The proper way to start any session of a Buddhist Dharma-school is by use of well-directed devotional exercises. The children should be taught the idea of reverence and the value of making personal devotions a regular part of every individual’s life, beginning in childhood. It is quite a good idea to introduce new formulas of aspiration, subjects of meditation, new songs and poems from time to time, but it is advisable to continue any practice until the children have committed that particular devotion to memory. As a rule, we carry with us all through life, the poems and devotions we learn as boys and girls. The importance of these devotional exercises to go along with each session of a Dharma-school cannot be over-estimated. Some classes have devotions only at the opening of the session each Sunday. In other cases there are both opening and closing devotions. The sample given here is rather a standard one, being widely used in many parts of the Buddhist world.
When all the children are assembled, it is a good idea to let them work some of the noise out of their systems by singing an opening hymn. This is followed by the leader of the school saying :
“GLORY TO HIM, THE BLESSED LORD, THE ALL-ENLIGHTENED ONE, THE PERFECTLY EN-LIGHTENED BUDDHA !” (This formula of veneration may be said in Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese or any other language considered suitable in a given school). The children repeat the formula after the leader. It may be three times repeated, if desired. Then it is proper to recite the Three Refuges, with the children repeating them after the chief, teacher or leader.
I TAKE MY REFUGE IN THE BUDDHA.
I TAKE MY REFUGE IN THE DHARMA.
I TAKE MY REFUGE IN THE SANGHA.
After the Three Refuges, it is a good plan to have the children recite after the leader:
“Receive us, 0 Lord Buddha, as Thy disciples. We vow to learn Thy teachings. We vow to follow those holy teachings and to observe the precepts. We vow to be faithful all our lives to the sacred teachings we are now learning. May all beings be well! May all beings be happy !”
This exercise is usually followed by the Five Precepts, given here in language that is not beyond the comprehen – sion of the very young. Needful to say, this formula is not a literal translation from the original language.
I PROMISE NOT TO KILL.
I PROMISE NOT TO STEAL.
I PROMISE NOT TO BE IMPURE.
I PROMISE NOT TO BE UNTRUTHFUL.
I PROMISE NOT TO USE ALCOHOL OR EVIL DRUGS.
There is another version of the precepts known as “The Expanded Five Precepts.” Some Dharma-schools use this second version alternately with the simpler version. It has come down to us from an ancient Sanskrit text through a Chinese translation. Here it is:
(1) I PROMISE TO RESPECT ALL LIFE AND NOT TO HURT ANYTHING.
(2) I PROMISE NOT TO TAKE WHAT IS NOT MINE AND ALSO TO HELP EVERYONE TO BE MASTER OF THE FRUITS OF HIS OWN LABOURS.
(3) I PROMISE NOT ONLY TO AVOID IMPURITY BUT ALSO TO SEEK TO DO ACTUAL GOOD.
(4) I PROMISE TO AVOID ALL UNTRUTH AND DAILY TO SPEAK THE TRUTH IN A HELPFUL WAY.
(5) I PROMISE TO USE NO DRINK OR DRUG THAT WILL POISON MY BODY OR MY . MIND AND I SHALL HELP OTHERS TO OVERCOME BAD HABITS.
Source: Buddhist Sunday School Lessons By the Venerable Sumangala