Experience has shown that children like to sing, and it is well to insert a hymn or other song at regular intervals in devotion periods. Usually not less than three songs are used in a devotional period and, if desired, a full half-hour period may occasionally be set apart for singing. If there is no closing devotional period, then the opening period may be brought to a close by reciting:
THE GOLDEN CHAIN OF LOVE
“I am a link in Lord Buddha’s golden chain of love that stretches around the world. I must keep my link bright and strong. I must think only good thoughts. must speak only good words. I must do only good deeds. May all people everywhere become links in Lord Buddha’s golden chain of love.”
If there is a closing devotion for the end of the session, then this Golden Chain recitation may be reserved for that time and it is usual to precede and follow it with a hymn.
Once or twice a month it is a good plan to encourage the children to practise the meditation postures in either the single or double lotus positions. The following formula, known as “the Radiation of Goodwill” is then silently “broadcast” by the boys and girls.
“We surround all men and all forms of life with infinite love and compassion. Particularly do we send forth loving thoughts to those in suffering and sorrow, to all those in doubt and ignorance, to all who are striving to find Truth, and to those whose feet are standing close to the gate men call death, we send forth oceans of compassion, love and mercy.”
Many Dharma schools have a little ceremony at each session, for the offering of flowers and joss sticks. The children seem to enjoy this activity, and one of the various verses that can be taught the pupils to use as they make their offerings is:
“Homage to the Lord most holy,
Light of Truth’s Eternal Sun,
Honour, love and adoration.
Unto Him, The Perfect One.
A good plan is to let the girls offer the flowers and the boys the joss sticks on one Sunday and, the following Sunday, to reverse the procedure. Another quotation that can be used as an alternative to the one above given is :
“Lord Buddha, we offer these flowers at Thy shrine that their perishable beauty may remind us of the unfading beauty of Thy Dharma. May the sweet scent of these joss sticks remind us of the nobility of holy living. May all beings be well; may all be happy.”
As a rule, several Sundays, usually not less than two, are required to get the children well practised in the hymns and recitations. It is for this reason that these devotional exercises are listed as Lessons One and Two. Care should be taken that the Dharma school does not lapse into a mere gathering for devotional acts. Devotion has its very real values, but the primary reason for the existence of a Dharma school is to give instruction in the basic teachings of our religion. If we lose sight of that aim, then we no longer have a genuine Dharma school. Let us give every-thing its proper place and proper value, carefully avoiding all extremes. This course of action will keep us on The Noble Middle Path.
As a responsive reading or recitation, The Seven Jewels of the Dharma. is much favoured in Dharma-schools. Usually the teacher reads the first line and the children reply with the second line, and so on. To avoid monotony; it is a good plan to alternate the various devotions given herein. In this way the children learn a wide range of holy thoughts to store away in their young minds and keep with them all through life.
Source: Buddhist Sunday Schools lessons By The Venerable Sumangala.