Sunday, October 14, 2012

Six Realms: The Hungry Ghosts

During the last minute of meditation, (the kids meditated about four minutes) I broke the silence and asked the kids to think of something that helps them feel comfortable and safe, or something that they can do for others that helps others feel safe and comfortable.  Then, for check-in, I asked them to share what they thought of.  Sometimes the kids are shy with check-in, and this strategy worked well.  They were able to combine the thoughtfulness of meditative mind with looking within for a way they handle feelings.  Then, even the shy ones had something to say in check-in because they were prepared.  A couple chose to demonstrate by covering their heads with their jackets. As soon as one said he liked climbing trees, that became a theme.  One boy answered both questions by saying he liked to skateboard and teaching skateboarding.

While the elements are very traditionally the same, there are still quite varied images of the Six Realms available.  Every lesson gives us a chance to look closely at a portion of the image, and the kids notice a lot.  As we looked closer at the Preta Realm, the kids noticed not only does each realm have a Buddha in it, they noticed another figure that was not like the others.  One girl thought it was Tara, I thought perhaps it was the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

I personally don't know enough about Tara to say, but after a quick search I see that there are different Taras, and one could correspond to Kanzeon.  What we could see in this image was a Bodhisattva figure holding a jar, pouring several streams of water, and the beings in this realm, gakis, were drinking those streams of water.  As they'd already noticed, when the gakis attempt to drink water on their own, it turns to fire in their mouths. It seemed to me this must be Kanzeon (what we call Avalokiteshvara in our lineage) as Kanzeon will often be depicted carrying a jar of clear water, and it seems compassion is what is needed to help these beings find nourishment.  Here is a version of the Six Realms that has that figure delivering water, though it is not the same image as the large poster we were using in class.

Just an aside, I was talking to another teacher today who expressed the wish to have a giant poster of the Six Realms, and boy howdy, do I agree.  Even with the big poster-board, the kids crowd around wanting to see images up even that is not big enough.  Hmmm, I wonder if we could have a custom sign made that could fill a wall.  Or maybe, once my sangha is in its new home, an actual mural could become part of its plans, but that's a few years down the road.

I needed more time for their craft, so we quickly had our snack, cleaned up, then I showed them what we would be doing. I asked them to draw pictures of the gakis, or hungry ghosts, and images from the Hungry Ghost realm. Sometimes they color what they wish, but this time they all really did draw hungry ghosts.

  1. Use colors, draw your picture on sandpaper with thick lines, lots of color, don't hold back. 
  2. Take a piece of white art paper, place it over the sandpaper picture, and sandwich this inside two sheets of newspaper.
  3. Have an adult iron the paper until enough color has transferred over to the white paper.  Dry, medium heat.  This takes a minute or two.

While they colored their pictures, I read them a quick story from Buddha at Bedtime: Tales of Love and Wisdom for You to Read with Your Child to Enchant, Enlighten and Inspire called The Dirty Old Goblet.  One salesman is mean and greedy, the other is kind and generous.  First the greedy salesman comes along and sees the dirty goblet and pretends it's worthless, planning to return and say he changed his mind.  Then the honest salesman comes along and trades all his goods and his money for the goblet, telling the girl and her grandmother it was worth far more than he had.  The greedy salesman displayed classic gaki behavior, even to the point he couldn't get what he wanted after all.

One girl seemed disappointed that hers didn't turn out very clear (I think there will always be at least one child who will color delicately) but I assured her it made her gaki look very much like a ghost.