Group photo of Bodhi Seed campers, Dharma Masters, teachers, and TA’s
Tranquil sounds of breathing and quiet scuffling embellish the Chan Hall as dozens of children shift on top yellow seating cushions. Just moments ago, the hall had been filled with lively music and chatter from young campers and their group leaders returning from snack time outdoors. Now, peacefulness reigns over rows of participants practicing sitting meditation and listening mindfully as the Abbess tells an educational story. In a few minutes, the lights will flick on and crossed legs and closed eyes will transform into raised hands during discussions about the topic of this day’s Dharma talk, be it Charitable Offering, Working Together, Beneficial Acts, or Kind Words.
Bodhi Seed campers practice sitting meditation to focus and calm their minds.
Abbess leads campers in an interactive discussion after her Dharma Talk.
Welcome to the 2018 Bodhiseed Summer Retreat, where from August 3rd to 5th, children aged 5 to 10 participated in creative and educational programming organized by Buddha Gate Monastery Dharma Masters and volunteers. Buddha Gate Monastery provides this annual summer camp with the hope to plant the Bodhiseed, or seed of enlightenment, in children’s minds, and to help them foster positive values and develop their moral compass while having fun.
A total of 40 children attended this year’s retreat, made possible with the help of 64 volunteers. Upon checking in on the first day, children were assigned to one of four teams represented by a different virtue and color: Respect (blue), Kindness (red), Harmony (yellow), and Truthfulness (green). Over the course of camp, they were encouraged to practice these virtues. From kindness-themed arts and crafts to team-building games, lessons, discussions, and activities were designed to reflect this year’s central topic: “Four Ways of Fellowship.” In addition, children recited short verses from a classic children’s text and were introduced to Buddhist practices, including etiquette, sitting meditation, and formal meal. Healthy, freshly prepared vegetarian lunches and snacks were provided each day, during which children were encouraged to practice sustainability and gratitude by appreciating and not wasting food.
Campers travel between different activities accompanied by TA’s and group leaders.
Bodhi Seeds posing as the Thousand-Hand Guan Yin on a tour of monastery grounds.
Teacher instructs Bodhi Seed campers in politeness and greeting etiquette.
Bodhi Seed campers enjoy a delicious and nutritious vegetarian meal prepared on monastery grounds.
Bodhi Seeds learn to cherish their food and only take what they can eat during the formal meal.
Campers practice working together through various afternoon activities.
Campers decorate rocks with creative illustrations and kind words.
On the last day, parents were invited to join their children in a group activity, during which campers shared what they had learned over the past few days. Campers talked about lessons and topics such as treating others with kindness, sharing belongings, and practicing patience through meditation. Despite the retreat coming to a close, the atmosphere at the Closing Ceremony was lively, with participants being awarded gifts and certificates. Each camper was sent home with goodie bags, completed arts and crafts, and perhaps the beginning of a Bodhi sprout.
Participants line up to offer candles during the Closing Ceremony, dedicate merits to the peace of the world, and vow to continue practicing being respectful, kind, harmonious, and truthful.