Khyentse Foundation coordinated and fully sponsored a Dharma camp for the children of students attending a program in October as part of our research into Buddhist education for the next generation. Rinpoche made it clear in the recent KF board meeting that education should be our top priority moving forward and there are some exciting projects on the horizon. We invited the mother of two of the children, Jesse Klein Seret, to write about the camp from a parent’s perspective.
By Jesse Klein Seret
One of the more stressful aspects of being a practitioner and a parent, is figuring out what to do with the the children during teachings. From hiring a local babysitter stationed in the venue lobby so I could dash out and feed the baby on breaks, to leaving the kids at home with relatives, we’ve tried it all. Although we’ve been able to attend many teachings and retreats this way, each time I’ve been left with a sinking worry that practicing the dharma and raising a young family are two distinctly separate ways of life.
But all of that changed during a recent program. While we practiced and received teachings, our boys participated in the first ever KF-sponsored Bodhi Seeds Dharma Camp for Kids.
KF’s goal was to give the kids a taste of the dharma while providing parents the opportunity to attend teachings. The camp was attended by 28 kids ages 4 to 16 under the guidance and care of 5 amazing educators from all over the world. Over the 10 days of the teachings and camp, the children got more than just a taste of the dharma. They made prayer flags, malas, and “mind jars,” drew stories from the life of the Buddha, and tie dyed their own T-shirts. They visited a local school. They learned about mantra, “living sculptures,” and an inspiring project with Nepali street kids. They raised more than $4,000 for a life release and on a beautiful morning on the beach with Drubgyud Tenzin Rinpoche (whom the kids know as Meme Lama) they helped to release thousands of fish back into to the sea. The children even had a private audience with Rinpoche who gave them a short, sweet teaching.
Rinpoche invited the kids and teachers to join in the group tsok practice each night. On one such night I watched from the back of the event hall where I was seated, as the children filed in, all wearing their tie-dyed shirts. I had been nervous about them in the evenings, that they aren’t used to eating dinner so late. That they might not be able to sit still, and people around them might get annoyed. Our youngest was being held by two of the older kids, who together cradled him in their arms. Our older son was walking hand in hand with a new friend. The Bodhi Seeds settled into their spot in the center of the room looking joyful, like they belonged. It was in that moment that it first struck me; our kids are experiencing sangha. They are innately, culturally part of the bigger sangha, as our children, yes. They go through life with names like Asanga, Ashoka, Atisha, Rigzin, and Tsering. But now they have their own true sangha. And while I’m so thankful that I didn’t miss even one session of the teachings, and that our kids learned some wonderful things, I’m also grateful that they’ve experienced what it’s like to sit with dharma brothers and sisters. And that this experience could be a cherished, but also a normal part of their childhood.
Many thanks to Rinpoche, Khyentse Foundation, the five educators, the other parents who braved the logistics of missing school and traveling with kids, and to the rest of the sangha for their patience and support of our Bodhi Seeds.