This year we will have the first Precepts Ceremony for children at Still Point. I have been attending Sunday services for just over a year now, and completed the ceremony myself last year. Now, my daughter wants to do it. She is eight years old.
I've been really curious about why she wants to take the precepts. I expected her to do it (if she ever did it) when she was much older. It is important to me that I don't cram my religious/spiritual beliefs down her throat... that she understands the significance of the choice... and that she owns it. We talked about it during dinner tonight.
'Why do you want to take the precepts," I ask.
"For lots of reasons. I can't list them all it would take an hour." she says.
"Well, tell me as many as you can while we finish eating dinner," I say.
"Well, mostly because I want to be just like you, Mom."
I smile. I'm stunned. That was probably the last thing I expected to hear her say. I look at myself in my role as mother with a lot of criticism and self-doubt. Most of the time, I think I'm at best an average parent. I always think I should be doing more. When it comes down to it, I want to be just like my daughter.
She's so generous. When we go to Sunday services, she goes to what she calls the kid's room. She packs a bag with crafts or toys and snacks and is very consientious about packing enough for everyone to share. She's nice to everyone. She's lighthearted and has a healthy respect for fun and play. I feel very old and boring and closed standing next to my daughter.
We start to talk about religion.
"Your spiritual practice, your religious beliefs... you really have to believe them for yourself. We should talk about the precepts before you make your final decision. Becoming a Buddhist means that you want to be like Buddha... that you want to follow his example. What does that mean to you?"
"Is it like in the Buddha books... like how he went away and got rid of all his hair?" [she's talking about the manga series by Osamu Tezuka]
"Well, you don't have to be a monk... and you don't have to cut off your hair. But you vow to do certain things... not to do other things. That's what the precepts are... they are vows. When you take them, you say what you stand for... what you are committed to..."
Our plan is to talk about the precepts during dinner every night, and to do as many bows as we can in preparation for the ceremony. I'm looking forward to these talks.