Celebrate the Birthday of the Buddha at Wesak time by encouraging children to create their own Thinking House , like the children in the film ‘Sian’s Wesak Day’ on the award-winning ‘A Child’s Eye View of Festivals 2’ DVD Plus.
On Wesak Day, Theravada Buddhists celebrate the birth, Enlightenment and the death of the Buddha. Mahayana Buddhists celebrate only his birth on this day. They celebrate his Enlightenment and commemorate his death on two further, separate occasions. Before his Enlightenment, the Buddha was called Prince Siddhartha. He was born 2,500 years ago at Lumbini Gardens, Northern India (now Nepal). The festival story tells of the Prince’s kindness to an injured swan. In the film ‘Sian’s Wesak Day’, Sian and her friends find out about the Buddhists’ respect for all living things and the natural world.
Create a Thinking House
Encourage children to create and decorate a quiet nurture area where one child at a time can go and sit and ‘think about being happy’. Children can use, for example, blocks, crates on their side threaded with leaves, cardboard cartons, rugs and cushions. Alternatively, use a ready-made willow shelter, tent, or gazebo. Decorate with streamers, leaves, real or artificial flowers, tissue paper flower garlands and wind chimes. Let children decorate old CDs using collage materials and glue, then hang the discs up inside and outside the House. Children can make miniature ‘water gardens’ by putting a little water in disposable clear plastic bowls, and adding pebbles, petals, blossom, dandelions and leaves. Arrange the bowls on a builders’ tray in a space of its own to avoid knocks.
Talk together about how the children feel in the ‘Thinking House’, for example, calm, quiet, peaceful, still, cool, tranquil, serene. Encourage them to think of their own name for this special place, and to make a sign, for example, ‘Our Peaceful Place’, ‘Our Calm Corner’ or ‘The Quiet Space’.
Our Bodhi Tree
The tree under which Prince Siddhartha meditated until he reached the state of Enlightenment is known as the Bodhi tree, or Tree of Knowledge or the Tree of the Awakening. The Bodhi tree is sacred to Buddhists. Bodhi trees (pipal or peepul trees) grow widely inIndia, and the tradition of writing or painting on Bodhi leaves is an ancient art form.
Have a supply of green paper ‘Bodhi leaves’ (roughly heart-shaped), inside the House. Beforehand, punch a hole through each ‘leaf’, towards one end. Put a clipboard with pencil attached on a string, next to the ‘leaves’. Say that children may, if they wish, write down their ‘happy feeling’ on a leaf, then tie it , with colored parcel ribbon, on your ‘Bodhi tree’ – small branches stuck in a large plastic pot of soil, outside the ‘House’. Ask children to tie their leaves on the ‘tree’ loosely so that they flutter in the breeze.