Role Models

If looking for examples of living a good life according to Buddhist traditions, these could include the historical Buddha himself, some of his notable disciples, or King (or Emperor) Ashoka who conquered a large part of present day India and beyond a couple of centuries after the historical Buddha, then renounced violence (both war and hunting) and supported Buddhism. His ‘rock edicts’, 32 of which have been found by archaeologists, gave the population guidelines for living morally responsible lives, and he engaged in useful social projects such as medical services for both people and animals, constructing wells and reservoirs, building places for travellers to stay, and prisoner welfare services. He also supported teachers of other religions, built stupas to house Buddhist relics, and sent out missionaries to spread Buddhist teachings to other lands, most successfully in sending his own ordained son and daughter to Sri Lanka, which has had a continuous Buddhist history ever since. Each Buddhist country and group has its own heroes throughout history and today. Well known exemplary Buddhists today might include the current Dalai Lama, or the Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. Though women tend to be less well known, there are exemplary women throughout Buddhist history, starting with his aunt Mahaprajapati Gotami who argued for women’s ordination, and the 73 nuns whose work is included in the Pali Canon. Many earlier RE textbooks have included the Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi who received the Noble Peace prize in 1991 for her long, non-violent struggle, but she has recently been criticised for defending the actions of the military in Myanmar against the Rohingya people.

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