Sunday, November 25, 2007

Six Realms: The Beast Realm

The Animal Realm is one that kids understand instinctively. Kim led the discussion, asking the kids some leading questions that elicited this understanding. "How many kids have been told 'you're acting like animals'?" The conversation continued. "How do animals behave?" We were looking for answers like eat, fight, sleep, run. Animals don't think beyond their immediate needs.

Kim asked, "Do animals plan for 3 years in the future?" ..."Do animals go to school?"


"What do humans have that animals don't have?" The answer she was looking for is that we have a mind that allows us to be reflective, to think beyond the needs of the immediate moment, and to be concerned about our ethical behavior. We have the ability to choose to do good deeds, do refrain from doing bad things like stealing and killing.

Some of the girls were particularly sensitive to the fact that some animals do appear to make choices and do good things, so we talked about that. They were thinking of pets that save their humans, or of working animals. These animals are trained to do the deeds they know how to do, or their help arises more out of instinct than out of thoughtful reflection. As humans, we have the ability to think carefully and choose the wiser actions. Kim and I emphasized that we were talking more about the beast aspect of animals, not so much those animals with those loving and helping instinct.

Finally, we asked the question, "What can humans do that gets us out of the animal realm?" Kim had already mentioned one, study, or school. Meditation. Self-reflection. We can choose not to get caught up in those self-involved activities of the animal realm.

For an activity, Kim had them play charades in which the children acted out an animal. Only 1st or 2nd graders could use noises. Once they figured out the animal, she had them figure out the descriptive word from a list of words about the animal. Sharks --> violent. Cows --> dull. Snakes --> sneaky. Squirrels --> hoarders. Pigs --> greedy. Donkeys --> stubborn.

If I were to do this again, I would not stereotype the animals so much, as those sharp girls had more sophisticated views of animals, and resisted labeling all animals as this or that type.

For the craft, Kim had a list of the precepts, and the kids decorated covers for their precept books, complete with glitter glue and stickers.

The traditional antidote for beings stuck in the animal realm is thoughtful study.

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