Introducing Buddhadharma to Non-Buddhist Parents of School-Aged Children

- through Francois Leclercq

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Photo by Taylor Heery. Image courtesy of the author

A key part of introducing the Dharma to parents new to a Buddhist school is presenting Buddhism and meditation in an accessible way. Depending on the school or lineage of Buddhism on which the school is based, there may be complex or esoteric aspects. For school-aged children learning meditation for the first time, one goal of family outreach is to share what their children are learning and ensure that parents can learn alongside it.

Modern parents work hard, whether in outside jobs or as housewives, or both. Our culture and society here in the United States is full of stressors. At school we try to reduce the stress factor of students, because life is already full of expectations, tasks, events and challenges, both inside and outside the home .

Buddhism spreads by magnetization – not by conversion or proselytism – and this has been true from the beginning. A great way to introduce the Buddhadharma to parents and guardians is to hold a simple meditation group in which sitting or walking meditation for short sessions is interspersed with question and answer time. This way, parents can inquire about their own experiences as well as those of their child in the classroom. They begin to acquire a ingrown or a felt sense of meditation, which is at the heart of Buddhist practice. Even if parents come from diverse backgrounds, whether spiritual, agnostic, or atheist, the practice or study of Dharma does not contradict or negate other paths. Rather, all paths and perspectives can be included in a way that makes the most sense for the practitioner.

Photo by Colin Meg. Image courtesy of the author

In the parenting meditation group that I lead, I welcome a variety of facilitators from different backgrounds than mine who come to demonstrate and model meditation. Even the simple difference of being in a variety of bodies – race, gender, age, shape, size, background or lineage of practice – means that parents can have experiential access to different styles and incarnations of meditation. This is vital for newcomers to develop their connection to meditation, not just intellectual access to information, history or lectures.

Other ways include book study groups or listening to podcasts and then discussing them. There is no shortage of excellent teachers and meditators from different Buddhist lineages. I find it good to expose new parents to Dharma options so they can find teachers they most identify with, rather than telling them who my favorites are or only modeling them after 'one or two ways.

The path I follow today is radically different from my early experiences of Buddhism, but both remain valuable to me. It is easy to relate the daily events of our complex lives to the principles of Dharma. Embarking on a path of Dharma is akin to the scientific method of questioning, observing, experiential learning, experimentation, and personal conclusion based on this embodied inquiry. This all takes time! And there's no need to rush.

For beginners, knowing that the heart of the path is meditation is essential. It's then a matter of taking an interest in it yourself, so it's not just an abstract theory. They do not need to know the many complex enumerations beyond the basics such as the five precepts. Becoming familiar with sitting, being and rest the mind while awake, without doing anything, is revolutionary from the start. Buddhist concepts and theories can of course be introduced, but these alone make the person feel like an outsider or simply encourage intellectual gymnastics that circumvent the heart and purpose of the Dharma.

Photo by Sarah C. Beasley

Truth is discerned through observation (inner and outer). This leads to knowledge, wisdom, understanding the nature of reality in the earthly sense, as well as in the cosmic or spiritual sense. We are not making this up: the laws of nature and reality come from the elements themselves, at subtle and gross levels. We are also made up of these same gross and subtle elements – fire, water, earth, air and space – and we live both within and in interconnection with them.

This knowledge and the cultivation of awareness breeds empathy, which leads to wisdom and compassion. On the path of inquiry, by resting, noticing, and listening, we ideally become more open and curious. This is why Buddhism includes all other paths or ways of life. It is not a dogma, but rather a way of investigating and acting on discoveries of interconnectedness, impermanence, cause and effect, and deepening our interest in others and for the whole experience. It is a privilege and a joy to introduce people to Dharma, meditation and Buddhism, whether they are parents, children or anyone else.

Photo by Arun Prakash. Image courtesy of the author
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Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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