Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Lotus Sutra: the Physician and the Poisoned Children

I thought this story of The Physician and the Poisoned Children (scroll about halfway down in the link) would be a good lead-in to our annual festival, Segaki. During Segaki, we coax the Hungry Ghosts towards the Dharma with sweets, help, and gentle instruction. The Hungry Ghosts are frightened, willful, and not sure how to proceed. Much like the Gakis, the children in this story are frightened and willful. Their physician parent needs to cure them after they drank some poison, but the poison addles their minds. The physician must be creative to get them to take the medicine they need.

My co-teacher, Kim, led this class. Kim quickly established her different teaching style when she prepared to set up the altar. With various items on a tray, she mindfully handed each girl an item to place on the altar. One of the girls asked, "What about the Bodhi tree?" In the first lesson, they liked a particular jade plant next to the Buddha, towering over the statue "like a Bodhi Tree." So we placed the jade plant on the altar too.

Kim began the day's lesson by having the girls draw a picture of something their parents have them do that they don't particularly like to do. She also had them think about those things they like to do. Kim and the girls and I talked about these things we didn't like, but were probably good for us to do anyway, such as washing the dishes, or school work. After the pictures were done, Kim turned to the Lotus Sutra and read them the story of the Physician and the Poisoned Children.

At the end, I had just a couple of minutes to remind them that we would have Segaki at the next dharma school, and compared the Gakis to the poisoned children. I said that while the physician found a way to help the children by pretending she died, we find ways to help the Gakis by helping them, giving them treats, and being kind. Sometimes we need to teach or to learn in different ways.

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