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What is similar and different about the young son in the two stories, and what do you see each son as representing?

1. Read the Buddhist and Christian versions of the prodigal son story: http://www.comparativereligion.com/prodigal.html

How is the role of the father different in the two versions of the story?
What is similar and different about the young son in the two stories, and what do you see each son as representing?
What seems to be the main issue in each parable, and how is that issue resolved?

2.The two basic and underlying approaches to religion are seen in these two parables. The Buddhist version teaches that one must cultivate worthiness through diligence and wisdom; the Christian version presents a restored relationship with God as a gift received in response to a repentant heart.

Seeking to earn favor with the divine through self-effort, or humbling self to receive by faith what cannot be achieved by human effort – which approach do you favor, and why?
Which approach do you think is more common?

3.Buddhism operates from the assumption that ignorance is the basic human problem, which is resolved by becoming enlightened.

How does a Buddhist understand what it means to become enlightened?
How does the American understanding of being enlightened differ from the Buddhist understanding – if at all?

4. The most important of the Four Noble Truths (FNT) is the fourth, the Noble Eightfold Path (NEP).

How would explain the NEP in your own words?
What in particular stood out to you about these “paths”?
What is the goal of following the NEP?
How realistic do you think it is to achieve this goal through adhering to the NEP?

5. As the initial discussion question focused on the fourth of the Four Noble Truths, let’s step back and consider the Four Noble Truths as a whole.

Without using the short summary in the text, how would you briefly describe these truths?
How much do you agree with these “truths” as accurately representing life?
Do you think an individual can end their human desires and still be a genuine human being?

6. From the Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path, we move to the text discussion of the way Buddhists look at the world. Please respond to the following:

What are these characteristics of reality called?
How would you explain these characteristics in your own words?
What is your general reaction to this view of reality?
Which one of the characteristics most catches your interest, and why?

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