Sunday, November 23, 2008

Life of Buddha: The Middle Way

I used a combination of my own narration, and some excerpts in verse from The Light of Asia by Sir Edwin Arnold.

After Siddhartha left home, he cut off his hair, and traded his clothes for old yellow robes. He joined some monks, or yogis, who thought if they deprived themselves, and treated their bodies in extreme ways, they could achieve a certain wisdom. This old poem form of the story has wonderfully grotesque descriptions of the scene. However, it would work better for children a little older with more vocabulary. Also, it is good to begin a lesson with a vocabulary game of some sort, covering those more complex words.

Siddhartha nearly died, but a girl passing by offered him some food, which made the monk realize his old life of riches didn't give him what he needed, but neither did this life of deprivation. It is compared to a musical instrument, the lyre, this middle way that he found. The key is not to make the strings too tight, or too loose.

I asked the kids if they had examples of "too much" or "too little" like this. Not really, so I discussed the Buddha's two extremes some more.

For our activity, I created a coloring page using imagery from the coloring book, and an image of a lyre. In the instrument, I punched holes so the girls could insert some glittery string, taping it on the back. Here is the Middle Way coloring page.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Life of Buddha: Encountering Suffering

Various picture books of the Buddha's life have different qualities that make them good. I chose bits from each of the three books for this lesson. I reminded the girls of The Charioteer Song that we sing sometimes. This story, they are familiar with.

For an activity, I created a scroll using the images from the coloring book of Buddha's life. Click for the Buddha's four sights away from the palace. For prep, I printed, cut in half, pasted the two pieces, and pasted popsicle sticks on the ends.

To learn the full story of the 4 sights that prompted Siddhartha to leave home, see the song:
The Charioteer Song page 1
The Charioteer Song page 2

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Life of Buddha: Devadatta

The next lesson after this is the ceremony Segaki, and it seemed to me Devadatta makes a good example of a Hungry Ghost. While I would have liked to teach the Buddha's life in a chronological order, I liked the idea of relating his life to our ceremonies more, so the story of his birth comes much later in the year when we celebrate Wesak.

Image found here
I shared the story of Siddhartha, the young Buddh-to-be, with Devadatta and the Swan from the picture book Buddha by Demi.

While Siddhartha's father protected him from seeing old age, sickness, and death, he still got into things with his cousin Devadatta, as boys do.  In this story, Devadatta shot down a swan, and Siddhartha caught it to nurse back to health.

Each boy considered the swan to be his, so they took the disagreement to the court, where it was decided Siddhartha could keep the swan, as life is sacred.

While I told the story, I had the girls color a picture of the swan story from Story of the Buddha: A Coloring Book found at buddhanet.  (There is also a text book that includes the images and more text.)

Once done, we moved on to creating a swan origami. To accommodate the younger ages, I sought simple swan origami instructions. The kids had a choice, to keep the origami separate, or to paste it to their picture.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Life of Buddha: Buddha as Teacher, Awakened One


Dharma School 9/28/08, a set on Flickr.
I keep the first lesson simple when there are many kids returning who know each other. I need to allow for time for them to catch up, reforge their bonds. I concentrate on reviewing what we do in Dharma School, paying more detailed attention to altar and meditation instruction.

Looking at the Buddha as our Teacher and the Awakened One fits right in with this introduction, and with introducing the year's subject.

There are several picture books I use for this year's lessons. For this introduction about the Buddha teaching, I used just one page from The Prince Who Ran Away: The Story Of Gautama Buddha by Anne Rockwell.

I allowed more time for the activity of painting pictures of the Buddha using paint pens.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Six Realms: Skit: Heaven Meets Hell

This skit came from the girls' idea of Heaven meeting Hell. When they held up the mirrors to each other, the audience loved it. All parts in blue are repeated by the chorus.

Heaven Meets Hell

Narrator: Somewhere, in some time, perhaps right now, there's a being who found herself in heaven, and through good merit lives the life of a deva.

[A deva is enjoying herself. She finds flowers. She dances around. A ukulele plays.]

Chorus: Life is good. No worries. Happy happy joy joy. ….Sleeeep.

Life is good. No worries. Happy happy joy joy. ….Sleeeep.

[The deva dances around the chorus, puts the flower in the arrangement on the altar, and lays down for a nap. Chorus stops chanting on 'sleeeeep.' She dreams.]

[Two people in the hell realm rise up from somewhere, bump into each other, and start fighting.]

Chorus: They hurt me. I hate them! It's not my fault! I will hurt THEM! They hurt me. I hate them! It's not my fault! I will hurt THEM!

[The two people swing sticks, echoes the heaven dance, but more foot pounding. Hit a cushion on 'THEM'.]

[The deva wakes suddenly with that whack.]

Deva: Was that a dream or a vision?

Narrator: Our lovely deva was not going to rest with this question, though devas in heaven love to lounge around and sleep. She decides to visit the wish-fulfilling tree.

Deva: Oh Tree. I would like a tool that can tell me what place this was, or if this was just a dream.

[The deva is handed a ?camera ?small tv.]

Deva: It is true. There is a place they call hell, and the people there are so mean, and in so much pain. Oh Tree, please give me a tool that will take me there so I can help them.

Narrator: Well, my friends, you know what that means, don't you? Our beautiful Deva has just opened the door to Bodhisattva training. Without thinking about her own safety, she wants to leave her luxurious heaven to help those angry beings. Naturally, this summons a Bodhisattva, who says,

Bodhisattva: I can take you there, but such a journey comes with a condition.

Deva: I am willing.

Bodhisattva: You must know that you are stepping onto a difficult path, but a noble path. You will find you cannot turn away from suffering. You will find you put others before yourself.

Deva: I am quite willing.

Bodhisattva: You are quite sure about this?

Deva: I am most definitely willing.

Narrator: So the Bodhisattva took the Deva by the hand and led her to the Hell Realm. First they traveled past the realm of the Fallen Gods.

[They move clockwise around the room. The chorus follows.]

Chorus: I want that. You don't deserve that. I deserve that. It should be mine. I will take it! I want that. You don't deserve….

Narrator: And on they went past the animal realm.

Chorus: I need food. I need sleep. I need babies. You are prey. I need food…

Narrator: And the Bodhisattva led the Deva past the center of the Wheel of Life, where the three creatures of the poisonous passions whirled.

[3 of the chorus ring around the rosy saying:]

1Choral: Gimme. Gimme. Gimme…

2Choral: I don't want to know. I don't want to know….

3Choral: Get away. Get away. Get away…

Narrator: and the two arrive in hell, where they see lord Yama and many beings in torment, including the 2 fighters from the Deva's dream.

[the two are fighting again, face to face]

Narrator: Our brave Deva asks the Bodhisattva,

Deva: How can we help them?

[the Bodhisattva hands her a mirror, and she holds one too.]

Bodhisattva: On three. Ready? One….Two…..Three!

[each holds her mirror in front of one of the fighters. Each fighter sees her reflection, stops, covers her eyes with her hands, breaking the arm locks.]

Bodhisattva: The best way to help someone in the Hell Realm is to help her see herself clearly. It is painful, but not as painful as Hell itself. ….Come. There is more you can do.

Narrator: So the Bodhisattva leads the Deva further clockwise, back up toward Heaven, and past the realm of the Hungry Ghosts.

Chorus: I am thirsty. Oh! It burns! I am hungry. Oh! It tastes awful! I need something! I am thirsty…

Narrator: And the Bodhisattva leads her even further to the Human Realm.

Bodhisattva: Now, my lovely Deva, you may return to the Heaven Realm, where life is good, there are no worries, and you can sleep. But I recommend you stay here, where all the realms are reflected, and you can do the most good. [Chorus chants softly: Compassion! Love! Joy! Peace!] Humans can think of others. Humans can change, and you can help them. You can take the bodhisattva path.

Deva: As I said, I am willing. [All join the chorus Compassion! Love! Joy! Peace!]

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Six Realms: review

I was a bit ambitious with this was too much to cover in one lesson. While I intended to cover it in two, we needed to spend our time on our skit practice. Click on the pictures for a larger image. The girls relished trying to come up with the answers, though some of the details were new to them.

And here are the answers:

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Six Realms: The Human Realm

My co-teacher Kim led this lesson.  She started off with a game.  People drew fortunes from a little box Kim shared.  Here are some of the fortunes as examples:
You will do great in school and go to a good college.
You will make it a practice to ask Kanzeon, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, for help every time you fell worried.
You will get an exciting job at the zoo, and one day you will get bitten by a hippopotamus.
You will break your leg and not be able to go on a ski trip with your friend, but the leg will heal completely.
You will marry a person you love very much and will enjoy that person's company for many years.
Kim drew out some of the aspects of the fortunes, things that can occur in the Human Realm.  Some of them involved losing something important to them, bad things happen, good things happen.  Some were things they would do in Dharma School, they could choose.

When Kim asked which realm they would prefer to be in, one child said the Heaven Realm, but another said the Human Realm, because in the Heaven Realm they didn't always keep caring about others.  Kim said the thing about the Human Realm, is it does contain bits of the other realms, but not to such extremes, and that it is easier to get off the Wheel of Life in the Human Realm.  It is more possible to make choices.

For a craft, we had them "draw the comic strip of their life, with Kanzeon as the hero."  We talked about the Thousand-Armed Kanzeon with her many tools, and how these tools help us in our human life.  We also included more objects for our altar this day, including some household tools.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Six Realms: The Asura Realm

After meditation, for check-in I asked the girls to name something they really wanted but weren't able to have. Maybe somebody else has that thing.

When I introduced the Asura Realm, I pointed out the wish-fulfilling tree.  Did they remember that from the Heaven Realm.  The trunk and roots are in the Asura Realm.  If you look closely, you might find some of those people trying to cut it down because they want the fruits of that tree.  They feel they ought to be able to have them.

I told as story called The Magic Tree, reworked from the tale told by Uma Krishnaswami, found in Shower of Gold.  See my version of the story here. I've included elements a narrator might like to draw out in conversation.

For a craft, I used a foil art kit I found in the chain drugstore nearby.  I related it to the Asuras, as these people are fond of acquiring shiny, glitzy things.  The kids could make their own shapes, using glue, or pre-cut stickers, to stick the glue on one side, and to another surface on the other side.

Foil Art kit

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Six Realms: The Heaven Realm

My co-teacher began this lesson with a lying-down yoga meditation. She got them comfortable on the floor, making sure they were not touching each other by giving them gentle directions. She did some guided meditation, then carefully brought out her ukulele to make a big, sudden sound. It woke them up! Kim used this to demonstrate how we can get sleepy and complacent when we have an easy life. We had the kids look closely at the Asura, or Fighting Gods Realm. We asked them what they could see (clouds, building, tree, forest, etc). Then Kim taught them more about the myth of the Heaven Realm. The people who live there are the Devas. People got to this realm by doing good things in their lives. People in Heaven get to sit around and play games, and are waited on. They never sweat. Basically those things we might all think of when we think of Heaven. The city, she said, is called Lovely. There's a wish-fulfilling tree in Heaven, as well as a forest. Sometimes people want to get into Heaven and attack them. The people don't want to fight, of course. They use the power of the magical forest in those cases. People there are concerned about others, but they can become sleepy and complacent. "Not my concern," one child responded. The other problem about doesn't last forever. It's good to enjoy Heaven realms while we have them, but not to get too attached. For the craft activity, Kim prepared a poster on which the kids could put their own bits of Heaven. They had paper for themselves as well, so they could take something home. Five years later, the poster still hangs in the Zen Center library.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Six Realms: The Hell Realm

I have a couple of lessons that we covered in November that I started writing about but haven't finished. We did this lesson on the Hell Realm in January. I've been noodling around with Web 2.0 for work, so I decided to create this Google slideshow presentation. Enjoy.

You can view a larger version here.