2009 DDMBASF Children Summer Camp Report
「Hello Everybody, How are you doing? Vicki、Kirstie、Austin…」
「Hello Everybody, How are you doing? Alvan、 Karen、 Justin…」
「Hello Everybody, How are you doing? Moya、William、Caroline…」
The sky over the Silicon Valley is shining as usual, however the Valley keeps on suffering from the biggest slump since the dot-com bust. In the DDMBASF Chan (Japanese: Zen) hall, Sam Gieng brother’s rap performance raised the curtain of this year’s kids summer camp. His rhythmic chanting echoed across the mountain valley. Every beat of his sound out of caring was calling those children: How are you doing? How are you doing?
“…there may be good men or good women who are able to play music, sing, or chant praises, and make offerings of incense and flowers before images of the Bodhisattva or who are able to exhort one or more others to do likewise. Now and in the future, such people will be surrounded day and night by hundreds of thousands of ghosts and spirits who will even prevent bad news from reaching their ears, much less allow them to be personally involved in any accidents.”
--The Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva. The Thus Come Ones Praises Chapter 
In order to bring peace to parents and children’s minds, two special ceremonies were offered when they walked into Kuan Yin Bodhisattva hall: one was flowers offering to Bodhisattva, the other was ringing the Dharma Flower Bell. They were not only merit-making ceremonies, but also chances to purify their spirits. Just as the well-known Bell Ringing Verses said: “To ring the bells is to lessen afflictions, to increase wisdoms and to cultivate your bodhi roots…。”
“It's been present throughout human history and there's no human kind can be completely free from all faults and mental obstructions as Shakyamuni Buddha.”
--"The story of Sages" by Master Sheng Yen (1930-2009)
Hogan brother was the Camp Captain this year. He transformed himself into the character of Captain Hook who is infamous for his bad temper and dark spirit. Hogan explained profound Buddhism to those children in a very simple phrase: To learn to be a Buddha is to learn to be a perfect human being. Since Buddha said all living beings have the Buddha nature and can become Buddhas, we gave a tryout for those little campers by playing a little game called “Secret Buddha”. The purpose of “Secret Buddha” is to encourage children to help people and to pay attention to others needs rather than just themselves. Though “Secret Buddha” children could practice putting others concerns ahead of their own.
In promoting the Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance Campaign, we watched the educational animations all together and launched interactive discussions after the program. During the discussion, children talked about the importance of sharing, giving and being respectful and loving to the others. Besides they also agreed that if we could focus on bringing happiness to others, we would reduce our own worries.
“To obtain the state of purity, one has to use their faculty of hearing. To being who like to enter Samadhi, they have to cultivate the skill of redirecting his/her hearing inward and contemplating the listener within.” –The Surangama Sutra Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s Sound Contemplation Chapter
We are living in a multi-media era. Children are exposing in the explosion of media technologies: TV, computer, animation, virtual games, etc. Their senses are chasing the external sensual gratification all the time, especially their eyes. That’s the major cause of lacking concentration and patience in children. During the outdoor Chan activities this year, we designed two programs for children to practice their minds. The first one called Golf Chan. We had children use straws to uphold the golf balls.
Children needed to concentrate on their walking movements and observed their breathing. Many children did a wonderful job they never let the golf ball fall from their straws. For children who had lower attention spans lost interest in this game quickly, we encouraged them to slow down. This slowdown method turned out to be a relief remedy for those children.
The second one was called Chan in the Wind. It was designed to expand children’s sense of awareness. Every team leader guided children through this practice. First we had children to sit dispersed around the grass and then covered their eyes with soft clothes. We encouraged them to listen, simply listen. Listen to every sound. In order to truly listen, children had to make themselves quiet.
In the The Surangama Sutra, the Kuan Yin Bodhisattva who hears the cries throughout ten directions instructed us that through the practice of hearing and contemplating we could get enlightenment. After fifteen minutes, we untied their eye covers and urged them to paint down what they just heard. During the painting, Children were radiant with light. They were calmer and softer.
They were content and really relaxed. Most important, they listened to each others. We felt the flow of love and respect between children. During the presentation, children shared with us that they heard the wind blow, the green grassing, the birds chirping, the teeth grinding, the heart beating and the rock moving.
They also heard the sound of air-condition, the sound of falling leaves, the sound of traffic signs and busy traffic…etc. Instead of listening to external sounds, those little future Buddhas for the first time in their life took one step forward to learn to hear their self-nature and their inner voices.
One kid voluntarily stood up and told everyone during the discussion that she was so happy to let her brain take a break through this practice…
After the delicious vegetarian lunch, Jiang-Tao Brother led the indoor Chan activities. Children went crazy especially in the program of Paper walkers. Paper Walkers focused on patience and cooperation between team members.
The other program called Who is Counting? Next! Kids had to be very mindful and concentrate throughout the game. If they could completely focus they could uncover their hidden mental and physical powers. An extrasensory perception (ESP) or Samadhi-like ability can be developed. They would have a correct hunch about other people’s movements or thoughts.
You asked me: “Can you make me a Chinese knots?”
“You are too young to appreciate the beauty of Chinese knots…” I replied with a bitter smile.
The Chinese Knots written by poet Yu Kuan Chuang(余光中) (09/09.1928--)
Prior to Industrial Revolution, folk crafts played an important role in people’s daily life. Now the machine-made mass products are everywhere, handmade products become very rare and precious. This year we were blessed to have Teacher Fan as our traditional Chinese Knots instructor. Chinese knots’ history goes along with the history of human beings. We did not expect children’s reactions in advance. To our surprise, they showed their great interests and passion toward this very old art form. They did not get tired of making the knots.
It is worth mentioning that boys and little kids had outstanding handcrafts skills. Poet Yu Guangzhong余光中once said in his poem that kids are not sensible enough to appreciate the beauty of Chinese knots. We wish poet Yu Guangzhong could be here and meet those young souls. He would be overwhelmed by these kids’ sensitive and thoughtful conversation.
“Like a magician who performs various feats, all of the forms and appearances [he creates] are unreal. The [9th bhumi] bodhisattva's illusion-like wisdom is the same; even though it is able to manifest all things, they're neither existent or nonexistent.” —The Avatamsaka Sutra, ch.39
In Children Theater’s program, Anna sister provided three short stories for every team, they were It’s All Your Fault, No Air Condition, Finding the Doctor. Then every team leader improvised the story with children together. Each team tried different ways to represent their stories. Children’s imaginations were unleashed through the process of toasting ideas and exchanging daily life experiences...Giggling and laughing were filled up in the Chan center.
The interesting thing was the kids had great fun during the rehearsal however when they went up the stage they shrank. Some children suddenly forgot how to place their hands or even how to stand; other kids were just too nervous to carry the lines. In fact that’s one of the purposes of this program: we wanted them to present themselves in public without fear.
Most of important, children were able to create empathy through the stories, through the roles play. After all, those stories all emphasized the basic virtues of being good human being. Parents came to Chan center earlier to be the audiences off stage. Kid’s performing kept parents’ smiles in bloom.
Chan center’s guitar class only started for few months. We invited four students: Eric、Chung-An、Andy and Henry to share their love for music and performed three songs. Allen brother (Guo Zhi), the instructor of the guitar class welcomed everyone to join this music family for free. Allen brother said it’s not just about music playing. After leaning this musical instrument, we can bring comfort and happiness to others.
“He ignites, lights up a hope on fire. Every dark corner is bright with shine.
He helps, helps sentient beings to get away from afflictions and ties.
Amitabha, Amitabha, My heart is free at easy; My mind collects no dust
Awakening through meditation; Bodhi nature is blooming like a lotus sea…”
-- Light dispels darkness(燃燈之歌) written by Chien-Ming Chen
The closing program was candle-lighting & gratitude ceremony. Though it’s a one day camp, we tried to instill children’s moral virtues and uncover children’s bodhi natures too. As we mentioned in the very beginning, we all have Buddha nature. Therefore young kids are not powerless. They definitely can light up sentient beings through their spiritual nature, they can also take care of our Mother Earth through having a sense of gratitude toward everything. Just don’t forget to give people a big hand any time you can. Don’t forget to say thank you out loud any time you can. Don’t forget every meal we have involves many people’s hard work. Don’t forget to bring forth mindfulness into your daily lives. Don’t forget to recite Amitabha’s name whenever you can. Again and again don’t forget we are always here to wait for children’s return:
「Hello Everybody, How are you doing? Jonathan、Andy、Anderso
「Hello Everybody, How are you doing? Shao Chin、Ethan、Jennifer …」
「Hello Everybody, How are you doing? Henry、Pallas and David …」
 We adopt the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association's English translation.