"And what did you tell her?" I asked.
"I told her we do...sort of." Most Buddhist practitioners will recognize the expediency of the reply.
"But I thought you said gods were spirits, like invisible friends," our 6-year-old challenged.
For the thousandth time, I thought, "If only there were a book."
|Questions that have pretty simple answers in a Judeo-Christian household become a little more complicated when Mom and Dad are Buddhists.|
These days, the shelves of American bookstores are crammed with works by Buddhist teachers of all stripes, offering everything from entry-level primers like "Buddhism for Beginners" to advanced commentaries on tantric practices. But for the kids of the many thousands of Western Buddhist parents, it's slim pickins.
Who created the earth? Where do we go when we die? Is there a God? Questions that have pretty simple answers in a Judeo-Christian household become a little more complicated when Mom and Dad are Buddhists who reject the idea of a Supreme Being and, essentially, view existence as a creation of our own minds. Yet it's virtually impossible to find books that teach those lessons or help them understand why they ended up with this particular Mom and this particular Dad.
Through the force of karma, or unfinished business, he finds himself inexorably drawn back to that same valley, where, this time, he is born as a girl, reminding us of the Buddhist notion that we have all filled many roles in our countless rebirths. But, Buddhists teach, we take with us from lifetime to lifetime certain habits, which is why, on the final page, we see the little girl standing on a hillside once again flying a kite.
Versions of the Jataka tales, in fact, dominate much of the Buddhist literature for children. The little ones will be entranced by the captivatingly illustrated "Golden Goose King" (Parvardigar Press, 1995). This hardcover volume recounts the story of one of several past lives in which the Buddha's closest disciple, Ananda, offered to sacrifice himself to protect his master. Ananda also features in "The Gift" (Wisdom, 1996), a story by author/illustrator Isia Osuchowska that teaches the importance of sharing and wisely using the earth's resources.