CliF Notes

A curriculum for families and small groups

 

 November 2019




 Week One - November 3rd     

Buddhism – Origins 

Supplies Needed:  Paper, pencils, crayons or markers.
 

Opening Words  

Let us cultivate boundless goodwill.

Let none deceive another, or despise any being in any state.

Let none in anger or ill-will wish another harm.

Even as a mother watches over her child, so with boundless mind

   should one cherish all living beings.

Radiating friendliness over the whole world,

Above, below, and all around, without limit. 

- Metta Sutra

  

Or

 

We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)

 

Or, for older kids:

 

In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.

 

Check in

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.

 

Centering

Our centering song is based on the Buddhist teaching on metta – loving kindness towards all beings.

 

Sing “May All Beings Be Well” 

May all beings be well.

May all beings be happy.

May all be at peace.

May all beings be free from hatred,

Free from sickness, free from suffering.

May all beings be well,

May all beings be happy.

May all be at peace.

 

Click here for tune.

 

Introduction

This month we turn our attention from Hinduism to Buddhism. Buddhism comes out of the Hindu religion, but unlike Hinduism, Buddhism was founded by a single person, Gautama Buddha. Here is his story. (Note: For a very brief look at some central facts about Buddhism, see http://www.religionfacts.com/buddhism/fastfacts.htm )

 

Story

The story of Buddhism starts with a man named Siddartha Gautama.  Gautama was born in India, more than 500 years before Jesus was born.  When the young prince was born his father called for a wise man to predict the future of his little son. 

“What do you foretell for my son?  What will his life bring?” asked the king. 

The wise man paused for a long time before he responded.  “This child has a great destiny.  When your son grows up he will either become a great king who will conquer all of India or he will leave your kingdom and become a great religious leader.” 

The king said, “My son will be a great king!  I shall give him everything he could possibly want so that he will never have any desire to leave!  I shall make sure that he never sees the sorrows or troubles of the world.” 

The wise man left, but the king paced back and forth, wondering how he could protect his son from ever seeing anything unpleasant.  Then he had an idea.  He wrote out an order, and called a servant.  The king said, “Here, take this order throughout the kingdom.  It says, ‘Prince Gautama shall never be allowed to go alone outside the palace grounds.  He must not see any person who is sick, blind, crippled or old.  No one must ever mention death around him.”  The servant took the order and rode around the kingdom, telling of the king’s command. 

You might think that Prince Gautama would have grown up to be a very spoiled, bratty young man.  He wore fine silk clothes, and whenever he walked out, a servant would carry a silk umbrella to protect him from the sun and dust.  He was given three palaces to live in – one for the hot season, one for the cold season and one for the rainy season.  When he was sixteen his father arranged for him to marry a beautiful, kind princess, and they had a sweet baby boy, whom Gautama loved dearly. 

One of the prince’s favorite things to do was to ride out hunting with his favorite servant, Channa.  One day as they were riding along on their two horses, they came upon a man lying beside a rock, groaning and twitching in pain.

“What is wrong with this man?” asked Gautama.

“He is sick,” said Channa.

“Why is he sick?” asked Gautama.  “Can’t we do anything to take away his pain?”

“It’s the way of life,” replied Channa .  “This man is only a beggar.  Best just to forget about him.”

But Gautama did not forget. 

Another day the two of them were out hunting in the country when they saw a man stumbling slowly down the road, supporting himself on two canes.  The man’s hair was white, his face was wrinkled and his hands shook like leaves in the wind.

“What is wrong with this man?” Gautama asked.

“He is old,” answered Channa.

“What do you mean by old?” asked Gautama.

“It is something that happens to all who live a long time,” Channa told him.  “Their bodies become tired and weak.  Do not trouble your mind, Prince.  The man is only a beggar.”

But Gautama’s mind was troubled indeed. 

Still another day Gautama and Channa rode out through the green woods.  Gautama insisted that they follow a small path that he had never noticed before.  Behind the trees at the back of the path Gautama saw a small hut.  He walked toward it and opened the door.  There on the floor he saw a man who looked as if he were asleep, except that there was no motion of breathing in his chest.  “What is wrong with this man?” Gautama asked, yet again.

“The man is dead,” Channa said.

“Why?  What does dead mean?”

“I cannot tell you,” Channa answered.  Death comes to all people in the end.  But this man is only a beggar.  Do not worry yourself.”

But Gautama did worry. 

Even the beauty of his palaces, and his joy in his wife and child, were not enough to keep the prince from thinking over and over about what he had seen.  Why was there such suffering in the world?  How did people live with the knowledge that they would die?  How could they enjoy beauty when it would only pass away?  Why did no one seem to care about the beggars? 

Finally the prince could no longer stand to live in his sheltered palaces.  One night, when the questions kept going around and around in his head, Gautama got up out of bed.  He kissed his wife and son goodbye, and left the palace forever.  At the edge of the forest he exchanged his fine silk clothes for those of a beggar, and gave his horse and his jewelry to his faithful servant Channa.  With his wealthy life behind him, Gautama set off to find the truth about life. 

Before he had traveled far, Gautama came upon some sadhus, Hindu holy men.  He said to them, “Teach me how to find wisdom.”  The monks said, “You must improve your soul to gain wisdom.  The only way to improve your soul is to make your body suffer.  You must starve your body.” 

So Gautama and the holy men went into a forest together.  They starved themselves until their bodies became hardly more than skeletons.  When Gautama pressed his hand on his belly, he could feel his backbone on the other side.  Finally, Gautama fainted from hunger, and the monks thought that he had died.  Someone, however, spooned rice and milk into his mouth, and he slowly revived.  When he was stronger Gautama said “From now on, I am going to stop starving myself!  I cannot think clearly about these important questions when I am so weak.” 

The monks said, “Gautama is no longer going to act like a truly holy man.  Let’s have nothing to do with him.” 

However, Gautama stayed with his decision to eat normally.  He said, “Self-torture is not the way to live.  A life of selfish pleasure is not the way to live, either.  A middle way is best.  Following a middle way is like playing a musical instrument whose strings are neither too loose nor too tight.” 

Gautama was still determined to understand the answers to his great questions about life.  He decided that he would go on no further in his travels.  He sat down under a Bo tree, and declared “I shall not move from this spot until I gain the wisdom to understand life, death and suffering.” 

He sat there and sat there, thought and thought.  Eventually he just sat there without thinking.  Some people say he sat there for a whole week, some people say he sat there for 49 days!  However long it was, wisdom finally came to him like a great flash of light. 

After that, people called him “Buddha,” because in India the word “Buddha” means “one who has found the light.”  The light that Buddha found was not the kind that you can see with your eyes.  It was what we call “enlightenment,” a kind of inward light that brings peace and understanding.  Much later one of the many people who became followers of Gautama the Buddha asked him if he was a man or a God.  The Buddha responded, “I am awake.”  He spent his long life teaching people to become awake to the great truths of life, and his ideas eventually became the religion that we call Buddhism.

 

The Four Noble Truths

The realization that the Buddha came to under the Bo tree had four parts.  He realized that:
1.  Everyone suffers, and feels that life is not the way they want it to be.

  1. Suffering is caused by the craving or desire for something to be permanent, but nothing in the world stays the same forever.

  2. There is a way out of suffering, of moving beyond the craving for things to be different than they are. This state without suffering Buddha called Nirvana.

  3. Nirvana can be reached by following the Noble 8-Fold Path

 

Discussion

Meeting people who were sick or suffering gave Gautama a whole new perspective on life. Have you ever met, talked with or heard about someone who made you think about the world differently? Think about the things that you “crave” – that you long for. Does wishing for those things make you happier or less happy?

 

Activity

All of us learn from people that we meet on our path through life. Some people teach us by sharing wisdom or by being a good example, and some people teach us because they show us how we don’t want to be, or challenge us to find better ways of handling difficulties.

On a piece of paper draw a path that curves around. This is your life path. At the end of the path draw a tree, like the tree that the Buddha sat under when he found enlightenment. Along your life path draw pictures or write words to represent people, places or situations that have taught you something that shaped who you are and how you live in the world. Under the tree write your own Four Noble Truths—four things that you believe are important and true about how people should live their lives.

 

Closing

Share aloud each person’s Four Noble Truths. 


 Week Two – November 10th  

Buddhism – Theology

 Supplies Needed:  Eight-fold path papers from below cut as indicated, deck of cards, table or other flat surface to work on.

 

Opening Words

 Let us cultivate boundless goodwill.

Let none deceive another, or despise any being in any state.

Let none in anger or ill-will wish another harm.

Even as a mother watches over her child, so with boundless mind

   should one cherish all living beings.

Radiating friendliness over the whole world,

Above, below, and all around, without limit. 

- Metta Sutra

  

Or

 

We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)

 

Or, for older kids:

 

In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.

  

Check in

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.

 

Centering

Our centering song is based on the Buddhist teaching on metta – loving kindness towards all beings.

 

Sing “May All Beings be Well” 

May all beings be well.

May all beings be happy.

May all be at peace.

May all beings be free from hatred,

Free from sickness, free from suffering.

May all beings be well,

May all beings be happy.

May all be at peace.

 

Click here for tune.

 

Introduction
Last week we talked about the Buddha, and how his life path brought him to enlightenment, to a new understanding about how people could live in the world. This week we look some more at what the Buddha taught about how to live, knowing that the world is full of suffering. We’ll start with a famous Buddhist story.

 

Story

Maybe

Once upon the time there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. 

 One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. 

“Maybe,” the farmer replied. 

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. 

“Maybe,” replied the old man. 

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. 

“Maybe,” answered the farmer. 

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. 

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

 

Discussion

What do you think is the point of this story? What is different about the way the farmer looks at things than the way his neighbors see them? How do you think the way the farmer looks at life changes the way he feels about events as they happen?

 

Activity

The Noble 8-Fold Path

I have here a piece of paper (see below – you may wish to enlarge the image) with something on it called the “Wheel of the Law.”  This is used by Buddhists to show the eight ways that Buddhists try to live their lives in a way that will move them away from suffering and toward Nirvana.  Around the room I’ve hidden eight little pieces of paper with explanations of these eight ways.  Please search for them now, and bring them back to the circle, where we’ll try to match up the definitions to the places on the wheel.  (Note: Depending on the number of children in the group, you may want to ask them to come sit down once they’ve found one or two.)

 

(Once the slips are found, have the kids try to match them to where they belong.  It should end up as:

Right Understanding – Understand the Buddha’s teachings.

Right Thought – Try not to have greedy thoughts.

Right Speech – Speak in a true and kind way.

Right Action – Don’t harm any living creature.

Right Livelihood – Earn your living doing something that doesn’t hurt others.

Right Effort – Work at living your beliefs.

Right Mindfulness – Pay attention to what is inside you as well as what is around you.

Right Contemplation – Meditate.

Wheel image.jpg

Eight-Fold Path Slips – print and cut into separate pieces

 

Understand the Buddha’s teachings.  Try to see things the way they really are, instead of only seeing what you assume to be true about them.

  

Try to control your thoughts so that you don’t spend your time wishing for things to be different than they are.  Try not to grasp after things that are not yours.

  

Tell the truth.  Avoid saying things that are unkind.

  

Don’t harm any living creature.  Practice compassion toward all beings.

  

Earn your living doing something that doesn’t hurt others, and that doesn’t require that you lie, cheat or take advantage of people 

 

Work at living your beliefs.  Don’t just say that you believe in peace, compassion and overcoming greed.  Practice those things in your daily life. 

 

Pay attention to what is inside you as well as what is around you.  Examine your thoughts and feelings to discover when you are trying to fool yourself into thinking that you are better (or worse) than you are. 

 

Have a regular meditation practice, which is designed to help you do all of the other 7 paths.


 

Discussion

For each of the eight-fold paths, come up with examples of what would and what would not be following that path.

 

Activity

One of the central teachings of Buddhism is non-attachment. Everything in life will change, and suffering happens when we become attached to our own ideas of how life should be. Then we are sad or disappointed or angry when the world turns out to be different than how we imagined or wanted it to be. As a way of considering non-attachment, we’re going to be building card houses. Card houses have a way of falling down when you want them to stay up. As you’re building, try to notice: if/when your cards fall over, how do you feel? How do you feel when they stay up? How do you feel about the process of building?
 

Discussion

What is the point of building a card house, or something like a sand castle that will not stay up for very long?

 Closing

Demolish any remaining card houses. Share quote from the Buddha: “The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.”


Week Three – November 17th  

Buddhism – Spiritual Practices

 

Supplies Needed: Depending on activities chosen, an assortment of stones; glass jars with tightly-fitting lids, water, glitter, glycerin; bell or chime.

 

Opening Words  

Let us cultivate boundless goodwill.

Let none deceive another, or despise any being in any state.

Let none in anger or ill-will wish another harm.

Even as a mother watches over her child, so with boundless mind

   should one cherish all living beings.

Radiating friendliness over the whole world,

Above, below, and all around, without limit. 

- Metta Sutra

 

Or

 

We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)

 

Or, for older kids:

 

In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.

 

or, light chalice and say

In the light of truth and the warmth of love,

We gather to seek and seek to share.

 

Check in

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.

 

Centering

Sing “May All Beings be Well” 

May all beings be well.

May all beings be happy.

May all be at peace.

May all beings be free from hatred,

Free from sickness, free from suffering.

May all beings be well,

May all beings be happy.

May all be at peace.

 

Click here for tune.

  

Introduction

Last week we learned some about Buddhist beliefs, including the idea that suffering comes from attachment to the things of the world, which always change. We also learned that the Buddhist understanding of how to live a good life is outlined in the eight-fold path. Do you remember any of those paths? (Hint: they all start with “Right.”)  

Today we’ll be looking at the central Buddhist spiritual practice, meditation. Buddhist practice can be a hard thing to wrap your mind around, as it involves working very hard at not trying. How do you work very hard at not trying? Maybe this story explains a bit about it.

 

Story

THE RECORD OF THE LIFE AND TEACHINGS OF WU-MING

As he lay ill and dying, the Buddhist Master Chin-Mang wrote this letter to Master Tung-Wang, Abbot of Han-hsin monastery:

Though we have not seen each other in the many years since we studied together under our most venerable Master, I have often thought of you, his most worthy successor. I am told that your monastery is unrivaled in severity, and that under your guidance hundreds of monks pursue their training with the greatest dedication and effort. I've also heard that among all these worthy monks you have found no enlightened one to take over the monastery when you are gone. Which brings me to the point of this letter.

I ask that you now draw your attention to the young man to whom this note is attached. As he stands before you, no doubt smiling stupidly as he stuffs himself with pickled cucumbers, you may be wondering if he is as complete a fool as he appears, and if so, why I would send him to you. In answer to the first question, I assure you that Wu-Ming's foolishness is far more complete than he appears. As for the second question, I can only say that despite so benumbed a condition, or perhaps because of it, still more likely, despite of and because of it, Wu-Ming seems to accidentally serve the function of a great Bodhisattva. Perhaps he can be of service to you.

Allow him sixteen hours of sleep daily and provide him with lots of pickled cucumbers and Wu-Ming will always be happy. Expect nothing of him and you will be happy.

Respectfully, Chin-Mang

After Chin-mang's funeral, the supporters of his temple arranged for Wu-ming's journey to Han-hsin monastery. A monk found Wu-ming at the monastery gate and seeing a note bearing the Master’s name pinned to his robe, led him to Tung-wang’s quarters.

It is tradition that when first presenting himself to the Abbot, a newly arrived monk will bow to the floor three times and ask respectfully to be accepted as a student. And so Tung-wang was quite surprised when Wu-ming walked into the room, took a pickled cucumber from the jar under his arm, stuffed it whole into his mouth, and happily munching away, broke into the toothless, brainless grin that would one day become legendary. Taking a casual glance around the room, he smacked his lips loudly and said, "What's for lunch?"

After reading his old friend’s note, the Abbot called in the head monk and asked that he show the new student to the monk's quarters. When they had gone Tung-Wang reflected on Chin-mang's words. His monastery was indeed a most severe place of training: winters were bitterly cold and in summer the sun blazed. The monks slept no more than three hours each night and ate one simple meal each day. For the rest of the day they worked hard around the monastery and practiced hard in the meditation hall. But, alas, Chin-mang had heard correctly. Among all the hard-working monks there was none who was ready to take on leadership and to teach the Dharma – the teaching which cannot be taught. The old Abbott was beginning to despair that he would ever be able to fulfill his obligation of seeing his teacher's Dharma-linage continued.

The monks could hardly be faulted for lack of effort. Their sincerity was admirable indeed, and many had attained great clarity of wisdom. But they were all too concerned with their ability to handle harsh discipline and proud of their insight. They squabbled with one another for positions of power and vied amongst themselves for recognition. Jealousy, rivalry and ambition seemed to hang like a dark cloud over Han-shin monastery, sucking even the most wise and sincere into its haze. Holding Chin-mang's note, Tung-wang hoped and prayed that this Wu-ming, this "accidental Bodhisattva" might be the solution he longed for.

To the Abbot’s surprise and delight, Wu-ming took to life at Han-shin like a duck to water. At his request, the foolish man was assigned a job in the kitchen pickling vegetables. This he pursued tirelessly, and with a cheerful earnestness he gathered and mixed ingredients, lifted heavy barrels, drew and carried water, and, of course, freely sampled his workmanship. He was delighted!

When the monks assembled in the meditation hall, they would invariably find Wu-ming seated in utter stillness, apparently in deep and profound meditative trance. No one even guessed that the only thing profound about Wu-ming's meditation was the amazing fact that he could sleep for hours with his legs folded into the lotus position, back erect and centered, looking for all the world like he was deep in meditation.

Day after day and month after month, as the monks struggled to meet the physical and spiritual demands of monastery life, Wu-ming, with a grin and a whistle, sailed through it all effortlessly. Even though, if the truth be told, Wu-ming's Zen practice was without the slightest meaning, he appeared to be a monk of great accomplishment and perfect discipline. Of course, the Abbot could have told the other monks the truth of Wu-ming’s foolishness, but he sensed that Wu-ming's unique brand of magic was taking effect and he was not about to throw away the gift his friend had sent.

By turns the monks were jealous, confused, angry, humbled and inspired by what they presumed to be Wu-ming's great accomplishment. Everything about the pickle-loving monk was so obvious and simple that others thought he was wise beyond all understanding.

Wu-ming's presence had a tremendously unsettling effect on the lives of the monks. His utter obviousness was impossible for the proud and clever monks to understand. But somehow Wu-ming’s utter blankness gave him a gift of awakening others to the Buddha nature inside themselves.

Once a monk asked Wu-ming, "The Third Patriarch said, "The Great Way is without difficulty, just cease having preferences." How can you then delight in eating cucumbers, yet refuse to even take one bit of a carrot?" Wu-ming said, "I love cucumbers; I hate carrots!" The monk lurched back as though struck by a thunderbolt. Then laughing and sobbing and dancing about he exclaimed, "Liking cucumbers and hating carrots is without difficulty, just cease preferring the Great Way!"

Within three years of his arrival, the stories of the "Great Bodhisattva of Han-hsin monastery" had made their way throughout the provinces of China. Knowing of Wu-ming's fame, the Abbot was not entirely surprised when a messenger from the Emperor appeared summoning Wu-ming to the Imperial Palace immediately.

From throughout the Empire experts of the Three Teachings of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism were being called to the capital. There the Emperor would proclaim one to be the true religion to be practiced and preached in all lands under his rule. Tung-wang hated the idea of such competition for Imperial favor, and the likelihood that a religious persecution might follow troubled him greatly. But an order from the Emperor is not to be ignored, so Wu-ming and the Abbot set out the next day.

Inside the Great Hall were gathered the more than one hundred priests and scholars who were to debate one another. They were surrounded by the most powerful lords in all China, along with innumerable advisors to the Emperor. All at once, trumpets blared, cymbals crashed, and clouds of incense billowed up everywhere. The Emperor was carried to the throne. The Emperor signaled for the debate to begin.

Several hours passed as, one after another, priests and scholars came forward presenting their doctrines and responding to questions. Through it all Wu-ming sat mindlessly content as he stuffed himself with his favorite food. When his supply was finished, he happily crossed his legs, straightened his back and closed his eyes. But the noise was too much and, unable to sleep, he grew more restless and grumpy by the minute. Finally, the Emperor gestured to Wu-ming to approach the throne.

When Wu-ming had come before him, the Emperor said, "Throughout the land you are praised as a Bodhisattva whose mind is like the Great Void itself, yet you have not had a word to offer this assembly. Therefore I say to you now, teach me the True Way that all under heaven must follow." Wu-ming said nothing. After a few moments the Emperor, with a note of impatience, spoke again, "Perhaps you do not hear well, so I shall repeat myself! Teach me the True Way that all under heaven must follow!" Still Wu-ming said nothing, and silence rippled through the crowd as all strained forward to witness this monk who dared behave so bold a fashion in the Emperor's presence.

Wu-ming heard nothing the Emperor said, nor did he notice the tension that vibrated through the hall. All that concerned him was his wish to find a nice quiet place where he could sleep undisturbed. The Emperor spoke again, his voice shaking with fury, his face flushed with anger: "You have been summoned to this council to speak on behalf of the Buddhist teaching. Your disrespect will not be tolerated much longer. I shall ask one more time, and should you fail to answer, I assure you the consequence will be terrible. Teach me the True Way that all under heaven must follow!" Without a word Wu-ming turned and, as all looked on in dumbfounded silence, he made his way down the aisle and out the door. There was a hush of stunned disbelief before the crowd erupted into an uproar of confusion. Some were applauding Wu-ming's brilliant demonstration of religious insight, while others rushed about in a rage, hurling threats and abuses at the doorway he had just passed through. Not knowing whether to praise Wu-ming or to have him beheaded, the Emperor turned to his advisors, but they were none the wiser. Finally, looking out at the chaos to which his grand debate had been reduced, the Emperor must surely have realized that no matter what Wu-ming's intentions might have been, there was now only one way to avoid the debate becoming a most serious embarrassment.

"The great sage of Han-hsin monastery has skillfully demonstrated that the Truth cannot be confined by doctrines, but is best explained through harmonious action. Let us profit by the wisdom he has so compassionately shared, and each endeavor to make our every step one that unites heaven and earth in accord with the The Way."

Having thus spoken, the Emperor concluded the Great Debate.

Tung-wang immediately ran out to find Wu-ming, but he had disappeared in the crowded streets of the capitol.

Years passed, but the Abbot never saw Wu-ming again. However, on occasion a wandering monk will stop at Han-hsin with some bit of news. Travelers declared that Wu-ming wandered about the countryside for years, trying unsuccessfully to find his way home. Because of his fame he was greeted and cared for with generous kindness; however, those wishing to help him on his journey usually find that they have been helped on their own.

One young monk told of an encounter in which Wu-ming asked him, "Can you tell me where my home is?" Confused as to the spirit of the question. The monk replied, "Is the home you speak of to be found in the world of time and place, or do you mean the Original Home of all pervading Buddha nature?"

After pausing a moment to consider the question, Wu-ming looked up and, grinning as only he was capable, said, "Yes."

 

Discussion

Do you think it is possible to be wise without being smart? Do you think there are things you can learn by not thinking?

 

Activities

(Note: what follows is a series of activities that are meditative in nature. You may wish to do them all, or select the ones you feel will work best for your situation. After each activity participants should be asked to reflect on how they felt doing the meditation practice. )

 

Meditation is a very important practice for Buddhists.  There are various ways of meditating, but all of them are ways for people to focus their attention.  You might think that people would do this so that they can think more clearly, but meditation is actually about trying not to think, about noticing the thoughts that pass through our heads and then letting them go. 

 

Sitting Meditation

We’re going to just sit for a few minutes. You may find that this sitting meditation practice is something you like, and you can try it at home whenever you need a way to get calm and focused.

Now that you're sitting quietly practice slow quiet breathing. Close your eyes. Think about your breathing and try to ignore other thoughts that come to your mind. You can think about them later. Anything that comes to mind is for later. Close your eyes.

Breathe in through your nose – out through your mouth.

In… out.

In… out.

Start to notice what you feel. Can you feel what is underneath you? Is it soft or hard?

Maybe you feel an itch. Don't scratch it, just feel it.

Maybe your shoes are tied too tight, or your feel the waistband of your pants.

Maybe there is a breeze coming through the window, or you feel the heat on your back as the sun shines through the window.

Does your stomach feel full or empty?

Is your mouth dry?

These sensations become so big because you are focusing on them. Pay attention to them. Try to just feel.

Don't shift to ease the scratchy material against your skin.

Don't move out of the sun.

Just let them be.

These feelings are real. They will go away later when you move but right now

just stay put and feel them.

What else do you feel?

Maybe today you feel happy. Maybe the other day you were sad.

Do you like being alone or does it feel lonely?

Do you feel good about yourself right now? Pay attention to how you feel. What made you feel that way?

What do you call the feelings? Try to name them to yourself. Where in your body do you feel funny or good when you have these different emotions?

Now, put all the good feelings right inside of you.

Wrap your arms around yourself, holding in those good feelings. Remember you can feel this way anytime.

Just breathe for a moment longer, and then open your eyes. 

 

Now we’re going to try some activities that are not traditional forms of Buddhist meditation, but are ways of doing what meditation does – focusing your attention, and letting go of thoughts and expectations.

 

Mirroring

(Have children pair up, splitting up kids who will have a hard time staying focused with one another.)  Face one another, and put your hands up in the air, palms facing your partner’s palms, but not touching.  Now, choose which one of you will be the leader and which the follower.  The leader slowly moves their hands, always leaving the palms toward their partner.  The partner tries to follow their movements as accurately as possible.  If you really get this going well, someone watching won’t be able to tell who is leading and who is following.  Remember, the point is not to trick your partner, or make it difficult, but to move slowly and with concentration, so that you are moving together.  (After a few minutes, switch, and have the other partner lead.)

 

Group Counting

Participants stand in a circle. The goal is to count to ten as a group, with different people calling out the numbers in order. Any person may call out the next number, but any time that two people speak at the same time you must go back and start over at one. This exercise only works if everyone not only listens to what others are saying, but also to what they haven’t yet said.

 

Balancing Rocks

Have a selection of small stones. Invite participants to create sculptures by balancing rocks on top of each other. (Do a Google image search on “balanced rocks” to see many examples.) These sculptures are not permanent and will not be glued – the act of balancing itself is the meditation.

 

Meditation Jar

Have each participant fill a Mason jar, or other clear glass jar with a secure lid, to near the top with water. Add a teaspoon or so full of glitter, and a few drops of glycerin (more glycerin will make the glitter fall slower). Close lid tightly. (For greater security, seal with clear silicone calk.) Shake jar and watch glitter float around. Explain that our heads are full of thoughts like the glitter swirling around the jar. In meditation we let our thoughts settle out, so that our mind is more like the clear water. Invite participants to meditate by shaking the jar, then setting it down so that the glitter can settle. Ask them to let go of each thought as it comes into their head, so that their thoughts drift away like the glitter, leaving them calm, clear and focused.

 

Closing

For a final meditation, sit in a circle. Explain that you will ask everyone to close their eyes. You will then ring a bell or chime. Participants should listen for the sound of the bell or chime ringing as long as they can, and open their eyes when they can no longer hear it at all.


 Week Four – November 24th

Person of Faith – The 14th Dalai Lama

 

Supplies Needed: Squares of solid-color fabric, permanent markers, yarn or string, stapler, newspaper, mandala print-outs and/or paper for creating mandalas, markers, colored pencil and/or crayons; computer with internet connection if you wish to show mandala video 

Opening Words and Chalice Lighting

 If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

-- The Dalai Lama 

Or 

We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)

 

Or, for older kids:

 

In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.

 

or, light chalice and say

In the light of truth and the warmth of love,

We gather to seek and seek to share.

 

Check-in:
You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.

 

Centering:

Sing “May All Beings Be Well” 

May all beings be well.

May all beings be happy.

May all be at peace.

May all beings be free from hatred,

Free from sickness, free from suffering.

May all beings be well,

May all beings be happy.

May all be at peace.

 

Click here for tune.

 

Introduction

At the beginning of this month we talked about Siddartha Gautama, the Buddha, the founder of the Buddhist religion, who was born over 2500 years ago. But the person of faith we’re going to talk about today is a famous Buddhist who is still alive today. Over the thousands of years of Buddhist history there have developed different branches of the Buddhist faith – different ways of being Buddhist. In Tibet, where our person of faith is from, they practice Mahayana Buddhism, which has many more rituals than Theravada Buddhism, the other branch. In fact, our person of faith, the Dalai Lama, is the leader of the Tibetan Buddhists, although he lives in India. Why does he live in India? Well, it’s part of the story:

 

Story

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet was born in 1935, soon after the 13th Dalai Lama passed away. Tibetans traditionally believe each Dalai Lama to be the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama who came before them, each of whom is believed to be a human version of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. A bodhisattva is a fully enlightened being who reaches nirvana, but decides to come back to humanity to help people. When the 13th Dalai Lama died, a search party was sent to locate the new incarnation. It is said that, amongst other omens, the regent, the person charged with taking care of the country until the new Dalai Lama was old enough, had a vision at the sacred lake of Lhamo La-tso indicating Amdo as the region to search—specifically a one-story house with distinctive guttering and tiling. After two years of looking, search party came to the small village of Takster, where they finally found a house that matched the regent’s vision.

In that house lived several children, including a four-year-old named LhamoThondup. This little boy was shown various items, some of which had belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama and some of which had not. It was reported that he had correctly identified all the items owned by the previous Dalai Lama, exclaiming, "That's mine! That's mine!"

The Dalai Lama’s education as a Buddhist monk began in earnest when he was only six years old. After eighteen years of intense study, he graduated with the equivalent of a Ph.D in Buddhist metaphysics. A regent was appointed to serve the country while the Dalai Lama’s was still a child, but in 1950, at just 16 years old, he was forced to assume full political power. Tibet could wait no longer for its leader, as communist China decided to take over Tibet. With the Tibetan army no match for the invading forces, the Dalai Lama’s only option was to negotiate.

In 1954 he was invited to Beijing where he and his party met Chairman Mao and other Chinese leaders, but the Chinese were only interested in trying to convince the Dalai Lama that Tibet was better off under Chinese rule. In 1956 His Holiness visited India, where he met the Indian leader Nehru, but won little support for the Tibetan cause. In 1959 the Tibetans rebelled, but the Chinese crushed the uprising and the Dalai Lama was forced to flee across the Himalayas to neighboring India.

In India, the Dalai Lama immediately established a democratic government-in-exile dedicated to work for the freedom of Tibet and the welfare of Tibetan refugees. Since then, at the invitation of groups and governments, the Dalai Lama has travelled the world, seeking support for the Tibetan cause and sharing his belief in kindness and compassion as the ultimate solution to personal and political conflict. In 1989 the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The committee recognized his efforts in "the struggle of the liberation of Tibet and the efforts for a peaceful resolution instead of using violence."

Discussion

In spite of the Dalai Lama’s best efforts, trying to get support from various countries around the world to free Tibet, the country is still ruled by China. Do you think that all the Dalai Lama’s work, talking to people around the world about trying to find peaceful solutions, has been wasted? Can you think of any time when you lost a competition, but felt like a winner in some other way? 

Activity

Tibetan Buddhists have a tradition of writing prayers on pieces of fabric and putting them outside to flap in the wind.  They believe that each time the fabric with the prayer on it moves it is like the prayer being said and going out to help the world.  Buddhist prayers are usually wishes for peace and for compassion and happiness for all beings.  You may write or draw whatever prayers or wishes you have for the world on your flags, and we will attach them to a string and let them flap in the wind.

 

(You will need approximately 8” squares of solid-colored fabric, permanent markers (or water-based markers if you are working with young children and don’t need your flags to last outside) and newspaper to put down under the flags while participants are working to prevent bleed-through. Staple finished flags to a length of string or yarn and hang somewhere outside where people can see them.)

 

Discussion

Do you think that prayers make a difference in the world? Do you think that prayers make a difference in the person who is praying?

 

Activity

Mandalas are a Tibetan Buddhist meditative art form. Tibetan monks create elaborate mandalas out of colored sand, and then sweep them away right after they are done, as a way of showing the impermanence of all things in life. The process of creating the mandala is a long meditation on peace. You may wish to show video of monks working on an elaborate sand mandala. You can print out mandalas for participants to color in here, or children may wish to design their own mandalas by creating a repeating pattern within a circle. This will be easiest if you provide paper cut to a circle to work with. Folding the circle in quarters, sixths or eighths will facilitate creating a symmetrical pattern.

 

Discussion

How might meditating on peace actually make the world more peaceful?

 

Closing

Ask each participant to share aloud a prayer for the world.