Sunday, February 22, 2009

Life of Buddha: The 4 Noble Truths

 I gave the girls an opportunity to learn another kind of walking meditation, outdoors.
I told them you want to pay attention to your body and how it touches the ground, how your breath moves with your body. How fast you go is up to you, but, you don't want to lose track of that concentration. If it helps you can try one of these ideas.
  • Visualize this: with every step you take you're sending roots down into the ground, roots that sprout. Behind you, lotus blossoms sprout. Think of lotus blossoms sprouting from your footsteps.
  • Think of your favorite animal. Think of how that animal is trying to be very quiet and not seen by other animals. It pays attention to  its body and knows exactly what its body is doing. You can pretend to be that animal.
  • Simply concentrate and pay attention to your breath and to how your body feels as you move and your feet touch the ground.
You're better off starting out slowly. If you feel like you can speed up and keep concentrating, you can do that. You don't have to follow each other; you can branch off and you can turn around. Bells ring to start and to end.
They liked that the meditation was fun, that they could turn around, go any way. I explained that this was a good meditation for getting used to keeping that concentration while moving, even while doing tasks. A neat thing about it is that you can do it in if you feel that need for that calm feeling of meditation, you can do this kind of meditative focus.

Earlier I'd requested we sing our song, "The Four Noble Truths," and now I reminded them of it, and told them that this is something that all Buddhists share, that we study the Four Noble Truths as the Buddha taught us. For that reason I chose this to represent the teaching part of the Buddha's life. I had them help me remember the Four Noble Truths from their knowledge of the song.
  1.  Everybody suffers just like you.
  2. We suffer because we grasp and crave.
  3. We can end the suffering by ending the craving.
  4. We can end the craving with The Eightfold Path. 
I reminded them of the Three Poisons: Greed; Hatred; and Delusion. These are what form the craving or attachment.

I went over the Eightfold Path with them, they helped. Right Understanding or View is seeing things as they really are. Right Intention is having a commitment with a positive emotion toward that commitment. Right Speech: don't lie; don't be mean with your words; don't gossip. Right Action (pretty straightforward). Right Livelihood. One volunteered "don't kill." So I asked, if someone is a butcher, is that Right Livelihood? In some Buddhist traditions, it would not be. However, in other traditions, if they do their job with care for the animals, so the animals don't suffer needlessly, it could be Right Livelihood. Right Effort: taking care; being thoughtful; doing your best. Right Mindfulness: paying attention. Right Concentration: as we discovered with the walking meditation, it's possible to bring that concentration to other parts of our life.

While they colored their copies of the Four Noble Truths with an image of an 8-spoked Dharma Wheel, I shared some very short stories that demonstrated this. These were made into stickers. I used the pop-up book Fishing for the Moon and other Zen Stories by Lulu Hansen. These are the things I drew out of the stories:

Fishing for the moon 
1. Mistaken about the moon in the well. “something terrible” they want it to be right.
2. Excitement clouds their thinking. They’re attached to it being right.
3. Understand clearly to end this attachment.
4. Right Understanding. Right Effort -> they did have this

Parable of the Strawberry 
1. Man in fear for his life.
2. Panic, clinging to life; attached to a future
3. Be present in this moment to let go of the wish for a particular future.
4. Right Mindfulness, Right Understanding

Girl on Muddy Road 
1. Monk annoyed, angry over breaking of the rules.
2. Attached to the rules, pushes away any distractions, afraid he’ll stray from his intention.
3. Concern about the spiritual effort of others blinds him to his own. Following rules doesn’t mean effort is correct. Thinks pushing distractions away makes you strong
4. Right Understanding, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Action

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