the glossary is helpful, but it would have been better to have key words on the screen. Experiential activities like "stilling" exercises are carefully explained, and the authors point out that "it is not appropriate to teach meditation .. . in the context of an RE lesson".
Overall, this is a high-quality production. The video has accessible language, evocative photography and film footage from Bodhgaya to Manchester, and from the Fifties to the present day. Neil Clark's narration is gentle and clear, if a little slow and unvaried at times.
A still picture version of the Buddha's life is used to good effect with atmospheric music to describe dramatic moments, but the one-voice narration continues at length.
Any video material has limitations, and this is no exception. I found it hard to escape the impression that Buddhism is dominated by male voices and images. No women are heard until we get to a leader of a yoga class in the second section of tape one. They are only heard again in a female meditation group in the last section of tape two.
The video also gives a predominantly western view of Buddhism with Europeans providing most of the commentary. We see children in a Buddhist context in the east, but not in the west, which possibly reflects the young adult recruitment to western Buddhism. This contributes to the image many young people have of religion as an adult activity.
The section on abstention from sexual misconduct is sensitively handled, but there are a few moments in both videos that, without careful management, could cause havoc.
Linda Rudge is director of the Keswick Hall Centre for Research and Development in Religious Education at the University of East Anglia, Norwich