Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lotus Sutra: Illuminating Light

IMG_4942_1 9-26-10This was the first Dharma School of the year, so I had a very short lesson introducing the theme.

I focused first on paying attention and the effort of sitting still in medition through the picture book Let's Do Nothing! by Tony Fucile.  Two boys who are playing have done everything there is to do, so they decide to do nothing. What results is a very busy time doing nothing.

We sang the song "This Light of Mine" as a prelude to the idea of the Illuminating Light coming from the Buddha.

I told the kids that we would be talking about stories from the Lotus Sutra, that these stories were told to many thousands of beings, including Bodhisattvas.  Some of the kids remembered learning about the Bodhisattvas, and they were told by the Buddha in a long long talk, and it's going to take us the whole year to talk about it.

When the Buddha gives this talk, I say, "This light shines from his head, this beautiful brilliant light.  Flowers rain from the sky, special rare flowers.  And the earth quakes and trembles, because what the Buddha is telling them is so important.  The Buddha is telling them how to live this life, and let go of pain. How to be a Buddha. How to be a Bodhisattva.  So last year we learned about Bodhisattvas, and this year we learn how to be a Bodhisattva."

I showed them pictures of the Buddha with the light, which also included a lotus flower seat.

Before we retrieve the snack, we sing this song:
Row, row, row your boat
To the other shore.
Buddha Power is our guide.
We need no other oar.

Then, for our craft, they drew pictures of the Buddha with the light, and I had various foam and glittery stickers they could add as well.

IMG_4941_1 9-26-10

Monday, August 30, 2010

Catching up

I never intended to get behind more than two years on my postings. What I'd like to do this year is keep up, and at the same time catch up with my past Dharma School lessons. Since I've last posted, the folks at my Zen Center decided to change the name of the Children's programming to Dharmagarden, but it's still Dharma school for kids.

I intended to complete a full cycle of our themes with the group of grade school girls, but this past year I was asked to teach the 5 year olds. I was needed there. More on that later. When I catch up on those lessons, if I am reminded of ideas I would have used with the girls, I will mention them. I was gratified that several times during the year, girls visited me to show off their art/craft projects and to give me hugs.

To keep the timeline understandable, I'll set the time stamp of the posts to the date that I gave the lesson.

I've also been writing the column on the Dharmagarden for our newsletter for two years. Since it doesn't appear that this is archived at the DRZC website, I will also post those past columns here. Strike is archived in the Stillpoint archives, but it's a convoluted process getting to all of them. I'll still post them here.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Bodhisattvas: Skit: Angulimala as told by 5 year olds

Angulimala as told by 5 year olds

[For rehearsal, separate children by those who want to show their rakes, shovels, hoes, brooms, etc; baby dolls; special bowls; toy swords and shields. Put them in their sections, then tell them what parts they'll play. It is ok if there are more than 1 Buddhas and Angulimalas...bandits and monks. Farming villagers, and birth mothers make up the rest.]

Villagers/farmers: Heinrich, Antonia, Ruby, Lucy
Baby moms (as well as villagers): Ada, Chloe, Maya
Bandits (Angulimala): Tim and ST (bring sword)
Monks (Buddha): Galilea and Sam: (bring bowl, wooden if possible)

Narrator: Once upon a time, a long time ago, during the time of the Buddha, in fact, there was a small kingdom with people who were happy and well off. They farmed, and traded, and traveled with ease.

Unfortunately, a plague came to their kingdom in the form of a bandit. They called this bandit Angulimala.

[Angulimala flourishes sword.]

What does Angulimala mean you ask? Let's ask the people. [addressing the farmers] What does Angulimala mean?

Farmer kids: Finger necklace! Aaaahhh! [run off stage]

Angulimala: Mwaaahaaahaaa! I love the fear! [flourishes sword]

Narrator: Angulimala had sworn he would kill 1,000 people. He kept count by stringing one finger on his necklace. People fled the country to the protection of the city. One day, the Buddha came walking to this kingdom, and he heard of the feared bandit. He decided to investigate.

When Angulimala saw this lone monk walking toward him, he laughed with glee.

[Angulimala twirls sword and laughs.]

Angulimala ran toward the Buddha, but a funny thing happened. He was never able to get any closer to the monk. No matter how fast he ran, he couldn't catch up to the Buddha. He was very frustrated. Finally Angulimala stopped, and he said,

Angulimala: Stop monk! Why can't I get close to you?

And the Buddha said,

Buddha: I have stopped. You should stop too.

Angulimala: What does THAT mean?

Buddha: I have stopped living in hope and fear, and I have stopped hating and hurting others. If you want to be like me, you should stop too.

Narrator: And the Buddha looked at Angulimala with such love and kindness that Angulimala DID want to be like the Buddha. He wished with all his heart that he had never hurt anyone, and he threw down his sword and shield and asked the Buddha to be his teacher.

Angulimala traded his finger necklace for a necklace of prayer beads, [flip necklace] and learned to meditate with the Buddha. The Buddha convinced the king to pardon him, and the new monk spent many hours in the forest meditating and he became calm and peaceful.

Now Angulimala knew he could never make up for all the people he had killed. Often when he walked past a crowd, he was elbowed, or tripped with a shovel or broom handle, or bumped so that he fell in a ditch.

[villagers trip, bump, jab, the monk Angulimala.]

The Buddha helped him to understand this was an effect of his past life as a bandit, this was his karma. Angulimala couldn't blame them. He would pick himself up, and bow, and offer to mend the broken broom handle.

You'll remember in his old life, Angulimala took delight in fear and in killing people. Now he felt remorse, and he loved life. He felt if only he could help life come to be, he could make up for his past in a small way.

Because of his past life, Angulimala knew well the ways of wounds and blood, and because he wanted to help people live, he took on the specialty, you could say, of helping mothers give birth safely. Because he took great care to pay attention to their needs, mothers in his care gave birth to healthy babies. His knowledge that had once helped him be a very bad man now supported his very loving actions.

[Angulimala visits mothers with babies. One or two 'give birth.']

In time, less and less people tried to hit or trip the kind and loving monk. Eventually, the gratitude among families for his help in supporting life overwhelmed the old fear and distrust.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bodhisattvas: Review

One of the other Dharma School teachers inspired me with his idea of teaching the Bodhisattvas as Superheroes.  Of course!  After all the ceremonies, the number of actual lessons is small, even so I wanted to do several reviews for my group, as a year was a long time for them.  First I wanted to review just what this thing was we'd been learning about, and then I'd review with reminders of all the previous lessons.  Superheroes was the perfect template for this.

Rickie and HenriI made sure we sang the song This Little Light of Mine.  This is a great song to exemplify the actions of a Bodhisattva.  It's all about letting my light shine so I can better help others.  (The version we sing is secular.) After reviewing the superpowers of the Bodhisattvas, I used Jane Goodall's Rickie and Henri to have the kids help me find those superpowers being used in the story.  Loving action, kindness, compassion, generosity, wisdom, protectiveness, all could be found here.  Love between animals is always a hit with five year olds.

For a craft activity, we used sharpies to color people-shaped wood craft sticks. The kids made self-portraits, themselves as Bodhisattva Superheroes.  For clothes, we used various colors of pipe cleaners.

For the final review lesson (April 25) I returned with the books I'd used, reviewed the Bodhisattvas, and determined what the kids would like to do for the skit.  It was a very quickly paced lesson.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bodhisattvas: Fugen

The Wisdom of the Crows and Other Buddhist TalesI don't think I've mentioned I chose to use the Japanese form of the name for the Bodhisattvas, even though the adults in my sangha now use the Sanskrit names in our services.  I was thinking it would be much easier for the kids in my group to say and remember these shorter names. 

Fugen is the Bodhisattva of Loving Action.  I have a vague memory that I was mulling over this lesson right up until the last evening.  I'd been looking over my various books with collections of Buddhist stories and folk tales, and decided upon one, when I came across this one.  Of course I knew of the story of Angulimala, but who would think of this as an example of loving action?  Of course what I remembered was the necklace of fingers, created from all the victims of Angulimala.  What I didn't remember, but what jumped out at me during this reading, as found in The Wisdom of the Crows and Other Buddhist Tales, was how Angulimala accepted the karma that came to him from others when he became a follower of the Buddha.  I didn't recall learning before how he specifically helped women while giving birth.  Aha, I thought.  Whereas previously he had been most unloving, and took away life, now he did what he could that was most loving, and helped life. Who better than a former cutthroat thief could understand how wounds worked, and how to keep someone alive? It turned out to be a great story to demonstrate the loving action of Fugen. (Sometimes the best lessons turn out to be these last minute brainstorms.)

I'm betting all the kids remember is the necklace of fingers.  One Dharma School mom thanked me for using this story.  It was the perfect sort of story for her kinetic, attention-scattered, run-around boy. 

For a craft activity, I had the kids draw with light-colored crayons, and water-paint over the crayon, as I did with this lesson.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bodhisattvas: Kanzeon

Zen Ties I recall the kids getting very involved with this lesson.  First I had the kids help me define compassion.  At this age they already have ideas about what it is.  Here are images of Kanzeon I shared with them. As I read through the book Zen Ties, I had the kids help me find the moments where someone was showing compassion to someone else.  Among the songs we sang was the Metta Round"Even as a mother protects with her life Her child, her only child So with a boundless heart Should one cherish all living beings." I should point out that I don't actually attempt to sing this as a round, but only as a simple song.

A few years back, I got a bunch of refrigerator magnets at SCRAP. I printed up some stickers to color, and used up the last of these magnets for this project. 

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bodhisattvas: Manjusri

The Coconut Monk
I used the book The Coconut Monk to demonstrate the wisdom of Manjusri.  This is an exquisite story that works for a wide range of ages. Here are images of Manjusri I shared with the kids.

For a craft activity, I used foam door hangers like these, and created stickers of Manjusri the kids could add, among other doodads.  In this first year of a new age range, I haven't been thinking of taking photos, so I don't have an image to share of this craft.  If I do find a sample from the class in my chaotic storage area, I'll share here.