As I set out to design a course in Eastern philosophy for my college, I sought the council of a friend who has considerable experience teaching and traveling to meet scholars in the Buddhist world. Initially I thought we'd discuss the meta categories like Hinduism, Confucian thought, Buddhism and Taoism. However, our discussion quickly focused on the various merits of Theravada and Mahayana teachings. His position was that anything outside of the tipitaka was mere window dressing to the core texts. I disagree and believe the mahayana suttras have many insights worth exploring.
What does one teach to students who are encountering Buddhism for the first time? Certainly the Theravada teachings will form the root introduction to the four noble truths, but aside from the Dhammapada, what else should one teach to beginners? In my experience, texts by Mahayana teachers have been more accessible so I considered focusing on these. After our exchange, I am interested to hear what others believe about core texts one should present if there are only 3-4 weeks to cover Buddhism?
Your ideas are welcomed.