Leaving the Palace

This lesson was shared with children between the ages of 4 and 7.

This is the story of Siddhartha's decision to leave his family and his palace life to become a renunciate.
I have to admit, I had no inspirations for this lesson.  The story is an important one.  I just couldn't think of any special presentation or project for it.  I decided to simply retell the story and have the children create their own illustrations.

I read the story from Buddhism Key Stage II.  It can be downloaded for free here.

Keep it simple.
There were 3 main points I wanted the children to remember:
1.  Siddhartha left to find an end to Samsura.
2. Cutting his hair was a sign that he was giving up a worldly lifestyle.
3. When Siddhartha became a renunciate, he had a new name: Gautama

First the children were reminded of last week's lesson on Samsara.  It was important for the children to understand why Siddhartha left the palace.  It was not for selfish reasons.  He loved his wife and son, parents and friends.  In fact, it was his love for all living beings that inspired him to leave.  He HAD to search for an end to suffering.

Early in my discovery of Buddhism I didn't know that after his enlightenment, Buddha shared his teachings with his own family.  His wife, son and father all reached enlightenment as well.   I wanted the children to understand this from the beginning.  Siddhartha did not abandon his family.  All of their needs were met in the palace and at times they communicated through messengers while he was away.
Child's drawing of Siddhartha riding his horse, Kanthaka
away from his hometown of Kapilavatthu 
When Siddhartha cut his long hair, the remaining hair coiled up in tiny curls all around his head.  The text we used didn't mention that but I wanted the children to hear this.  More than once I have been asked by one of the the kids why our monks have no hair when the images of Buddha show him with tight curls.  That's the answer.  I hoped that adding another snippet (pun intended) to this part of the story would make the importance of Siddhartha's hair cutting stick in their memories more.

I made the children say Siddhartha's name several times, "Say it after me, Gautama."  In retrospect, I could have written his name out for them and instructed them to include the name Gautama on their pictures to help them remember this point.  Hopefully, they'll still remember his new name when I ask them next week.
She drew a picture of Gautama and his begging bowl.
Short lesson.  This actually worked out perfectly.  A late afternoon Puja had been planned at the Buddhist Center so we had to end our lessons early.  Anything special I could have planned would have been cancelled.  This experience was a good lesson for me about worrying unnecessarily.