As our studies of Marco Polo's travels take us into China, one of the topics we have covered is Buddhism. I had heard, through contacts at the International Women's Group, of a Buddhist Temple not too far away, so I pursued a few contacts to try and arrange a visit. The monks were very happy to accommodate us, so the boys and I arrived for our morning visit, with another home educating family. It was surprising to find the Thai Buddhist Centre on the edge of such an English village, and the monks in their saffron robes came from several countries including Thailand, China, Nepal and Laos. We were very graciously shown all the different rooms in the Temple, and our guide explained all about the various statues we saw, the pictures on the walls, books on the shelves and various rituals. We were fortunate that, as we sat in the main room, a woman came to make an offering, so we were able to quietly observe this ceremony involving her and one of the monks in the Buddha's own tongue.
As a former R.E. teacher, I always think there is something awesome about visiting faith communities in their places of worship. It is important for children to experience a different environment and to absorb the feel of a place. This is not something that can be taught from a book, or learned in a classroom. The boys commented on the softness of the carpet, and the appearance of the statues. They remembered the tree and the thread close to the Buddha, and what these things represented and symbolised. And they sat so quietly and politely, observing and listening to all our guide had to say .... until the gong sounded loudly, and it was time for all the monks to assemble for lunch. We were given a drink, and a selection of literature to take away, and the boys came home and painted pictures and wrote cinquains, short, 5-lined poems, based on their experience.