The Domino Effect of Virtue

This lesson was shared with upper elementary and middle school-aged children.

We're continuing to learn about Merit, using the essay, "Ten Ways of Making Merit".  You can find the entire text by clicking here.

One of things that I appreciate about the Buddha's teachings is the plain, common sense it makes.  There's no need to suspend science or reason and believe in something that you cannot see or understand.  Merit is not some sort of magical, miraculous event that's achieved through belief in the unknown.  Merit is simply any action that improves the quality of our mind.  You do something good, it makes you better.  No magic formulas.

As I read the section on Virtue, this beautiful, reasonable quality of Buddhism was driven home to me again. The text for this section is more complicated than young readers can probably follow.  As I began adapting the text for my students, an image began forming in my mind of dominoes knocking each other down one after another.  I decided to skip the text and use a visual illustration for this lesson and then invite the students to illustrate it for themselves.

Using some dominoes we had at home, I taped the different events that flow from good moral conduct or virtue.  It looked like this:

Virtue is the act of living a good and moral life.  As Buddhists, we try to keep The Five Precepts.
We vow to abstain from destroying life or causing harm to any living thing.
We vow to abstain from stealing.
We vow to abstain from sexual misconduct.
We vow to abstain from false or harmful speech.
We vow to abstain from intoxication and heedlessness.
By living a virtuous life we can be confident.
Knowing that we've caused no harm, we aren't looking over our shoulders, fearing the consequences of our actions.  
Without the weight of guilt and fear of punishment, we can take joy in our actions.  We receive the benefits of having a good reputation, knowing in our hearts that we've done well.  We see the peace that our choices have created both in our own lives and in the lives of others.
In retrospect, I would have labelled this tile "Contentment".
The joy our lives of virtue produce make us happy and peaceful in our relationships and within ourselves.    
Being happy and content, free from disputes and worry, both our bodies and our minds are calm.
With a calm mind and body, we have better concentration in our activities and our meditation.
With better concentration we are able to see things more clearly, as they truly are.
This clarity can free us from Samsara.
The dominoes were laid out and discussed one at a time.
It was obvious where we were going with the dominoes, but the kids still got a kick of knocking their own set down and discussing how each of these steps easily leads one to the next.

Afterward, the kids used their tiles to make their own illustration of "Virtue's Domino Effect" as we began to call it.

I like the way this lesson prepares us for next week's topic:  Meditation.  We already have some steps laid out for us now for practical ways to prepare our bodies and minds for meditation.

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

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