Bodhi Star Meditation Class for Kids
Inspired by the success of the annual Summer Camp, in 2009, then Vice Abbess Master Jianding started the weekly Bodhi Star Class for kids aged 6-12, because of the need to regularly plant the seeds of Buddha’s good virtues into the awareness of local children. In 2011, Master Jianjun took charge of the Bodhi Star Kids’ Class. Using an innovative teaching style and fun activities and assisted by a group of excellent ATs, she aims to make Buddha’s teachings easier to grasp and understand by the young minds. In this way, more children can learn about the different good virtues in order to grow up to be responsible adults. In the same year, Master Jianqiang saw the need for a youth class, because some participants from the past years have grown into teenagers, but still wished to learn the Buddhist way of life. The Bodhi Star Youth Class was thus opened and taught by Shifu, and ably assisted by Ofelia Santos and other ATs, using creative methods more suitable to keeping the youth attentive and interested. Ultimately, the Masters aspire to cultivate good character in the Bodhi kids and youths. Etiquette is taught to develop respect and thankfulness for the Three Jewels and other sentient beings. First, chanting the Heart Sutra cultivates respect and harmony. Second, meditation calms the minds of the children, to develop peaceful attitudes. Third, storytelling imparts good virtues and contributes immensely to the development of children’s character. Lastly, virtues are fostered through practical skills like games, arts & crafts, martial arts, acting, singing and dancing, and language (Mandarin and English) classes. Through these activities, the participants easily absorb and practice the virtues that will mold them into adopting a more righteous way of life. After joining the classes, the kids became compassionate to animals, respectful to elders, thankful to their parents and most importantly, displayed the good effects of meditation. The Masters and all volunteers know that the seeds of goodness planted in the Bodhi Star kids’ and youths’ minds need to be constantly nurtured, which is why they are all dedicated in giving the best opportunity to the children. The weekly classes allow the Bodhi Stars to bloom and make a difference in their families and society; hopefully, they will become the best person they aspire to be.
Long after the Buddha entered nirvana, his follower Grand Master Wei Chueh of Ling Quan Monastery was requested by the Taipei City Government in 1993 to conduct a summer camp to help educate and discipline around 70 hyperactive children. Since that camp’s success, Chung Tai has been holding the Little Stars Summer Camp annually, with close to 1700 participants every year. Guided by Grand Master’s compassionate vows, Ocean Sky Chan Monastery offered its first summer camp in 2004. In 2007, the former Abbess Master Jianyong (見庸法師) brought new energy into the annual activity. In the 2007 Little Dolphin Summer Camp, the former Abbess mobilized many volunteers to help and assist the Shifus in preparing and in teaching classes and activities. In 2009, the camp had the theme Treasure Hunt, where the children searched for the Mani Pearl Scroll, symbolizing the precious inherent wisdom in all sentient beings. For the 2010 camp, the then Vice Abbess Jianding (見叮法師) gave it a new name: the Bodhi Stars Summer Camp where the children are called Bodhi Stars. It was themed A Sky Train Journey through the Ocean Sky Galaxy to the Castle of the Bodhi Mind. The 2011 theme was the Journey of the Great Pilgrim, Venerable Xuanzang, in which the Bodhi Stars retraced the difficult journey that Master Xuanzang took as he traveled to the west to retrieve sacred books. 2012: Bodhi Stars Shine Bright In 2012, Abbess Master Jianshu (見樞法師) introduced the idea of a whole day camp, taking on the Teachings of the Sixth Patriarch Huineng of Chan Buddhism as the theme. In the camp, delicious and healthy vegetarian foods were served to 80 children, and more than 100 volunteers. Based on the Four Tenets of Respect, Compassion, Harmony and Sincerity (Truthfulness) plus Thankfulness, the summer camp also included classes on Zen meditation as well as arts and skills. All throughout the 5-day camp, the Abbess effectively taught the five great virtues, with the aid of five plays adapted from selected stories on the life of Sixth Patriarch Huineng. Discipline Coordinator Lolita and AT Coordinator Celia Ng helped in the implementation of the planned activities. The children were divided into five groups, each one representing one of the five virtues and being led by an Assistant Teacher (AT): Respect led by Laurie, Compassion by Lally, Harmony by Raceli, Sincerity by Joan, and Thankfulness by Maricel. Buddhist teachings and values were learned also through the skills class activities. In Arts and Crafts, taught by teachers Andrea and Janey, the children made creative works of art to be given as gifts to their parents on completion day, to show their appreciation for their parent’s kindness. In Vegetarian Cooking, taught by teacher Michella, the children learned the value of compassion of no killing. Tie-dyeing was taught by teacher Mari-Len, Crystal Beadworks by teacher Consuelo, and Martial Arts was taught expertly by Master Jianjun, assisted by AT Justin. The Mandarin lesson was made more interesting by Master Jianyin. Under the instruction of Master Jianqiang, the Bodhi Stars also had their first experience of playing the wooden fish and hand bell, while chanting the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum harmoniously. Throughout these skills class activities, the Bodhi Stars came to understand the true meaning of respect, compassion, harmony, sincerity and thankfulness. On the last day, the Sutra on the Profound Kindness of Parents was chanted to celebrate Mother’s Day with the parents present. It was a touching experience because the parents and children openly exchanged messages of love and support with one another. There was also the solemn lamp lighting ceremony, where the Shifus passed on the flames from their lamps (candles) one by one to the lamps of the Bodhi Stars, who laid them down on the floor to form the beautiful golden dome of Chung Tai. All participants then knelt down and recited the Infinite Vows of the Little Bodhi Stars. “Lamp light passes on to the next lamp, the flame shining upon each other.” (燈燈相傳，光光相照。) This heartwarming scene surely meant that the Bodhi-seed had already been planted in each one’s mind.