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Thread: Activities for Vesak

  1. #1
    Senior Member KellyRok's Avatar
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    Activities for Vesak

    Hello all,

    Okay folks, here we go. Here is a list of some ideas that I've come up with as activities that we might want to do as a family for Vesak. Wow, that was a mouthful...Please take a look, give your opinions, offer suggestions and/or other new ideas, and offer your perspectives. Most of these activities I've geared for ages between 4-12 years old, give or take.

    As for the official date of our celebrations, they should probably occur during the week prior to April 8. April 8th is the day that Japan observes as Buddha's Birthday. So here are my ideas:

    1. Read to your children, the story of Buddha's birth, early life and continue up to and slightly after, his enlightenment. This story can be found in a few different forms here: http://buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhism/index.htm. Or if you'd prefer the hard copy, check out a few different versions like "Becoming Buddha: The Story of Siddhartha" on amazon.com. Also, there is always the movie, "Little Buddha" with Keanu Reeves - a little hard for some youngsters to understand, but the story within the story, of Buddha's life is pretty neat.
    2. Like we have an egg hunt for Easter, we could do an "elephant hunt" - I chose elephants because Siddhartha's mother dreamt of a white elephant while she was pregnant with him. Elephants are cute for young kids and I thought they would enjoy them. You can cut out paper elephants for your kids to color (as many as you'd like). Or you can find plastic or wooden elephants to use - it doesn't matter what they're made of. Number them, if they are a toy - each number will correspond to a task, a treat, or an activity. If you use paper, you can write these things on the back. The tasks can include anything you want, examples may be: go to lunch/breakfast with dad or mom (the idea is only one parent, so they have quality time with that person), help mom/dad with the dishes, laundry or garbage, make a gift for a neighbor or friend, play a game (of your choice) with your family, make a birdhouse/birdfeeder with dad. The idea is to get them thinking about doing things for, and with other people and not about "getting" a present for themselves. If you don't like the elephant idea, we could still do an egg hunt with bits of paper with the tasks written on them...just an idea.
    3. If you have older children, who may not enjoy the elephant hunt, then create a scavenger hunt - to symbolize how Buddha left home in search of the truth. The scavenger hunt should be a fun search you can do together, but maybe relate back to what the Buddha went in search for, I'm open for suggestions here. I haven't worked out all the details for one of these yet, I figured we could do that together. Here is a nice site with some creative ideas: http://www.birthdaypartyideas.com/html/ ... _hunt.html . If you scroll down a bit, there is a list of hunts that others have created for B-day parties, not related to what we're doing, but it gets you thinking.
    4. Make and enjoy a meal/treat of rice pudding together. I realize not everyone may enjoy this, it's just an idea. But this can be done while reading the part of Buddha's story where the girl offers him a meal of rice/ricemilk because he is in such poor health from his ascetic practices. This is a symbol of the balance we must all have in our life. Or as my dad used to say, "Too much of a good thing, can be bad for you" or "everything in moderation".
    5. Make Vesak lanterns! Shawn/Shards posted a lovely link above on how to make them, he read my mind I think . Each family member should make one to symbolize the light within each of us, when put together, can truly brighten a room and our world (yes, I can be corny at times). It also symbolizes the moment at which Buddha found the truth and became enlightened. This can be lit each night leading up to Buddha's birth, or simply for the tea washing ceremony described below.
    6. On the day, April 8th - we can have an online ceremony (held by Jundo, Taigu, or maybe one/all of our ordained priests in training) where we will wash a figure of baby Buddha in tea water. This tradition is explained a little more here: http://buddhism.about.com/od/buddhistho ... akpuja.htm . I realize we may not all have a Baby Buddha figure to do this ourselves, but I don't see why we can't make one. Find a picture online, maybe on buddhanet.net and the laminate it. Or find a large smooth rock and help your child/children paint a figure of baby Buddha on it (I mean no disrespect here, just brainstorming ideas). I will post a link to some pictures of Buddha as well as elephant patterns in the crafts thread.
    7. As a family, make a donation of money, food, clothes, etc. to a foodbank, shelter, or other charitable org. Either take your children to the facility to drop items off, or ask them to contribute a portion of their chore/holiday/spending money to donate to the cause of your choice. Or, make soup or some type of food to deliver to a sick/elderly neighbor and maybe spend time visiting if they want.
    8. Get outside - if weather permits and get in touch with nature. This was included as part of my "elephant hunt" ideas, but I'm putting it here anyways...As a family, work together to make a bird feeder or a bird house and put it up outside your home. My boys loved to do this at our last house - it is definitely in our plans for spring. Go to a park to have a picnic, go for a walk and enjoy the scenery, and then spend some time afterwards picking up trash and cleaning the area around you to show your kids how important it is that we all work together to keep our world clean. April is also the month that includes Earth Day, so I thought this would honor Buddha as well.
    9. Plant something with your kids to symbolize life - rebirth. This could be flowers to give to someone once they bloom, or they could be for your family to enjoy. Or start an herb garden so your children can see the magic of life as it grows, and then how it can nourish our bodies.
    10. Every night for the week before April 8th, light 3 candles at dinnertime to signify Buddha's search to end the impurities of greed, anger and ignorance. Or to symbolize the three treasures: Buddha, Dharma, Sangha.

    Let's get the discussion going...let me know what you think.

    take care,
    Kelly/Jinmei

  2. #2
    Senior Member KellyRok's Avatar
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    Re: Activities for Vesak

    Hello again,

    There's nothing like replying to your own post , sorry I forgot to include this one:

    11. I mentioned doing activities each night for like the 7 days leading up to April 8th...what do you think of posting a webcast each day/night of a different Jataka-type story that we could all watch with our children. Jundo, Taigu - I know you both are very busy, this may be too much to ask of you. I was thinking maybe have Treeleaf members and their children (those who have webcams and youtube accounts I guess) read a Jataka tale, or another Buddhist story, post online and then we can watch as we are able. Each day would host a different Treeleaf member and their family reading a different story to the rest of us to watch with our children. Would anyone be willing to do this and do you think it is a usable and doable idea?

    Thanks for reading...

    Gassho,
    Kelly/Jinmei

  3. #3

    Re: Activities for Vesak

    Wow! lots of ideas Im going to do the elephant hunt with my 2 as its right up their alley.

    Thank you for your ideas and hard work getting this together!

    Gassho
    Shohei

  4. #4
    Senior Member Shujin's Avatar
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    Re: Activities for Vesak

    Quote Originally Posted by KellyRok
    I was thinking maybe have Treeleaf members and their children (those who have webcams and youtube accounts I guess) read a Jataka tale, or another Buddhist story, post online and then we can watch as we are able. Each day would host a different Treeleaf member and their family reading a different story to the rest of us to watch with our children. Would anyone be willing to do this and do you think it is a usable and doable idea?[
    Hi Kelly,
    I think this is a good idea, and fits with the sit-a-long tradition to which we're accustomed. I would be be willing to read a story on camera, provided I'm able to obtain the story far enough in advance. What age group are the stories geared towards? I have a one year old & a three year old, so they wouldn't be able to sit through anything very long.

    gassho,
    Chris

  5. #5
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
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    Re: Activities for Vesak

    I'm going to run some of these by my wife. Thanks Kelly for all the hard work and all the ideas!

    Ron

  6. #6
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Activities for Vesak

    Hi Kelly,

    Outstanding work! I'll have to take some time to digest and think about all of it! Thanks so much for this!

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  7. #7
    Friends of Treeleaf Dokan's Avatar
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    Re: Activities for Vesak

    Quote Originally Posted by KellyRok
    Let's get the discussion going...let me know what you think.
    Great work Jinmei! All great ideas.

    I especially loved the ones being outdoors. My wife and I were married at a beautiful Japanese garden in Ft. Worth...so maybe we will make a day of it there on the 3rd or 9th. Also I know my girls would love doing the lantern decorations and I was thinking of maybe having them paint some lotus blossoms I can carve out of plywood. I could couple this by making them holders for the lighting the candles each night, to personalize it for them. I thought it would also give me an opportunity to share some of the possible meaning behind the flower...this site discusses it quite well.

    For us, I'm not sure on the elephants and the baby Buddha. It's not that I don't think they are cute and that the kids would love them. It is just that in my case, two of my three daughters are from a previous marriage and their mother is a Christian. I just wouldn't want to muddy the waters there with things that are close to Easter activities. Plus, there are a lot of other great things already to do.

    As for the reading of a story, I am totally on board with this. I have a few great books by Jon Muth that we could read. Or if you have an idea for stories then I'm ok with that as well. My twin 8 y/os are quite extroverted (have their own http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9MGrN__tlU&feature=player_profilepage[/video]]YouTube channel) and maybe I could even convince them to act out a story as I read...my 2 y/o probably will just wreak havoc...

    My mom-in-law is Japanese but was raised Shinto & Christian so I'm not sure I could pick her brain too much. My step-mother, however, is a Thai cook and Theravadan Buddhist (I think they celebrate Vesak in May?) so maybe she would have some neat deserts. I know she used to make something carved to look like lotus blossoms but I think it was carrots. Every other Sunday I do some custom pancakes for my kids by first doing the outline with a squirt bottle of pancake batter, then after about 15 seconds fill it in and add choco-chips...maybe I'll do it on Friday instead and make elephants and lotus and such.

    I'll let you know if I can get any ideas from my step-mom and thanks for all the hard work!

    Gassho,

    Shawn

  8. #8
    Senior Member Hogo's Avatar
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    Re: Activities for Vesak

    Thank you Kelly for your effort.
    My daughter (Emma, age 7) have been for a while working on the story of the buddha coloring book found at budda net, where we read a couple pages and she colors them in. We started this as supplememnt to her history lessons (we homeschool) she really enjoys the coloring and we are both learning the story together it has been great.
    A few of your ideas I think we will give a try, like the lanterns, a gift of charity, and maybe a special hike into nature for the occasion. I myself am still learning the basics of the buddha, and I will use this as an oppurtunity to further my own education as well as enjoy it with my family.
    I think the video story reading is also a fun idea, I will keep an eye on how that develops, but I see no reason why my daughter and I could not read a story, she really enjoys reading, and seeing herself on camera (I'll suffer through it for her :roll: )
    Thank you again for your ideas.
    Gassho.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Re: Activities for Vesak

    Hi Jinmei

    We had a Multicultural Week several years ago at school (primary/elementary) and my class (7-8 year olds) theme was Buddhism.
    We used many of the resources found on Buddhanet and even did some role-play on the Jataka Tales the class studied in groups. The one thing the children found really exciting was the competition to see who could sit the longest without making a noise or opening their eyes (with the exception of one child whose parents were opposed to yogas of any kind). The winner went the whole 3 yards (minutes)!

    I like the Bodhi Tree idea (by the way what kind of tree is the real Bodhi Tree? Can you grow it in temperate countries?) and have seen this at a Vesak Festival at the nearest Forest Sangha Monastery years ago now. But as the Abbot on that day said, we aren't exactly a party, party religion!!!!
    However to grow a tree from a shoot or seedling would provide interest about life, growth and changes and some teaching opportunities about the same.

    My one contribution if I can manage it, will be to ask my teenage boys to design and shoot a YouTube video of one of the Jataka Tales, in their own inimitable style, which may not be traditional, but which may turn out fun. I will try to maintain some editorial control over decorum!! Will keep you posted.

    Well done for all your ideas and efforts!

  10. #10
    Senior Member Ronchan's Avatar
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    Re: Activities for Vesak

    Hi Nigel,

    noticed your posting. It's a Sacred Fig (Ficus religiosa - Bohdi Tree). I stumbled on this internet address, maybe it is of some use to you.

    http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Sacred-Fig-Fic...item483ecb704e

    Gassho,
    Ronald.

  11. #11
    Senior Member KellyRok's Avatar
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    Re: Activities for Vesak

    Hello all,

    Thank you for responding with your opinions and ideas! I tried to create a varied list so other members of our families who may not practice what we do, can feel comfortable and still feel included. However, I also tried to include some traditional Buddhist methods of celebrating the holiday for those of us who would like to teach these things to our children. Please do let me know if you have other ideas.

    Nigel - I love the idea of planting/taking care of a Bodhi tree. I once had a Ficus Benjamina, but let's just say, it didn't fare too well with my not-so-green thumb at the time. But I'd love to give it another try now that I'm older, and slightly more patient. Ronald - thank you for providing the link!

    Hogo, Shawn - I think it is great that you want to help with the video story time. Jon Muth books are perfect! My boys and I might be reading one of his books too, there's definitely plenty to choose from.

    Chris - I'd love to have you read a story too! Thank you for the interest. Many of these stories are geared for older children ranging from about 6-10 years old. But you might want to look at the Jataka tales found here http://buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhism/index.htm. Let me know what you think.

    Wonderful response...hope to hear more!

    take care,
    Kelly/Jinmei

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    Friends of Treeleaf Dokan's Avatar
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    Re: Activities for Vesak

    Had a chat with my Dad & Step-mom today on the lotus blossoms and apparently the ones she does are with radishes. I found this link that shows how to do it.

    Radish Flowers

    It was surprising that she didn't know much about Vesak (or Visakha Puja in Thai) as her sangha doesn't celebrate it. Apparently it is something celebrated in Thailand, but somehow not in the US (at least to her knowledge).

    Anyway, I don't know that radishes will be a tasty treat for kids, but may still be fun to make.

    Gassho,

    Shawn

  13. #13
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Re: Activities for Vesak

    Thanks Ronald

    I will have a look... and.. I think ask someone with greener fingers than mine to help have a grow!

  14. #14
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Activities for Vesak

    Hi all,

    Sorry it took me awhile to read through everything, but these are some really great ideas that I wouldn't have come up with in a million years. I am very grateful Kelly! I'm not sure if your idea was to have us decide on some of the activites and discard others, but it seems to me like we should encourage everyone to try out any they like and then report back in mid to late April about how they went. I can understand trying to decide beforehand to start tradtions right away, but I think testing them all out (or as many as folks want to do) will help us find out what really works. Does that make sense?

    If it is helpful, I will list the activities that appealed to me the most: Reading the story of the buddha, the elephant hunt, the laterns, donating money/time, and planting. I'd also be willing to read a story for sure!

    I'm really looking forward to this and hope others are as well!

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  15. #15
    Senior Member KellyRok's Avatar
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    Re: Activities for Vesak

    Hello all,

    Dosho - You are too kind with your comments.

    I'm not sure if your idea was to have us decide on some of the activites and discard others, but it seems to me like we should encourage everyone to try out any they like and then report back in mid to late April about how they went. I can understand trying to decide beforehand to start tradtions right away, but I think testing them all out (or as many as folks want to do) will help us find out what really works. Does that make sense?
    Absolutely! I created a variety of activities knowing that not all of them would work for all members. This list came about after a rather long brainstorming and researching period for me. Please do comment on the ones you like, the ones you think will not work, the ones we should keep as a Sangha, etc. I would love to hear what works and what doesn't. The main thing is hopefully we can find a few traditions that we can do together as a Sangha (such as the story reading, lantern making, baby-Buddha washing ceremony).

    If members come up with some other ideas while the holiday is here - great! Please be sure to share it here with everyone. I hope others really do share their own ideas.

    I'm still coming up with some links for paper elephant patterns and a picture of baby Buddha (if you all are interested) - I'll be posting them on the "crafty idea" thread in the coming days.

    take care all,
    Kelly/Jinmei

  16. #16
    Senior Member Shujin's Avatar
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    Re: Activities for Vesak

    Hi Kelly,
    I took a look at the Jataka Tales; unfortunately, they're too old for my little guys. Of course they're not going to stop growing, so I can revisit this at a later time We're going to make lanterns this year, and we'll try the elephant hunt... if we have time for others, we may work them in as well. Thanks for all your hard work on this front.

    Another site with lantern info: http://www.foundinceylon.com/2008/05/17 ... -lanterns/

    gassho,
    Chris/Shujin

  17. #17
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: Activities for Vesak

    Kelly,

    For the baby Buddha idea, might I suggest making one out of a polymer clay like Sculpey? You can bake it in the oven on a cookie sheet for about 15 minutes to harden and it'll be waterproof. (Of course, this would be for kids old enough not to try putting clay in their mouths. )

    Perhaps I can experiment with this in the coming weeks and see if I can come up with a simple design . . .

    Gassho,

    Jennifer

  18. #18
    Senior Member KellyRok's Avatar
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    Re: Activities for Vesak

    Hello all,

    Jennifer - I think using clay would be a wonderful idea! I'm not sure of our art skills in the attempt to form something that looks like a baby Buddha, but it would be fun trying. I'd love to see what you come up with. Would you paint it, or have to seal the clay after baking?

    Thank you for the suggestion!

    Gassho,
    Kelly/Jinmei

  19. #19

    Re: Activities for Vesak

    Hi Kelly,

    Well, looks like that is about all the feedback right now.

    Let me write you back with a list of "recommendeds" for Vesak, and then we can get a homepage up.

    Wonderful wonderful.

    Gassho, J

    Quote Originally Posted by KellyRok
    Hello all,

    Jennifer - I think using clay would be a wonderful idea! I'm not sure of our art skills in the attempt to form something that looks like a baby Buddha, but it would be fun trying. I'd love to see what you come up with. Would you paint it, or have to seal the clay after baking?

    Thank you for the suggestion!

    Gassho,
    Kelly/Jinmei

  20. #20
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: Activities for Vesak

    Looks like Jundo is wrapping this up . . . but yes, you could paint if you wanted to, and the beauty is no, you don't have to seal.

  21. #21

    Re: Activities for Vesak

    Great work! Great ideas! Looking forward to the web page.

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