I. I'm Free
Nirvana means something like "liberation" in Sanskrit.
Any book on world spirituality really should include Bhagavad Gita ("Song of the Lord [Krishna]"), one of the world's great spiritual classics.
In it, Krishna instructs Prince Arjuna on the path of liberation (from bondage to desire and illusion).
Here's one of Krishna's basics:
"That one I love who is incapable of ill will, who is friendly and compassionate... who looks upon friend and foe with equal regard...." (12:13)
(Sound familiar? Several hundred years later, Jesus of Nazareth said, "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' [cf. Leviticus 19.18] But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." [Matthew 5:43-44])
Hinduism isn't really difficult to understand, as the author of the teen book claims. It's very simple, really.
Gandhi, when asked to summarize his life in 25 words, said he could do it in 3, and also summarized Hinduism:
"Renounce and enjoy."
He was quoting an Upanishad, one of the foundational texts of Hinduism.
One "renounces" desire because it clouds reality.
And one "enjoys," because, as the Who sings in "I'm Free":
and freedom tastes of reality."
The lyrics continue:
"If I told you what it takes
To reach the highest high,
You'd laugh and say nothing's that simple."
II. Living Dangerously
If I were teaching a class or writing a book for teens (or anyone) on religion, I would make all these tie-ins to movies, films, politics, etc.
Indonesian dictator Suharto died today, aged 86.
(These murderous bastards too often seem to have the physical constitutions of the Terminator, they just go on and on.)
The 1982 film "The Year of Living Dangerously" is a great introduction to Indonesian political history, about the near-coup in 1965 that set the stage for Suharto's 1970 rise to power.
A turning point for the main character, Australian journalist Guy Hamilton (Mel Gibson), rests on a passage from the Bhagavad Gita:
"All is clouded by desire."