Monday, June 29, 2009

Books for Bodhisattvas-in-Training

The Coconut Monk The Coconut Monk by Thich Nhat Hanh

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I used this book in Dharma School to demonstrate Sila Paramita, or ethics. It's a true story of a monk who lives with a cat and a mouse during the Vietnam war. He truly embodies an ethical life.

The Hermit and the WellThe Hermit and the Well by Thich Nhat Hanh

rating: 4 of 5 stars
A boy and his friends want to find and learn from a wise hermit they've heard about. Instead the boy finds the Buddha within himself.

This could be a good book for Dharma School for demonstrating aspiration, and for demonstrating the natural wisdom we can find in ourselves, our buddha nature.

Samsara Dog Samsara Dog by Helen Manos

rating: 4 of 5 stars
A youth librarian shared this book with me when it came out...she thought it would interest me.

A dog is reborn many times, and each time learns a little about love and loving actions, and each time he's reborn into better circumstances to learn.

This would be a great book to use for a preschool Dharma School throughout a year, perhaps one of the dog's lives per lesson. I would focus on the aspects of his life that helped the dog become more loving.

I could also see using it as examples for grade school kids. The lives of the dog correspond with aspects of the Six Realms.

Sky Sweeper Sky Sweeper by Phillis Gershator

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This could be used for an example of a bodhisattva who is dedicated to keeping a vow. Focused purpose, single-minded purpose even in the face of distractions, and finding the whole universe in that purpose.

The sweeper considers other paths in life, but he always remembers that a sweeper is needed for the monastery garden, and he keeps choosing that. His dedication and care are overlooked until he is no longer able to take care of the garden as he did.

Three Cups of Tea: Young Reader's Edition Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Journey to Change the World... One Child at a Time by Greg Mortenson

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Don't have time to read the original version of "Three Cups of Tea"? I suggest you make the time. I believe it is the answer to the world's problems. War is not the answer. Three cups of tea is the answer. However, if you insist you just don't have the time, read this version. Many of the details of Greg Mortenson's journey are truncated, but the essence is still here, and it is a much quicker read. Two evenings should do ya.

I would also recommend reading this book a year or two after the original. This is a story that bears repeating, and I was grateful for the reminder.

And of course, I would recommend this for kids with the reading level for a book this size. There are more color photos, including some of and from Mortenson's beautiful family. There is also a glossary, and the words included in the glossary are handily printed in bold in the text.

View all my reviews.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Too Young to Die

I haven't had the heart or the time to write recently. In the month of May and the first half of June, I was just too busy preparing for the Buddhist Festival.

The day of the festival, my godson and nephew Zachary David Hoogstra was in a car accident. He died on June 15.

I flew to Wisconsin to be with my family and attend his memorial service. The room was filled with friends, family, friends of family, and work connections.

My family lost my brother when he turned 22. Zac was born 6 months later, and was given my brother David's name for his middle name. He brought life back to my family. Zac was shaped in some ways by the absence of his uncle, now he too is dead at 22. Zac was, as are his 20 year old brothers, very quiet, taciturn, with that wall-faced Midwest rock of a presence. I wished I knew him better than I did. At the memorial, his mother was gratified to hear so many stories of his life from his friends, so many things she didn't know. I wished I had stood at the podium and asked those people to be brave enough to share them again. When asked for a few words, his brother Jake said something about Zac's "silent faith." A young woman read a familiar poem between sobs, and the whole room was sniffling. Zac's mother hadn't known he signed up to be an organ donor. I was told 8 people were recipients of his organs.

Zac's brothers are slightly older than I was when my brother died. Right now I know they are planning their tattoos in memory. I am thinking I may do so too.

My brother and his family planted a tree in Zac's memory. His friends planted the bench next to it.

Zac lived most of his life on this land my brother bought from our grandpa's sister. It was our great-grandparents' homestead. My grandma told stories about stirring the syrup in the sugar shack with her guy. Most of the maple trees had been culled, but the apple orchard remained when my brother moved in. There are a few trees still producing apples. A pear tree once graced the back yard. Now, a coach has had a pear tree planted in memoriam.

My family started planting trees in memoriam when my brother died. Soon to come, a tour of the back yard of my childhood home. Many deaths to remember. No mustard seed can be found there.

Aluminum Bottles For Sale

The bottles feature the image of the Buddha Touching the Earth, created for Portland's Buddhist Festival in the Park by Jason Litts. Below the image, the words:

Buddhist Festival in the Park
Portland, Oregon


Bottles were purchased from Identity-Links, a family-owned company based in the United States.