One of the wonderful things about being a Unitarian Universalist is our appreciation for the world’s religions that is reflected in our Six Sources. In January, in addition to our regular classroom curricula, I read a Buddhist story for our all-church “Time for All Ages” by Buddhist author Jon J. Muth. Teachers and youth spent our fifth Sunday all-ages-together time in a further exploration of Buddhism.
Personally, I have strong ties to Zen Buddhism. I learned and practiced Zen at a local Zen Center as a young person. Those meditation techniques and the dharmic teachings that include the acceptance of all beings, learned as a teenager and on into my twenties, profoundly changed my life. I feel a deep appreciation for the gifts that the Zen tradition and Buddhism have given me over the years. I did not find Unitarian Universalism until my own children were born, and it was important to me to find a faith tradition that accepted and honored my previous religious journey and practices. Unitarian Universalism does that so well!
The story by Jon J. Muth, The Three Questions, is based on an older story by Leo Tolstoy. A boy tries to find an answer to the questions “What is the most important time? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?” He learns that the most important time is right now, the most important person is the one who is with you, and doing good for those you are with, right now, is the most important thing. Those themes, the importance of paying attention to right now and truly helping those who are with us every day, are concepts for right living that young and older people can ponder and appreciate.
On our 5th Sunday in January, the teaching team was together with all of our youth in room Joan Gillan 3. We heard about how the Buddhist religion came into being, and some of our youth acted out a scene from the Buddha’s life. We learned about the eightfold path that Buddhists live by: right understanding; right thought; right speech; right action; right livelihood; right effort; right mindfulness; and right concentration.
After hearing some of the basic precepts, we tried a few minutes of meditation. Next we chanted the ancient Sanskrit words “om mani padme hum” which translates as “the jewel in the Lotus.” Then we were on to crafts. We had wonderful parent volunteers assist with our crafts and coloring activities. After our regular church time, our RE Youth Director, Merrie Lee Wooten, took some of our older youth on a field trip to a local Buddhist Temple. It was a busy day and we hope our youth enjoyed exploring a new faith tradition.
That Sunday was the right time, with exactly the right people, to do the most important thing.