The goals of Dharma School are to provide each child with the following:
- support for feeling accepted and valued as a member of the Sangha
- a peer group that has a common interest in spiritual practice and Buddhist values
- comfort with meditation techniques and broader spiritual practice
- understanding and familiarity with Buddhist terms, ideas, symbols and the altar
- participation in religious ceremonies and celebrations
- opportunities to express interests through art and music
Much of the teaching comes from the culture created around the program, rather than from actual lesson plans. The teachers practice cultivating friendliness, acceptance, cooperation and listening. One of the most important elements in teaching compassion and generosity is to make the children feel safe and appreciated.
Each year, we loosely follow a theme. Some classes may work with it more directly than others. The goal is to explain the topic over the course of the year, while keeping it relevant to the children’s lives. Past themes have included the Six Worlds, the Buddha’s life, Bodhisattvas, the Paramitas, and the Precepts.
Our goal is not to ensure that our kids have a particular knowledge base and background in Buddhism, and it is certainly not to turn them all into Buddhists. We do care that they are exposed to this teaching and that they recognize values such as simplicity and taking care of others, sharing, preserving resources and so on. We hope that they have absorbed some guidance about how one can deal with suffering.
Many children are affected by their participation in Dharma School, and feel that their time in this kind of atmosphere, having these kind of role models, helped them learn to act with more wisdom and compassion at times in their lives. For more information about our philosophy and curriculum, see the manual, Sharing the Dharma with Children.