On August 6, I begin my sixth year teaching the Dharma to children (and their parents and grandparents) at Daifukuji Zen Temple in Kona. The Dharma is Buddha’s teaching. To me, this is not an exercise in religiosity. (Religion was not Buddha’s intention.) I am teaching children to become aware, to wake up, to themselves, to their own minds and hearts. I believe to the core of my being that self-awareness, taught by Buddha and many others, is salvation. In the realm of my Zen practice, the more aware we become, the more open, loving, kind, tolerant, flexible, wise, and beneficial we are.
I took Zen priest vows in 1984 and in 1990. As one of my teachers told me, “You have vowed to dive to the bottom of the ocean of self.” My vow also is to take and give guidance in Buddha’s example and his teaching (the Dharma), and in the community of those who practice self-awareness.
I teach the Dharma to kids who are toddlers, up to high schoolers. Most are in the middle, four to twelve. I try to make my lessons relatable, and i read picture books at the end of my talks, ideally running along the same themes as my presentations. Not every child understands what I’m talking about. But, as I have discussed with Daifukuji’s head priest, Jiko Nakade Sensei, we are putting down roots. What the children see, hear, are exposed to, and experience during our Family Services will blossom someday into self-aware, loving, compassionate and wise human beings. We need those people in our world.