Teaching the Love of Buddha: The Next Generation

At a Sunday DharmaDharma means religion, religious duty, religious teaching. The word dharma comes from a Sanskrit root meaning “to uphold, support, bear,” thus dharma is that order of things which informs the whole world, from the laws of nature to the inner workings ... school in a Jodo ShinshuThe Jodo Shinshu or True Pure Land school of Buddhism was founded by the Japanese monk Shinran Shonin in the 12th century. This tradition regards chanting the name of Amida Buddha as the most appropriate form of practice in the current degenerate age. Tod... Buddhist TempleBuddhist temples differ considerably from one another depending upon culture and particular school, but most are associated with the residence of the sangha of monks. Theravada temples focus on one or more images of Sakyamuni Buddha. In Mahayana and Vajra..., the second and third graders are coloring the workbook pages entitled “My Obutsudan.” An obutsudan is a BuddhaBuddha means “awakened one” and specifically refers to Shakyamuni Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama (traditional date, sixth c. BCE), the historical founder of the tradition that became known as Buddhism. All Buddhist traditions agree that ther... AltarAn altar is a raised platform or stand which bears the central symbols of a religious tradition—whether in a temple, church, shrine, or home—and at which offerings are made, worship is offered, or prayers are said. as it is found in every Jodo Shinshu templeA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... and home. At the center is the standing image of AmidaAmitabha Buddha, called Emituofo in China and Amida in Japan, is the Buddha of “Infinite Light.” This Buddha is the main focus of devotion in the Pure Land school of Chinese Buddhism, and the Pure Land (Shin) and True Pure Land (Jodo Shinshu) schools ... Buddha. There is an incense burner, a bouquet of flowers, a candle, a small dish of rice. The children color and cut out the Buddha altar, putting Amida Buddha and the various offerings in their proper places. Placing their hands together in the gesture of reverence called gassho, they recite:

Amida Buddha
I offer rice to say “thank you.”
I burn incense to say “thank you.”
I offer beautiful flowers and say “thank you.”
I light the candle and say “thank you.”
Namu Amida Butsu

“Praise to Amida Buddha,” the teacher says, “is the Buddhist way to say ‘thank you.’”

Teaching children the very basics of faith is a challenge in every religious tradition and status as a religious minority brings with it added challenges. The Jodo Shinshu Buddhist tradition has developed some experience in teaching its form of BuddhismBuddhism is a multi-hued tradition of life, thought, and practice that has developed from the teaching and practice of Siddhartha Gautama (6th century BCE) who came to be called the Buddha, the awakened one. The three major streams of the tradition—Ther... to the younger generation, for it is now in its fourth and even fifth generation in the United States. This devotional form of Buddhism, emphasizing the grace and compassion of Amida Buddha, teaches that this “Buddha of Infinite Light” moves with love toward human beings. Sensing this love, our human response is, therefore, gratitude. The religious expression of gratitude is in the very first chapter of the Dharma SchoolPatterned after the Sunday schools of Christian churches, Dharma schools in some Buddhist organizations provide weekly instruction to youth in the basics of Buddhist teachings and practice. primary workbook: Namu Amida Butsu, “Praise to Lord Buddha.” It means “thank you.”

The Jodo Shinshu Buddhists, organized as the Buddhist Churches of AmericaThe Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) is the institutional name of Jodo Shinshu or “True Pure Land” Buddhism in the U.S. This Buddhism of Japanese immigrants regards the chanting of the name of Amida as the most appropriate form of practice in the cu..., have led the way in developing a Dharma school curriculum for use with children on Sundays. The education department of its national headquarters in San Francisco develops and supplies Buddhist educational materials to templesA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... throughout the country. It is a distinctively American curriculum, modeled on the kinds of exercises that will enable children to appropriate their faith for themselves:

This picture is reminding us of
Amida and his teachings.
Amida Buddha loves us all.
His light brightens our world.
He glows with warmth and reminds us of
his promise to help everyone.
Namu Amida Buddha.

The personal testimony of faith has also been incorporated into the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist tradition, enabling children to speak, in appropriate language, of their own part in the Buddhist tradition. Week after week in Dharma school and in Sunday services, they recite the “Golden Chain,” which has become the first affirmation of faith for generations of young American Buddhists:

I am a link in Amida Buddha’sBuddha means “awakened one” and specifically refers to Shakyamuni Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama (traditional date, sixth c. BCE), the historical founder of the tradition that became known as Buddhism. All Buddhist traditions agree that ther... golden chain of love that
stretches around the world. I must keep my link bright and strong.
I will try to be kind and gentle to every living thing,
and protect all who are weaker than myself.
I will try to think pure and beautiful thoughts,
to say pure and beautiful words,
and do pure and beautiful deeds.
May every link in Amida Buddha’s golden chain of love
become bright and strong, and may we all attain perfect peace.


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