Why do we invite crowds of children into our peaceful Buddhist centre?

It’s true that we like to protect our peaceful environment at the London Buddhist Centre. If nothing else, it helps when we’re meditating. We even have triple glazing in our main shrine room so that we don’t have to hear all the noise of the busy road junction outside. So many people say just entering the courtyard: ‘it’s like an oasis in the city!’

But we like to share what we have and welcome anyone who wants to visit and find out what we do and what inspires us. And that includes young people.

I imagine it may be hard for Religious Education teachers to effectively communicate the spirit of all the world’s spiritual teachings. Because of the atmosphere of the place and our own day-to-day practice, we can give our visitors some flavour of what it means to walk the Buddhist path as well as exploring the themes they’re learning about in school.

So many times as the group come out of our main shrine room, the centre’s receptionist or another visitor says to me: they seem a bit calmer, or they look like they enjoyed themselves… Neither are guaranteed of course, but I’m glad how often that is the case.

I love hearing the children’s questions as they discover the similarities and differences of what Buddhists believe and do. Many are amazed that I’ve not eaten meat or fish for over 30 years and am still happy without a certain well-known brand of burger in my life! The older students often want to know what I think on big ethical issues which can lead to a very meaningful exchange. And it keeps me on my toes: do I understand the essential Buddhist teachings well enough to communicate them effectively to young children and teenagers?

As Buddhists, we do our best to cultivate and encourage loving kindness in ourselves and the world. Learning about and from other religions supports mutual understanding and we hope that our Buddhist school visits contribute to more peaceful cohesion amongst us all.

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