It was a joyful morning on Sunday, September 20 when the Dharma Schools for Kids and Youth made a comeback for the Fall 2020 semester after months of lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While Hsi Lai Temple has made classes available virtually to adults since the lockdown began, the kids and youth classes had been postponed, until now. Dharma School teachers have devoted time and preparation under the guidance of Venerable Zhi Ching during the months-long hiatus to create a wholesome online curriculum for the younger generation to learn the Dharma. The classes will proceed every Sunday until the semester culminates on December 13.
In the coming weeks, the Dharma Schools will be utilizing the Google Classroom and Google Meet platforms to compassionately propagate the Buddha Dharma online to young students. The theme for this semester will be learning the Three Acts of Goodness through the virtuous examples of the Five Great Bodhisattvas: Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, Manjusri Bodhisattva, Ksitigarba Bodhisattva, and Maitreya Bodhisattva. Each of the Great Bodhisattvas provide strong examples of compassion, mindfulness, wisdom, sacrifice, and the attainment of joy and peace of mind, all virtuous qualities the temple hopes to instill in the students.
The Dharma School for Kids class is targeted towards students as young as seven years old and up to ten years of age, since the temple wanted to ensure that the virtual platform would be suitable for kids at an age group that can thrive in an online environment. The first class began with introductions amongst the students to familiarize themselves with their classmates, followed by a lesson on the Three Acts of Goodness. Teachers taught the children how to bow and pay homage to the Buddha, and the importance of washing hands during the pandemic. They also had a cartoon story time on love, success, and wealth. The moral of the story is to choose love, since only then will success and wealth follow and have true meaning. In the upcoming weeks, the teachers aspire to increase confidence in their students by working on their public speaking skills, while helping them to cultivate virtues through the powerful examples of the Great Bodhisattvas.
The Dharma School for Youth, for students ages 11-17, also began with introductions, but included a “time machine” icebreaker activity where each student had to describe what time era they would travel to if they could and why. All of the answers were compelling, especially those who stated they wished they could go back in time to prevent the pandemic or go to the future to find a cure. Such responses were thoughtful, and reflective of the time that we are living through in the present, where the Covid-19 virus is still rampant around the world. The students are hopeful for a better tomorrow and anticipate good future outcomes, and it is this hope which is so vital for driving society forward during a difficult time. The students have also been able to look on the bright side of a challenging situation and shared with one another the new skills they acquired in this time, including learning how to play a guitar riding a skateboard. The class now anticipates the coming weeks in the Dharma School for Youth where they will learn more practical and spiritual skills to improve their lives and bring them comfort and joy despite trying times or other challenges.
Ultimately, it is the goal of the Dharma School for Kids and Youth teachers to dedicate their time and compassion to the students to help them build their characters by learning and applying the Dharma. The time has come for the months of training in teachers’ workshops to bear fruit this semester, since the causes and conditions will give rise to hopeful success in these classes. The teachers will use the tools, knowledge, and support from the temple to make the virtual classroom experience as enriching as possible for society’s future generation of leaders.