The First Sangha

Do you remember, that before the Buddha became enlightened he fasted and meditated with five friends?  Well after his enlightenment he returned to these men.  How do you think they reacted to his visit?  Do you think they were happy to see him?  

I read to the children an account of this story from the book titled Prince Siddhartha: The Story of the Buddha by Jonathan Landaw & Janet Brooke.  A simple retelling of the story can also be found here.

This story chronicles the beginning of the Sangha.   The Sangha is a group of monks or nuns.  They have dedicated their lives in a special way to following the teachings of the Buddha.  
The names of these first five monks are:

We wanted the children to become familiar with these five monks for future stories so we had them write the names on paper while we spoke the pronunciation over and over again.  I am very thankful to have a teacher with me who speaks Sinhalese.  I would be at a loss for knowing how to say these names without her.

The five monks were not thrilled to see the Buddha at first.  They thought he had given up his quest for enlightenment.  They planned to not even speak to him.  But as the Buddha came closer to them a radiant light shone around him and the monks completely forgot their plans to ignore him.   They were so impressed by his mere presence that they took his bowl, prepared a seat and washed his feet.  The Buddha told them to no longer call him Gautama.  From now on he was to be known as the Buddha.  The monks asked for forgiveness for thinking badly of him.  Then the Buddha began to teach them.  Once they understood his teachings they shaved their heads, put on robes and formed the Sangha.

Keep it Simple.
This was the Buddha's first teaching.  It is often referred to as The Turning of the Wheel of Truth or The Turning of the Wheel of Dharma.  There is A LOT of rich teaching in this first discourse, far too much to address individually in one lesson for children.  Rather than addressing the details of the Buddha's first discourse, we wanted to expose them to the basic story.  The points of this important discourse will be explained to the kids in smaller bites in lessons throughout the year.

There were two main points we wanted the children to take away from this lesson.  First, in this first teaching, the Buddha explained that many problems come from wanting things in a selfish way.  We can become wiser and happier if we stop wanting things so badly that we become attached to them.  Second, there is a symbol we use for The Turning of the Wheel of Truth.  It usually looks like this:
Once the Buddha began teaching the Dharma, the wheel of truth was set in motion.

Use what you have.
The children were given a picture of the Wheel of Truth to color.  Some chose to color it gold.  Others colored it one or all of the colors of the Buddhist flag.
The older children will be learning more about the Buddha's first discourse and the meaning of the Wheel in weeks to come.

Next time:
Yasa, His Father, and the Triple Gem

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

The Buddhist Flag

The children have been very interested in the colors coming from Buddha's aura upon his enlightenment.  They quickly connected these colors to those on the Buddhist flag.  I decided that this would be a good time to teach them a little more about the Buddhist flag.

Each of the colors represent a quality of the Buddha or the Buddha's teaching.

Blue: Compassion - having loving kindness for all living beings and wishing that no being should suffer
Yellow: The Middle Path - avoiding extremes
Red: Blessings - following the teachings of the Buddha bring good things to our lives
White: Purity - the teachings of the Buddha are clean, without any flaws
Orange: Wisdom - the teachings of the Buddha are wise 
Blend of all five colors: UNITY - the teachings of the Buddha are good for everyone, everywhere and unite us together

Keep it simple.
After we introduced the flag, its colors and their symbols, the children used crayons to color a picture of the Buddhist Flag.  They used small cards to make theirs, but you could also use a print out like the one here.
Use what you have.
I made a simple matching game for the kids with index cards and coiled pipe cleaners.  You could use painted rocks, legos, bean bags, anything really in the flag's colors.

For very young children (five or younger) I would recommend matching the colored coil to an index card with the word the color symbolizes written in the same color ink like this:
For our class, the children took turns matching a colored coil to an index card with the word the color symbolizes written in black or brown ink like this:
Then we made a game out of it.  We laid the index cards out in a row on the floor.  The children lined up for a relay race against the clock.  One at a time, the kids were handed a coil to take to the floor and match with the proper card.  We timed ourselves.  Then we tried to match them faster, and faster.  By the end of the game, all the kids had memorized each of the colors of the flag and the word it symbolized.

The children were encouraged to think about what the flag represents whenever they see it.
Simple lessons seems to stick.

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