What better way to start off a good night’s sleep than with a nugget of ancient wisdom?
Scottish Buddhist monk Nagaraja presents a collection of 18 bedtime stories based on the Jakata Tales, folk tales featuring earlier incarnations of the Buddha. Each urges readers to “[r]elax, close your eyes, and imagine…” a specific scene or animal or person. This standard opening is followed by, “Do you want to know what happened? Then listen closely.” Each of the three-to-five-page tales is capped by a moral tied to a step on the Eightfold Noble Path, Buddha’s directives for overcoming suffering. A girl learns compassion when she’s magically made to feel the pain of a rabbit she’s injured. The tiny denizens of a desert willow learn their talents are important when they fend off larger animals by working together. The morals are succinct and instructive, but the tales are uneven; a few may inspire more questions about the bizarre actions of the characters than about the intended lessons. Meditation instructions appear at the close, along with a helpful index to issues and values from the tales. Brief explanations of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path and guidance on the book’s use round out the package, which is illustrated with big-eyed, bright, happy-looking animals and people.
It fills a niche for Buddhist families, but it’s not really for the uninitiated. (Short stories. 4-8)