Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Tibetan Buddhist Story with Yoga Poses

Children laying on their bellies ready to hear the Tibetan Buddhist Story

In the kids yoga class I recently taught at the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center, I told them a simple version of this story below. It was a great way to let the kids rest, and help them use their imagination. Also, a great way to introduce a little Tibetan Buddhist culture.

I took the bare bones of this story told by Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Lillian Too's The Mantra Book, and embellished it with details and images that children could place into their consciousness.


In a time long ago, in a place where the tallest mountains in our world live - a place called the Himalayas - there was a crystal blue lake surrounded by snowy mountains. In this lake was a boat carrying a very old Tibetan Buddhist teacher, called a Lama. The Lama wore burgandy-colored robes - the traditional clothing of a Tibetan Buddhist monk. He wore a warm burgundy colored hat to keep his shaved head warm.

The teacher saw a small island up ahead that looked untouched by man except for a little hut that held up several lines of  Tibetan prayer flags which were flapping in the wind. The once colorful flags were faded and weathered.

The teacher parked his boat on the shore and walked onto the island. There he met a man with hair down to his hips and a long beard. The man's clothes looked warn, but his smile was so bright it seemed to light up the sky. Upon seeing the Lama, the man put his hands together placing them on the top of his head, then touched them to his forehead, throat and heart. Then he launched his body to the ground, stretching his arms out in front of him, with his whole body touching the ground, including his nose! Then he got up and repeated this series of movements - called full prostrations -  three times.

"How long have you been alone on this island," asked the Lama.

"For three years," says the man. "I am on retreat, here to practicing my mantra. I have been repeating it constantly out load or in my head for three years now.  I have been saying it while I stare at onto the horizon, watching the sun set or the sun rise, I have been saying it while I bathe, while I make dinner, while I go to the bathroom. When I drift off to sleep it is the last thing I say, and when I wake up it is the first thought in my head. Sometimes I even say it in my dreams."

"What is this mantra you are saying," asked the Lama.

"The mantra of the great Buddha of Compassion, Avalokiteshvara," says the student. And he proceeds to repeat the mantra out load, "Om mani padme hum, om mani padme hum, om mani padme hum..."

The Lama listens to the student for some time, and with utmost compassion the Lama finally says,"I can see that you have pure devotion and pure motivation. But I hear that your pronunciation of the this mantra is a little off."

"Really," says the student, "I have been saying it wrong for all these years?"

"Yes" says the Lama and proceeds to demonstrates how to say it correctly.

The student humbly bows this head to the wise and compassionate Lama, saying, "Thank you for helping me. I will try it like that from now on."

Some time later, as the sun sets, the Lama returns to his boat and sets off across the water. He hears a strange noise off to the side and turns his head to see the student calling his name walking beside the boat ONTOP of the water. The student calls out, "I think I have the hang of the pronunciation now, is this how you say it? Om mani padme hum. Om mani padme hum...."

The Lama then laughs, drops his head and gives a half bow saying, "it looks like you were saying it right all this time after all."


For the younger kids, you may want to point out that because the student was saying the mantra with such a pure heart, and with such great intentions, and devotions, the power of the mantra had awakened his inner powers. Perfecting the way to say it wasn't as important.


The Storytime Yoga method, developed by my teacher Sydney Solis then encourages the reenactment the story using yoga poses to help the kids put the symbols of the story into their hearts and minds.

For this story, you could use the following poses to retell the story:

Mountain pose - for the Himalayas

Boat/navasana - for the boat

Warrior II (hero pose) - for the Lama

Camel pose - Island with a hut

Humble warrior - Student

Prostration/Bow - show them how to do a full prostration

Practice saying the mantra - om mani padme hung

Humble half bow - stand in mountain, with hands in namaste Tibetan Buddhist-style (pretend you are holding a precious jewel between your palms). Then do a half bow, with head down, to represent the humble bow when the teacher corrects him.

Navasana - teacher goes back in the boat.

Mindful walking - student walking on water

Humble half bow - as above.

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