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On the Pedagogy of Suffering

Hermeneutic and Buddhist Meditations


Edited By David W. Jardine, Christopher Gilham and Graham McCaffrey

This text articulates how and why suffering can be pedagogical in character and how it is often key to authentic and meaningful acts of teaching and learning. This is an ancient idea from the Greek tragedies of Aeschylus (c. 525 BCE) – pathei mathos or «learning through suffering». In our understandable rush to ameliorate suffering at every turn and to consider every instance of it as an error to be avoided at all costs, we explore how the pedagogy that can come from suffering becomes obscured and something vital to a rich and vibrant pedagogy can be lost. This collection threads through education, nursing, psychiatry, ecology, and medicine, through scholarship and intimate breaths, and blends together affinities between hermeneutic conceptions of the cultivation of character and Buddhist meditations on suffering and its locale in our lives. This book will be useful for graduate courses on hermeneutic research in education, educational psychology, counseling, and nursing/medicine.


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“Just This Once”: An Introduction to the Pedagogy of Suffering (David W. Jardine, Graham McCaffrey, and Christopher Gilham )


c h a p t e r t w o “Just This Once”: An Introduction To The Pedagogy of Suffering david w. jardine, graham mccaffrey, & christopher gilham The Descent into the Womb Sutra states: Even though you have been born a human with such limitless suffering, you still have the best of situations. It is difficult to attain this even in ten million eons. Even when a deity dies, the other deities say, “May you have a happy rebirth.” By happy rebirth they mean a human rebirth. Why would I waste this…good life? When I act as though it were insignificant, I am deceiving myself. What could be more foolish than this? Just this once I am free. . . . . Although we have sunk into the midst of cyclic existence An ocean of suffering with neither bottom nor shore We are not disenchanted; we are pleased and excited. We boast of happiness. This seems insane. (Tsong-kha-pa, 2000, pp. 121, 333) We ought to be like elephants in the noontime sun in summer, when they are tormented by heat and thirst and catch sight of a cool lake. They throw themselves into the water with the greatest pleasure and without a moment’s hesitation. In just the same way, for the sake of ourselves and others, we should give ourselves joyfully to the practice. (Kun- zang Pelden, 2007, p. 255) 2 | david w. jardine e t al. Our cover illustration by Katy Orme was done in a wonderful kindergarten classroom. Each year without...

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