Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Dhyana Paramita

Dhyana is the paramita of meditation, also translated as absorption, concentration, or contemplation. I figured with this for a lesson, it was a good time to spend a little more time on meditation instruction and more time for meditation. The girls were a little resistant to that, but I told them I was asking them to stretch a little. To make it easier to focus I gave them some small polished stones. I instructed them to move the pebble from one knee, or side, to the other with their breath. Inhale, pick up. Exhale put down. Once the five pebbles were moved, they could start over and move them back. Back and forth, I reminded them it was a bit like using the mala which they'd received at Jukai.

This sparked a small conversation. That was too fast. So I told them they could try one breath for pick up, one breath to put down, and one breath to pause. Or two breaths. The key for them was to try to find a rhythm that worked for them and helped them to keep focused on their breath.

So, eight minutes instead of the usual five. They'd had enough.

I told them Dhyana is important to Dharma Rain's particular kind of Buddhism. Dhyana is the word that became Ch'an when Buddhism went to China, and then became Zen when it went to Japan.

I chose a story from Kindness by Sarah Conover. It fit with the activity I had for the girls, and it illustrated that concentrated mind of Dhyana, even though it wasn't about sitting meditation. Called The Broom Master, it was a story about Chunda, a young man who loved his brother and followed the brother when he joined the monks that followed the Buddha. I changed the story slightly and changed Chunda's brother to his sister that joined the nuns. It felt too awkward to change Chunda's gender, but I liked the idea of making the person he looked up to a young woman. Chunda didn't have the brain to learn to read or write, which is something the monks did, so he thought he couldn't become a monk. His brother encouraged him to ask anyway, and the Buddha accepted him. I've no doubt this isn't an historical story, because the monks of Buddhas time memorized rather than wrote, and didn't stay put in a monastery. It came from Tibet via Surya Das.

The Buddha gave Chanda two simple phrases to repeat while he swept the monastery: remove all dust, remove all dirt. Even that was difficult, and with Ananda's help, he learned it in about a month. With a sweep of the broom, remove all dust, and with the return sweep, remove all dirt. This meditative practice ripened into a wisdom that earned him respect and love for his wise sayings. Another version of the story is found here.
Not an exact match, but related, for an activity I brought the materials to make mini Zen Gardens. Unfortunately, this was spring break week, and several girls were absent that I know would have loved this project. In the Zen Center library where we meet there is one of these homemade mini stone gardens, along with a tiny Buddha. I happened to have some Sculpey (like Fimo), and I found some Buddhist molds on ebay, as well as some dollhouse miniature rakes. The polished stones and sand I got in the crafts section. I scrounged about and found 2X3 white cardboard jewelry boxes for the base.

The one shown here is a lotus:

The one on the left, a Buddha. The one on the right, Kanzeon, or Kwan Yin, holding a lotus bud. We left the back of the pieces unmolded, but shaped so the figure could stand up. I sent the girls home with instructions for their parents on baking the polymer clay.

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