This lesson was shared with children between the ages of 5 and 8.
In the previous lesson, the children learned about Yasa, a wealthy young man who decided to follow the Buddha. In this lesson the children learned about his father.
The following account is from Buddhism Key Stage II, page 35. (You can download it here.) :
Yasa’s father had been searching for Yasa after he had
left home and entered the Sangha. Eventually, he came
upon the Buddha who explained Dharma to him. He
listened with growing enthusiasm and became the first lay
follower to take the Threefold Refuge in the Buddha, the
Dharma and the Sangha.
At the invitation of Yasa’s father, the Buddha and Yasa
went for a meal at his house. The Buddha talked about
Dharma after the meal and Yasa’s mother was also listening.
She was so impressed that she took the Threefold Refuge
and became the Buddha’s first woman lay follower.
Keep it simple.
There were two main points I wanted the children to take away from this lesson:
1. Yasa's parents became the first lay followers of the Buddha.
2. As layfollowers, we take refuge in the Triple Gem.
I asked the children, "What is a gem?" It was important for them to understand how precious a gem is. We used examples of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, crystals... I held up my ring. "My husband gave this to me when he promised to marry me. The stone is special because it is rare and beautiful and it has a special meaning for me. It is a GEM."
In Buddhism, we have three special gems: The Buddha, The Dharma (the Buddha's Teachings), and The Sangha (the monks and nuns who follow the Buddha in a special way). We call these three the Triple Gem.
I asked, "What does it mean to take refuge?" They weren't sure. "A refuge is a place you go to be safe. If a tornado is coming, we are told to take refuge. We have to find a safe place that will protect us. When animals want to be safe from predators, they look for a good hiding spot. This is their refuge." In Buddhism we have special, safe, protective places to take refuge as well. They are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. So when we say that we are taking refuge in the Triple Gem this is what we mean. When we have problems or worries or fears in our life, this is where we go for refuge.
Use what you have.
The children were encouraged to find symbols of the triple gem in our shrine room. They enjoyed finding them. Then I showed them this picture of the three jewels:
In front of them I colored each gem to represent the Buddha (blue), the Dharma (yellow), and the Sangha (red). One of the kids noticed right away that the three jewels were placed in the shape of a bodhi leaf.
Each of the children were given their own to color.
If time and resources permit, there are a lot of fun activities you could come up with for this symbol. I considered having the children color foil with markers to make the gems shiny. You could use glitter or sticker gems too. Think about ways to make this a beautiful presentation. Next year, I plan to do a lot more with this lesson, craftwise.
Any readers who'd like to share their pictures are welcomed! I'd love to see and share your work here.
May all be free from suffering by the power of the Triple Gem!