Samsura is the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
I asked the children, "What is a cycle?"
They gave me lots of fun answers involving bikes and butterflies, seasons and food chains.
I made a circular motion with my hand whenever I used the word CYCLE. "A cycle goes around and around and around."
Once they understood what a cycle was I explained Samsara.
"Samsara is the cycle of life, death, rebirth, life, death, rebirth over and over and over again.
Now, if all life has old age, sickness and death, that must mean that all life has suffering.
So as long as we are in the cycle of Samsara there is suffering."
I laid out fresh flowers, soil and seeds.
The children took turns labeling each symbol, touching the flowers, dirt and seeds.
The children regularly offer flowers to images of the Buddha. It's a way to honor the Buddha. We also use the flowers to meditate on impermanence and the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
We discussed how every living thing is caught in the cycle of Samsara, living, dying and becoming reborn.
While we haven't gotten to the story of the Siddhartha's enlightenment yet, I felt it was important to point to this event. Without reference to the hope of enlightenment, this lesson is just too sad and burdensome for a child, in my opinion.
After our reflection they made a simple illustration of Samsara, using the flower's life cycle for symbols.
Keep it simple.
I wanted them to remember the word Samsara so I said it EVERY TIME I referred to the circle.
Life, Death, Rebirth. That's what I wanted them to remember so that's all I put on the felt board.
Use what you have.
A little glue, construction paper and markers are needed. I fetched old pizza saucers from the recycle bin. (You know, those silver, cardboard thingies you can use to microwave them?) The kids used them to trace a perfect circle. A bowl or plate would work just as well.
I had old, silk flowers left over from craft projects, but stickers, pictures from magazines or greeting cards, or drawings could be used.
The earth I scooped from a pot on the front porch and brought in a ziploc bag.
The seeds came from the last of our zinnias which had dried out in the front yard, but you could easily harvest them from a plant nearby, something in the fridge or a leftover packet if you're a gardener.
The children now have a foundation laid. When in our next lesson, Siddhartha leaves his palace in search of a way to end suffering they will understand more thoroughly what he's looking for. When in upcoming lessons he reaches enlightenment, they will better appreciate that The Buddha has reached Nirvana and following his path can lead us to a freedom from the cycle of Samsara! That's my hope, anyway.
May all be free from suffering with the power of the Triple Gem.