Part 1 : Discuss the circumstances surrounding Siddhartha Gautama that led him to renounce his princely life and seek out the age-old question of the meaning of life. What unique conditions created such an impetus for Gautama? Might we regard this story as mythical in some way, and if so does it apply to each of us now (in the modern age)? Can you find it in your own life? (You could think about and research Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey” for example). How do you react to the Four Noble Truths and to the Buddha’s assertion that all life is suffering, thus necessitating the Eightfold Path as a solution?
Part 2 : Let’s try to put three diverse things together. First read the Heart Sutra again (multiple times)ATTACHED, and then re-read the section on Madhyamaka (the Middle Way) ATTACHED explanation. Finally consider the following thought that Nirvana can be experienced, but not expressed in language (hence the Ch’an/Zen approach to using koans to lead a seeker to enlightenment). Do you see a common theme? Do all of these disparate aspects of Buddhism fit together? How?