|Little N with a few of the outdoor Buddhas. All decorated with beads, flowers, and bits of nature.|
This was our second week a Dharma school and we still love it. It's a class for children but they welcome parents to remain as well. So far it's been super basic instruction to Buddhism necessary for guests (newcomers?) like me and Little N. There were about 12 kids today and about 10 last week, so it's a healthy class size even in summer. We learned to Take Refuge, which is a series of prayer gestures and prostration. We practiced some simple meditation. Listened to several jatakas, which are parables the Buddha told about kindness. We learned to be calm, respectful, kind, compassionate. During one chant the children join the adults in the Shrine room upstairs. It's a clumsy lovely thing of children making prostrations down the center aisle to sit in a special section at the front of the room and chant with the adults and monks. Then as the children leave they are each given a piece of candy.
|spinning the prayer wheels, releasing thousands of prayers|
Dharma school is held in a multi-purpose room that also leads to the kitchen and the Dharma Shop. The room is dimly lit and cool. You can hear the chanting of the adults in the Shrine room above us. We sit in a circle on a plush rug. Incense occasionally wafts through on the air. And it's a busy room! People passing through from the Shrine room, the clanks and clatter of folks in the kitchen preparing tea and treats for after service, the doorbell chiming, and intermittent conversations in English and other languages. I have to practice to remain focused and calm in the midst of all the distractions.
|showing off his new mala|
One of the Dharma school teachers made a point of telling me that this monastery loves children. She was raised Buddhist and carefully looked for a place to raise her children in the tradition as well. Her three kids sit in the circle with me and Little N and the others. Her youngest fidgets and acts up and makes Little N laugh. We shush them back into quietness and sitting cross-legged. I hover and manage Little N, as I slowly learn that it's ok for him to be a child here. He is welcome here.
|my new mala|
My Christian family members likely won't be excited to learn that I'm bringing Little N to Dharma school. That I'm essentially rooting his spiritual foundation in Buddhism. I've tried bringing him to Christian churches and he just cried and fretted and hated it. And allow me to own that my insides cry and fret and hate a lot of what goes on in a lot of Christianity. But I needed and wanted to find some place and community and tradition in which to teach and connect Little N with reverence and values and good folks. Something about our neighborhood Tibetan Buddhist monastery resonates with him.
Something about the newness of me to it makes it work for me too. I have no baggage about the Buddha and his followers. I have no preconceived notions about Buddhism nor Tibet. It's all brand new for me. That's fresh and bright and amazing. I'm learning alongside my son. Parent enough to gauge that what we are learning is what I want for him - kindness, compassion, respect. Novice enough to share in his delight and awe.
My only worry or caution about this essay into Buddhism, is that we don't turn out to be some kind of religious tourists. I want to be respectful and sincere. I want to share in what the monks are offering and find a way to give back, a way to convey our gratitude to them. I want to be part of the community that they have planted here.