The Black Bull: Treating and Speaking to Others With Kindness

"Treat others with kindness and your deeds will be rewarded."

This lesson can be shared with children of any age.

Buddha Stories by Demi beautifully illustrates 11 Jataka Tales. Most local libraries have a copy to lend.  It can also be purchased from bookstores in the US.  I pulled this week's story from these sweet pages.

The black bull is dearly loved by its master.  As a calf it was given the name Beauty.  In an attempt to repay his master for his kindness, Beauty persuades him to enter a bull race with a handsome reward for first place.

Beauty is startled and heartbroken at the start of the race when his master whips him and shouts curses upon him.  Shocked by his master's behavior, Beauty loses the race and costs his master a great deal of money.

It is only when both Beauty and his master remember the importance of kind actions and words that they are reconciled and richly rewarded.

Here are some questions I asked the youngest children as we read along:

1.) How did the master feel about Beauty before the contest?

2.) What did the master do to Beauty to try to make him go fast in the race?

3.) Why didn't Beauty win the race?

4.) What did Beauty ask the master to do at the next race?

5.) What happened when the master kindly asked Beauty to race fast?

The older children used the following questions for discussion after the story:

1.) Have you ever had someone tell you to do something in a rude way?
How did it make you feel?

2.) Have you ever asked someone to do something in an angry way?
Did they comply with your request?

3.) How does speaking kindly during conflict help both ourselves and the people with whom we disagree?

4.) How can using Beauty's tactic help us resolve quarrels with our siblings?  friends? teachers? parents?
(We then created some hypothetical conflicts and discussed the best way to speak to those involved.)

After our discussion, we decided to make simple duct tape bracelets to help us remember throughout the week to speak and act kindly.   We folded duct tape over twice longway.  Then using dark fabric markers, the kids chose their own words to write on the tape.  Some decorated their words with stripes and flowers.  Others kept it very simple.  I hot glued the ends with a thin strip of velcro to make them easy to put on and take off.
Unfortunately, I only had my camera phone with me so the pictures are not great.

It's nice to close this lesson with a brief Loving Kindness Meditation.  Invite the children to sit comfortably, close their eyes, and focus on their breathing.  Then guide them in these thoughts:

May I be well, happy, and peaceful.
May my parents be well ,happy and peaceful.
May my teachers be well, happy, and peaceful.
May my family be well, happy, and peaceful.
May my friends be well, happy, and peaceful.
May those who are unkind to me be well, happy, and peaceful.
May all living beings be well, happy, and peaceful.

May all living beings be freed from suffering by the power of Triple Gem.

The Courageous Captain: Trusting in Our Actions, Not Superstitions

This lesson can be shared with all ages.

Sometimes Jataka Tales are reserved for our youngest children.  Why?  The Buddha used them to convey important morals and truths to his followers.  Most of them were adults.  My older students always gobble up these lessons, even when I use books clearly intended for younger readers.

Before they can roll their eyes and say, "OMG, this is a baby story," I call myself out for using it.  "Obviously this book is intended for younger readers," I'll say, "but I learned so much from it when I was working on it for the little kids, that I knew y'all would appreciate too."  And they do.

We used a book titled, Courageous Captain, A Jataka Tale.  You can find it here.

Before we read the story, I invited the kids to share any superstitions they knew.
Their list included things like:
     A black cat crossing your path
     Athletes spitting on bats or wearing the same socks
     Breaking a mirror means 7 years bad luck
     Carrying a lucky rabbit's foot
    Women on a Pirate ship was bad luck...

Then I asked, "When we trust in superstitions, do we keep control of our fate?"

I wanted the kids to come away from this lesson knowing that we must rely on our actions, not our luck if we want to be successful.

After the story I asked the following questions:

1.) Why did the captain want Supuraga on board?
2.) Did they listen to his wisdom, or just rely on the good luck his presence would bring?
3.) What made Supuraga such a good navigator?
   (his presence, or his skills, wisdom, insight, etc...)
4.) When the crew trusted in Supuraga as a good luck charm where did their ship travel?
  (closer to danger)
5.) When they trusted his words and acted upon them, what happened?
 (they took control of their ship and gained treasures)
6.) How is this similar to the Buddha?
7.) Does keeping a Buddha statue or picture nearby keep us safe and protect us?
8.) Why do we keep statues of the Buddha around?
9.)When will we find refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, or Sangha?
 (When we follow his teachings)

After the discussion I had a small pasting activity for the younger children to do.  It tickled me that the older kids wanted to make this too.  Thankfully I had enough supplies for everyone.

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

Buddha, Ananda, & the Fishmongers: Choosing Friends Wisely

This lesson can be used with children from preschool through high school.  Heck, this lesson is helpful for adults.

Before sharing this story, the children were invited to try a little experiment.  Each child was asked to put their left hand in a ziploc bag full of chopped onions.  Prepare for lots of exclamations of, PU, YUCK! and THAT STINKS! when you tell them to smell their hand.

Next, the children each had a chance to dip their right hand in a ziploc bag of cinnamon.  When asked how this hand smelled, they made a lot of OOHs and Ahs and That Smells like cookies!

Then I told them a story...  You can find it in Buddhism Key Stages 1 (listed on the Resources Page), BUT...

This story is simple enough to tell without a book.  I drew some simple pictures on a white board to keep the kids' attention.  If you're more comfortable reading the story from a text, there's a short account of it HERE.

Ananda was one of the Buddha's disciples.  One day they walked passed a fish market where the fish monger hung his catch for sale on ropes.  Buddha said, "Ananda, go touch that rope with your fingers."  Ananda obeyed.  Then the Buddha asked, "How do your fingers smell now?"  Ananda told him, "They smell awful."

Shortly after this, they passed a spice shop.  Buddha said, "Ananda, put your hand in that basket of spices."  Again, Ananda obeyed.  The Buddha asked, " How do your fingers smell?"  Ananda answered, "They smell very nice."

Buddha explained to him, "It is the same way with friendships.  If you choose to spend time with corrupt people, you too will smell corrupt, just as your fingers smelled awful when you touched the ropes of dead fish.  When you choose to associate with virtuous people, the sweetness of their virtue will radiate from you as well, just as those sweet spices made your fingers smell pleasant."  Ananda understood the Buddha's teaching.

Then I led a group discussion with questions like these?

What does it mean to be virtuous?  (We usually define a virtuous person as someone who lives a good and moral life.)

As Buddhists we're encouraged to choose wise friends who lead virtuous lives.
What does that mean?

Can people who are not Buddhist be virtuous?
(there should be a resounding, "YES!  OF COURSE!" in response.)

Are your friends like this?

Do you ever encounter friends who are not like this?

Will virtuous friends be perfect?
No?  Then how do we work out problems with a virtuous friend?

How do we treat people who we wouldn't consider virtuous friends?
(This is a good place to differentiate between the terms friends and acquaintance.  We all know people that we are friendly towards.  We should be kind and friendly toward everyone.  This does not mean that we intimately share our time and our lives with everyone.)

How do we attract virtuous friends?

Then we brainstormed different ways to handle vices that threaten good friendships - disagreements, jealousy, breaking confidences)  We contrasted how these conflicts would be handled between virtuous friends and other people.

This discussion was so long and lively that there was no time for an activity.  Friendships are so important to Middle School and High School students.  We could easily have stretched this into two lessons.

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