By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
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Photos by Carlos Chavez/Ventura County Star

Children learn Buddha's lessons of kindness at center in Conejo

June 5, 2014
Ventura County Star

Children as young as 3 are learning about compassion, kindness, karma and meditation in a “Dharma for Kids” class at the Tushita Kadampa Buddhist Center in the Westlake Village area.

“We teach children to meditate with methods to calm the mind and ways to practice kindness, patience and giving in their everyday lives,” said Marie Oser, teacher.

Each class, with up to a dozen students at a time, includes a meditation, storytelling and an art project — all revolving around Buddha’s lessons of loving kindness.

“Buddha gave us all the teachings of dharma,” said Dante Henry, of Simi Valley, who teaches the class with Oser.

On a recent Sunday, students sang the “Liberating Prayer,” which offers praise to Buddha Shakyamuni, an Indian prince who reached enlightenment and became a Buddha in the sixth century B.C.

“He gave us how many teachings?” Henry asked the children before giving them the number: 84,000.

“So when we recite the liberating prayer it’s one way for us to show our gratitude for all the teachings we get from Buddha,” Henry said.

With their eyes closed, sitting around a rectangular table, the children sang the prayer in unison.

Henry then talked about karma.

“What the law of karma teaches us is that when we do things, whether we’re saying it, thinking it or doing it with our body, we experience the effects of what we do,” Henry said.

Izzy Minguela, 8, gave her own explanation. “Karma is when you do something bad and bad comes back to you. And when you do a good deed, good comes back to you.”

The class also included a five-minute meditation in which students sat on the floor with their backs against the wall. In their laps, they placed their right hand in their left, palms up, in a mudra — a bodily posture or symbolic gesture — which symbolizes overcoming the world of appearance through enlightenment.

“Imagine you are a lotus candle; someone walks toward you and lights your wick. ... You are shining as bright as you can be to drive away the darkness of ignorance,” Oser said as she led the children in meditation.

“When we behave badly and get angry, it is as if we are in darkness,” Oser said. “Loving kindness is wishing yourself and all other living beings happiness ... whatever good things we wish for ourselves, we also wish for everybody else; say in your mind ... May all living beings be free from suffering. May all living beings be happy.”

Baylee Fogelmanis, 10, said she enjoys Buddhism because it makes her feel good.

“Buddhism teaches us that you don’t always want to think about yourself ... and that you just want to be nice and kind to other beings,” Baylee said.

If you go

What: Dharma for kids

When: 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Sundays

Cost: Free

Where: Tushita Kadampa Buddhist Center, 910 Hampshire Road, Suite I, in the Westlake Village area


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