Sunday Children’s Story
Click here for a printable version of the story.
Click on link to download Power Point slides: Buddha in Winter
Good morning and welcome to you and all the families and children listening on the broadcast. This conference is called Buddhas in Winter. Our story today is about the important role that winter plays in our spiritual lives.
What are some fun things about winter that you like? (Allow children to answer.) What are some things about winter that you may not like? (Allow children to answer.)
Let’s listen to our story now about two children and their experience during winter.
The Buddha in Winter
Long ago, before all of you were born, a family, specifically the Wang family, moved from the tropics to the far northeastern region of their country where summers were extremely short and winters long and severely cold.
When they first arrived, Chen, the young boy and his younger sister, Lotus reveled in the snow. “Look, Chen, I built a snow girl,” squealed Lotus in delight. “Come look at my snow fort,” said Chen. They built snowman after snowman, snow girls, snow boys, snow forts, snow angels, igloos and even snow animals. They played with their friends sledding, skiing and walking with snowshoes. They had never seen snow before and the crystal, white blanket covering the ground was like having a new gift that kept on giving.
But as the months passed, Chen and Lotus grew weary of the cold and snow. When they trudged to school with their playmates in their winter boots and snow clothes, they longed for the warm weather and ocean they used to frolic in. They tossed their sleds and snow gear aside like children often do when tired of old toys.
Their father, a wise man, knew that his children needed to understand the spiritual meaning of winter. “I will take them to the Buddhist monk who lives on the edge of the village,” he thought.
The family arrived at the small temple and walked inside. In the front, candles burned brightly on the altar. The monk sat in the lotus position on a simple mat, eyes closed in peaceful meditation. Lotus noticed his kind face with rosy cheeks and a slight smile.
“What should we do?” she whispered.
“Should we disturb him?” asked Chen.
Without opening his eyes, the monk said in a soft, but rich voice, “Please, approach.”
The father and children quietly walked forward. The monk indicated with his hands that they should sit on the pillows facing him.
They mirrored their teacher and sat in the lotus position. At that point the monk opened his eyes and greeted them with a large and welcoming smile, beaming compassion and peace.
“Welcome. I am pleased that you came. Your father, a wise man, requested that I share with you some teachings from the Buddha. But first, tell me, why are you unhappy?”
Boldly, Chen answered, “We’re tired of the snow and cold.”
Shyly, Lotus said, “We miss the warm weather and ocean where we could swim every day.
“Ah, you are suffering because of your desire to be somewhere that you cannot be right now. Gautama, called the Buddha or the Enlightened One, taught that there are Four Noble Truths. The first is that suffering exists. The second is that suffering exists because of desire. Do you understand this?”
“You mean we’re sad because we want something we can’t have?” asked Chen.
“Yes, you stated that simply and very well.”
“But, can we change our desire?” Lotus quietly asked.
“Very good question and it leads us to the Third Noble Truth that Buddha taught. He said, ‘You can be free from desire.’ And the way this can happen is by understanding the Fourth Noble Truth. It states that you can eliminate desires by following the Eightfold Path.”
“So, if we follow the Eightfold Path, we will be happy?” asked Lotus.
“Yes, that is true. Today I will share one quality of the Eightfold Path – Right Knowledge or Understanding. You see, you think that winter is boring. However, what you really are lacking is the understanding of what winter can teach you.
“You mean winter can teach us something?” asked a surprised Chen.
“Yes, it can. I will tell you a Jataka tale, a story about Buddha. In this legend, he embodies as an animal, although people do not really take incarnations as animals. In this story Gautama is called the Bodhisattva. Would you like to hear this story?”
“Yes!” both children enthusiastically replied.
The monk began the story:
“The Bodhisattva came back as a buffalo in one of his incarnations and lived with a mischievous monkey in the forest. The monkey used to trouble the buffalo every day by either pulling the buffalo’s tail or throwing nuts on the buffalo’s head. The monkey often jumped from the treetop on to the buffalo’s back.
“Though disturbed by the monkey’s actions, the buffalo bore all these pranks without complaining. The other animals of the forest saw this and wondered why the buffalo tolerated all the mischief without scolding the monkey.
“One day, unable to hold back his curiosity, the elephant asked, ‘Master Buffalo, why do you never discipline this troublesome monkey?
“At this, the buffalo smiled and said, ‘I am thankful to the monkey.’
“’Thankful, thankful for what?’ asked the astonished elephant.
“’For teaching me how to be patient.’
“The monkey who was sitting on the tree heard this and was remorseful for what he had done. He came down at once to seek the buffalo’s forgiveness and thereafter they became good friends.”
The monk paused and then said, “You see, winter teaches lessons of patience. It is a dormant season when plants and trees seem to be asleep but life continues internally. It’s a time when trees become bare and most of the grass, plants and flowers die off, however the plant is preparing for waking up. The roots and tree saps respond to soil and temperature changes to prepare for growth that comes in the spring.
“Just as winter prepares plants and trees for warmer weather, it also is a dormant season that prepares you spiritually, a time when your inner character is developed and strengthened. This is a season for you to go deep within your heart and meditate on your Christ Self and Buddha Self.
“In the morning before school and evening before bed, close your eyes and meditate on your threefold flame. You will discover that as your divine self expands, it will warm you. Any impatience you have with winter will be dissolved, for you will no longer desire summer. And, before you know it, the snow will be gone and the warm weather returned. You will have a renewed energy for your outdoor fun.”
When the monk stopped speaking, no one spoke. Then, spontaneously, young Lotus blurted out, “I love winter. I want to be patient like the buffalo.”
“Me too,” said Chen.
The monk smiled and said in a most gentle voice, “Then, go and enjoy winter, and may you be at peace in the heart of the Buddha.”
Let’s take a moment, close our eyes or you can look up here on the screen. Go within the secret chamber of our heart and meditate on our threefold flame. You may want to ask your Christ Self to help you be rid of any desire less than God desire. (Pause for 10 – 15 seconds.)
Thank you for being a part of our children’s story, and may you go in the peace of the Buddha.