Of the essence

9th May 2003 at 01:00
THE HEART OF HINDUISM. By Rasamandala Das. Iskcon Educational Services, primary pound;32.25, secondary pack Pounds. 45.25, home and library edition pound;35.25Tel: 01923 854425

Buddhist Centre in the City Clear Vision Trust pound;45 +VAT+pamp;p. Hajj, the Greatest Trip on Earth Channel 4 www.channel4.comhajj

Terence Copley looks at resources that shed some light on the everyday life of followers of three major religions

The Heart of Hinduism is a resource pack in three editions: primary, secondary, home and library. It includes a 160-page guide book, a CD-Rom, an audio CD, 10 schemes of work related to Qualifications and Curriculum Authority guidelines and a photo pack of 12 Hindu gods with bullet point information and web links on the back.

The guide is detailed and lavish, addressing concepts and values, central practices, lifestyle, continuity and change. It illustrates the complexities of Hinduism, gives useful analogies to help the reader and addresses common western misunderstandings.

The audio CD carries clear "lecturettes" as well as songs, prayers and mantras, reproduced with exceptional clarity. This means that Aum (Om), for example, is not merely heard, but explained. The CD-Rom with pronunciation guide contains stories, additional information and scripture extracts. The whole pack is a goldmine of subject knowledge for the teacher.

Buddhist Centre in the City is intended for key stage 3. This 29-minute video visit to a Manchester Buddhist centre is intended to complement an earlier video, Living Buddhism, also for KS3. It follows a class from Sale on a visit to the converted 1850s former warehouse. There is a 24-page teacher's handbook, including photocopiable worksheets. We are shown various aspects of the centre in addition to the Lotus Hall shrine room, so Buddhism comes across as a way of life and, unusually, QCA AT2, Learning from Religion, is more effective in this video than the AT1 material about the Buddha statue.

Hajj, the Greatest Trip on Earth, was screened in the weeks preceding the Gulf War. It will long be remembered and used by RE teachers as another good exemplar of AT2. Supplementary material can be accessed at www.channel4.comhajj. Instead of the rather arid facts about the Hajj which have become routine in some textbooks and videos, here we have real people with different and entirely credible backgrounds, preparing for and then going on this spiritual journey of a lifetime.

The five central people come from Kuwait, Pakistan, the UK and the USA.

They have different social, family and occupational backgrounds. They express some of the preoccupations that intrigue children - what about desert spiders? What if you get lost among millions of people in a tent city? Can you charge up your mobile phone in Mecca? It is in their hopes and fears, smiles and tears, that we are offered not more facts about Islam, but a window into what it means to be a Muslim visiting this holiest place, and what it means to take belief in God seriously.

Terence Copley is professor of religious education at Exeter University

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