Taking the Higher a step nearer nirvana

2nd March 2001 at 00:00
UNDERSTANDING BUDDHISM. by John Keenan. CD-Rom single user pound;40; additional user pound;10; 8 users pound;80. Big Questions, Moss-side of Tifty, Fyvie, Turriff, Aberdeenshire, AB53 8RS, tel: 01651 891946

Were you to ask me if understanding Buddhism is a challenging task and were I to be uninspired enough to reply, I might say just yes. However, this CD-Rom on the subject leaves me with no excuse. In the midst of a plethora of Things-To-Do, I started to review the material and immediately my interest was hooked and held.

The CD-Rom is marketed as an interactive course for Higher religious, moral and philosophical studies and it lives up to its claim. The so-called organising principles of the Higher course - the Human Condition, Goals and Means - signpost the analysis of central Buddhist ideas. As a tool in the classroom, then, it's first class. It would be of particular value in a bi-level class or if self-study is an integral part of the course.

The cover blurb promises video clips and slide shows. Often, these can be scrappy and unclear but not on this CD. The pictures load quickly and the main points are written on the screen, making them easier to follow.

It's invigorating to hear from both Ken Holmes, director of studies at Samye Ling, and Ani Lhamo, a practsing Buddhist nun. Watching these excellent clips made me feel a powerful sense of Buddhism as a living religious tradition. It is commendable the way Buddhist culture is married with concepts in the material, again encapsulating this sense of a religion which is very much alive.

Essay titles, assessments, links on the web, examples of the original Buddhist scriptures and more are all on the CD and, most importantly, are all pupil friendly. I asked one of my current philosophy students, who knows nothing about Buddhism, to view the CD with me. She was impressed, describing it as "very informative without being overwhelming and very appealing to pupils at Intermediate 2Higher level". Praise indeed.

I have a couple of relatively minor quibbles. The introduction is somewhat cliched - an occupational hazard for RE teachers - with its references to "our search for happiness" and "live to party". And I can't recommend a salary increase for the proofreaders. The smattering of errors in grammar and presentation was irritating.

Yet I urge schools to buy this CD. It will enhance their teaching of Buddhism and, let's face it, we need all the nirvana we can get.

Marj Adams is head of religious, moral and philosophical studies at Forres Academy, Moray


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