The Seven Weeks After Enlightenment

This lesson was shared with children between the ages of five and seven.

The book we used is not available online and I can't remember the title.  (Sorry.  It belonged to another Sunday School teacher.  I'll try to write it down next time.)  Buddhanet has a simple retelling of what happened.  Here is a synopsis of what occurred.  

Week 1: The Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree, meditating and enjoying the perfect peace and happiness of enlightenment.

Week 2: The Buddha stood and meditated with perfect, unblinking focus on the Bodhi tree with thankfulness for its shade and protection.

Week 3: The Buddha built a golden bridge in the air to walk across, proving to the devas that he was truly enlightened. 

Week 4: The Buddha built a jeweled throne. As he sat upon it, six rays of color radiated from him - blue, yellow, red, white, orange and a rainbow of all five colors.  
(We will devote the next lesson to these colors)

Week 5: The Buddha meditated under a banyan tree.  Evil Mara sent his three daughters to dance before him and destract him.  The Buddha remained undisturbed.

Week 6: The Buddha meditated under the mucalinda tree.  As it began to rain heavily, a serpent winded itself around him to protect him from the storm.  When the rain stopped, the snake turned into a young man who learned from the Buddha.

Week 7: The Buddha meditated under the rajayatana tree.  Two merchants approached him and offered him food.  This is the first food the Buddha had eaten since his enlightenment.  These merchants became the first lay followers of the Buddha.

Keep it simple.
This is a lot of information for young children.  Rather than expecting them to memorize what happened and when, I just wanted them to become familiar with the story.  First it was read.  Then it was retold by asking the children to fill in the blanks.  "On the first week, the Buddha sat under the....." (Bodhi tree) and did what?  (meditated)  

If time permits the children could also act this out while someone narrated the story.

Use what you have.
I have to admit, our project to reinforce the story this week was a bit of a failure.  My idea was to use clay.  After showing the children pictures of many different paintings, statues and sculptures of Mucalinda protecting the Buddha, I wanted to encourage them to sculpt an image to represent one of the seven weeks.  The children were very excited about the project and had some great ideas.

Unfortunately, the clay I brought was awful.  It was very hard and no amount of pounding and pushing seemed to soften it.  Some of it actually crumbled and fell apart.  They had more success with the soft play-doh I brought for two, tiny tots (3 and 4 years old) who sit in on the class occasionally.      

Lesson learned.  My advice is to always try use what you already have.  I didn't.  To save time, I bought very cheap clay from the dollar store.  It was useless.  Any nice, homemade play-doh would have worked better.  

Here are a few pics of the more successful attempts at working with awful clay.
Buddha meditating under the Bodhi tree
(This one melted my heart a bit)  

She's making the colorful rays that beamed from the Buddha.  
Buddha under the tree

The "golden bridge" (Picasso had a blue period too...)   
Rev. Sirithana tries to soften the clay for the children to no avail.  
Some of the kids gave up trying to sculpt the clay and chose to line up the Buddhist colors instead.  
Next time: The colors of the Buddhist flag and what they represent.  No cheap clay involved.  : )

May all be free from suffering by the power of the Triple Gem.  

The Enlightenment

This lesson was shared with children between the ages of 5 and 8.  I read the story from pages 15-17 of Buddhism Key Stage 2.  You can download it for free by clicking here.

Keep it simple.
There were three main points I wanted the children to remember:
1. The middle path
2. The causes of suffering
3. All  beings can become enlightened

I took breaks in the story to discuss each point, asking questions like these:

The Middle Path
Could Gautama find the way of truth when he was super comfy and living in the palace?  (No.)
Could Gautama find the way of truth when he was torturing himself and weak with hunger?  (No.)
When did Gautama find the way of truth?  (When he meditated but had a little food too.  When he wasn't trying to be too comfortable or too uncomfortable.)  

The Cause of Suffering
What did Gautama realize were the causes of our suffering?  (Greed, selfishness, stupidity/ignorance)
What is greed?  Selfishness?  Ignorance?  (Accept any reasonable answers)
What will make people happy?  (Getting rid of greed, selfishness and ignorance) 

Buddha Potential
Who can become enlightened?  (All beings)
Can we become enlighetend? (Yes.)
Can the people we know become enlightened?  (Yes.)
YES!  Everyone has the potential to become a buddha!  Potential means it's possible, we have the ability. 

To celebrate the story of Gautama's enlightenment I wanted the children to make something special.
We made paper images of the Buddha under the Bodhi tree inspired by a project I found here.     
Use what you have.
Instead of paper towel rolls, we simply rolled and pasted brown construction paper into a cylinder.
I cut the brown paper and leaves out ahead of time.
I traced and copied a picture of the Buddha that I liked.  The kids colored and pasted it onto the bottom of the  paper tree.  You could also have the kids draw their own pictures or print out a picture or coloring page from the web.  (Just Google Buddha coloring pages and you'll find plenty of choices.)
The children then pasted leaves at the top of the tree.
We set them on a shelf to dry and stabilize before the children took them home.

This project was simple enough for the youngest children to do with very little help and nice enough that the oldest of the children still enjoyed making it.

Next week:  Buddha's meditation and Mucalinda's protection

May all be free from suffering by the power of the triple gem.