Spring '11 Little Buddhas

Spring ’11 Theme
Our theme this spring will be the three pure precepts. The wording we are using for the precepts is: do no harm, do good, and benefit all beings.

Class Rules
1. Keep hands and feet to yourself
2. No running
3. Listen when others are talking
4. Raise your hand before speaking
5. When you hear the bell, stop and breathe, wait for an adult
6. Treat cushions with care: either sit on them or pick up with both hands

Class Format
9:00 Warmup and Introductions
. Class rules (1 min)
. Short meditation (1-2 mins)
. Brief talk (5 mins)
. Yoga
. Story Reading (5 mins)
. Outside kinhin/games (TIME PERMITTING)
. Project (drawing, paper mache, plays, games, will vary)
10:05 Cleanup
10:10 Snack
10:35 Service
10:50 Playtime

Every class centers on a story. We have a recommended reading list for the spring program.

Class 1

Theme: What is the most important thing?
Talk: Someone once asked Suzuki-roshi, ‘Roshi, what’s the most important thing?’ And he said, ‘To find out what’s the most important thing.’ Here is a story about a monk who discovers the most important thing for himself:

A master asks a young monk, who is well advanced in his study of the Buddhist sutras, what is the most important thing of all. ‘To follow the Buddha,’ he says. In response the master plunges the young man’s head into a trough of water. He comes up gasping. Again he is asked what is the most important thing of all. ‘To understand the fourfold path.’ Once more his head is held under the water. What is the most important thing? ‘Enlightenment,’ he shouts. Again his head goes under the water and he comes up choking, fearing he will drown. What is the most important thing? ‘To be able to breath,’ he screams, and in that moment becomes enlightened.

So is the master saying that the most important thing is breathing? No, he is saying that being present right now in our own experience is what’s important. Living a reality-based life.

And how do we live a reality-based life? In the words of teacher Blanche Hartman, “[H]ow we live is the most important thing.” So is the most important thing to run around, doing whatever we feel like? No! In a story in Barefoot Book of Buddhist tales, the master says that the most important thing is “Do not harm others, and do good.” These are the first two of the pure precepts, which we will study this year.

Story: The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
Project: Create and decorate a three-sided origami box to represent the the three precepts. Each child will then pick an object from outside (pine cone, leaf, etc.) to put in someone else’s box.

Class 2

Theme: Do no harm?
Talk: Last week we talked about the three precepts. Can anyone remember what they are? What does the pure precept “Do no harm” mean? Note how unspecific the precept is. It is up to us to decide what is harmful. And don’t we usually know? It’s as simple as not tossing trash on the floor.

There are four important points about the precept of not harming:

  • To live non-harmful lives, we must be aware of what we are doing.
  • We can do our best, but we cannot be perfect.
  • When we notice that we have harmed, we can do good.
  • Goodness and harmfulness are entangled like vines.

Stories: “The Farmer’s Luck” from Zen Shorts. Ikkyu’s “Attention”:

A layman asked 15th-century Zen Master Ikkyu to write something expressing highest wisdom. Without hesitation the master brushed one word: “Attention.” The layman, disappointed, asked if that was all, could he say more. In response, Ikkyu wrote “Attention. Attention.” The layman still felt disappointed and frustrated and complained that he didn’t see much wisdom in what was written. The master responded by writing, “Attention. Attention, Attention.” The layman, now quite irritated, asked what “Attention” was supposed to mean. Ikkyu replied, “Attention means attention.”

Project: Create a mobile that shows the good and harm that results from cutting down a tree.

Class 3

Theme: To whom does harmful speech belong?
Talk: We can think of harm as something a person gives to another being. Not harming means not giving what is harmful. But what happens if someone gives something harmful to us? What do we do then? Let’s hear what Buddha has to say about it in the Akkosa Sutra.

Stories: The Magic of Patience: A Story About Kindness

Project: Finish last week’s project of making a mobile.

Class 4

Theme: Five Finger Zen
Talk: The second pure precept is “Do good.” Sometimes we know what is good, but we don’t do it. Why? Often we are pushed to do harm by strong emotions such as fear or anger. How can we help ourselves in this situation? We can practice “five finger zen”:

1. Talk to others.
2. Talk to ourselves.
3. Give our feelings a time out.
4. Meditate.
5. Move our bodies.

Stories: Anh’s Anger

Project: Trace our hands and label the different fingers.

Class 5

Theme: Kindness Regards Everyone as a Friend
Talk: Nobody is nice 100% of the time. We try to be kind even if people do not thank us and aren’t kind to us. It can be hard when friends are unkind to us. Usually the best approach is to wish them well and then leave them alone.

Stories: The Best of Friends

Projects: Help me prepare water bottles to give to the homeless. Write a note to a friend.

Class 7

Theme: Offering
Talk: One analogy for the precepts is offering food at a potluck. We offer good food (do good) and don’t offer bad food (do no harm) to all guests, not just the ones we like (benefit ALL beings). People make may accept or decline our offering, and may like it or dislike it. In turn, they may offer good food to us, or offer bad food, or offer nothing. Regardless, we just continue offering good food.

Stories: Purplicious

Projects: Finish writing notecards; organize supplies.

Class 8

Theme: Fear
Talk: Fear is a necessary part of life. It helps protect us from scary things like dangerous animals. Sometimes we feel afraid of things that aren’t dangerous: noises, imaginary monsters, being alone. This is natural and not “bad.” However, if fear rules us, we can harm ourselves. Two simple ways to lessen fear: question, and feel.

Stories:The Rabbit Who Overcame Fear (Jataka Tales)

Projects:Origami workshop taught by our own amazing Tristin!

Class 9

Theme: Trying to Win
Talk: The precepts are simple: do no harm and do good for all beings. Sometimes popular precept seems to be “win” or at least “be better than the others.” We want to do things as well as we can–that is one way of doing good. Sometimes we win, sometimes we don’t. It is important to remember that winning is not our work as human beings. Our work is, as much as we can, to do good and avoid doing harm.

Stories:The Easter Egg by Jan Brett

Projects:Origami boats that we can float at the lake