It is often said that Buddhist groups in the West are not very welcoming of children, and miss chances to communicate basic teachings and practices to kids. In both Asian Buddhism and for other religions in the west (but, somehow, not so much for "Western Buddhism"), "religious holidays" can be a time for families to unite, to bond through customs and practices, and to bring children into the spirit of the time through the celebration. Holidays can be an important time to expose children to Buddhist teachings and values in ways that leave a lasting, positive impression for the future. Are there ways to make various Buddhist holidays more "kid friendly" while preserving the traditional message, values and customs of the original?
This is something that weighs heavily on many Buddhist parents at this time of year, when the other religions have their big celebrations. Buddhist children might feel left out, and we may be missing an opportunity to teach them important lessons while making them feel included in our Practices, transmitting a positive feeling about Buddhism as they grow up. Also (and most importantly), I am certain that we can do so BOTH while preserving the true message of the Buddhist holidays AND avoiding the crassness and commercialism that has come to represent this time of year.
Our Treeleaf Sangha has established a workshop to transform a couple of traditional Buddhist holidays to suit western needs a bit more, and especially the needs of families and the teaching of good lessons to children. Once we get things hammered out, we would like to encourage other Zen Sangha, and the wider Buddhist community in the west, to join with us.
WITHOUT the department stores (by emphasizing, for example, giving to charity, unselfish giving to others, the making of homemade gifts or giving of Buddhism related presents), WITHOUT the glitz and commercialism, we can turn Rohatsu (Buddha's Enlightenment Day in December), Vesak (Buddha's Birthday around April) and some other holidays into FAMILY FRIENDLY events WHILE PRESERVING THE TEACHINGS. The central messages of the holidays ... selflessness, generosity, non-attachment, peace, awakening, compassion, loving kindness ... can be both PRESERVED and PASSED ON to children through the vehicle of these holidays. The message on these holidays is now conveyed through chanting and ritual ... so why not through joyous songs and home rituals that the whole family can partake in? NOTHING of the meaning, traditions and authenticity of these holidays need be lost.
Todays Sit-A-Long video follows at this link. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.