Children’s Meditation Courses (Ages 8 to 12)

Dear Young Friend

Children’s meditation courses at Dhamma Maṇḍa are exclusively for children between the ages of 8 to 12. Children interested in a course must read the code of conduct and timetable below very carefully and complete the required medical emergency form and application form. Please ask your parents to complete the permission form and return it with your application. After we receive your completed application and permission forms, accepted students will receive a letter of welcome to attend the course.

During a children’s course, you will learn how to practice Anapana meditation along with the five precepts. These courses have been specifically designed for children. You will have the chance to practice Anapana meditation with guided instructions in the meditation hall for periods of up to 30 minutes. These sessions are mixed with story and discussion sessions, break periods and games and art activities throughout the day.

In the words of some children who completed the meditation course:

“I learned that I like meditating because it makes me feel relaxed.”

“I like this course because I like playing outside, playing with clay. We also did tie-dye. I also like this course because it seems like I’m at home and the food is so good.”

“At school if I need to concentrate on what the teacher is doing or saying I can use Anapana. And if I am mad and angry I can use Anapana.”

“I think meditation is very important in this busy world because it helps us to maintain a stable state of our mind and also it helps us to do our work with right understanding.”

General Information Sheet

In a time of worldwide social transition and upheaval, more and more people throughout the world are seeking concentration, purification and peace of mind through the practice of Vipassana meditation. Vipassana means “to see things as they really are” and is a logical process of mental purification through self-observation. Many come to Vipassana later in their lives, wishing they had found this technique sooner because it is so effective in learning the art of living peacefully and harmoniously.

The ideal time to begin the first steps of this mental training is in childhood when children as young as eight years old can easily learn the technique of Anapana meditation. Anapana is the first step in the practice of Vipassana meditation. It is the observation of natural, normal respiration, as it comes in and as it goes out. Anapana is a simple technique that helps develop concentration of the mind. It is easy to learn, objective and scientific. Observation of the breath is the ideal object for meditation because it is always available, and it is completely non-sectarian. Anapana is very different from techniques that are based on artificial regulation of the breath. There are no rites or rituals involved in the practice or presentation of Anapana and it is presented in a non-sectarian format. This approach is traced back to the Buddha, who rediscovered and taught this technique 2500 years ago. The Buddha never taught a sectarian religion; he taught Dhamma—the way to liberation—which is universal. Following this tradition, this technique is presented in a totally non-sectarian approach. For this reason, it has had a profound appeal to people of all backgrounds, of every religion or no religion, from every part of the world.

Besides helping them to calm and concentrate their minds, Anapana helps children to better understand themselves and how their minds work. As they learn to calm and concentrate their minds, they gain mastery over their impulses and actions. They develop an inner strength that helps them to choose right and appropriate actions over wrong actions. This is a natural byproduct of the technique. For this reason, Anapana provides them with a tool to deal with the fears, anxieties, and pressures of childhood and adolescence. Because of its simplicity, they find the technique easy to practice and understand and they appreciate its scientific and universal nature.

Over the past 15 years, hundreds of Anapana courses have been conducted exclusively for children around the world. These courses have yielded substantial benefits for the thousands of children who have attended them. Many of them have experienced a positive change in their outlook, behavior and attitude. Many have found their ability to concentrate has improved and that their memory has strengthened. And above all, these children have acquired a tool that is of immense value to them for the rest of their lives.

Children are, by nature, active and enthusiastic, with an eagerness to learn and explore. For this reason, it is appropriate to offer them an opportunity to explore themselves and their mind with all its hidden faculties, latent abilities and subtle complexities. Learning Anapana plants a wholesome interest in self-introspection and meditation, which may open an entirely new dimension of life for them later on.

There are two courses offered, grouped by ages. The children’s course is for children ages 8 to 12 years old. The teenagers’ course is for teens ages 13 to 16 years old. Courses are generally two to three days in length. One-day courses may also be offered. Parents or guardians who have completed a ten-day course with S. N. Goenka or his assistant teachers are welcome to stay at the center untill the course is over. They will be following a different schedule of meditation than the children and will have opportunities for Dhamma service. Other parents and guardians who are dropping off their children are welcome to stay during the registration time but will then leave the center until the course is over.

During the course, meditation instructions are given by S. N. Goenka via audio and videocassette. In addition, there may be other activities such as art, story telling, games, journal writing and service activities. On teenagers’ courses there are longer periods of meditation and of noble silence. On all these courses, children are assigned counselors who support and guide them and make sure their needs are taken care of during the course.

Parent or Guardian Information Letter

The children’s course offers young people between the ages 8 and 12 years old an introduction to Anapana meditation, which is a practice of the observation of natural breath to concentrate the mind. They will learn to practice Anapana and begin to take their first steps on the path of Dhamma. The entire path of Dhamma, rediscovered and taught by Gotama the Buddha more than 2500 years ago, is a universal remedy for universal problems and has nothing to do with any organized religion or sectarian tradition. For this reason, it can be practiced freely by all, in any place, at any time. Its practice does not conflict with any race, community or religion and will prove equally beneficial to one and all.

Young people who have started practicing Anapana have realized many benefits. Their ability to concentrate becomes enhanced, their memory gets sharper, their ability to comprehend a subject improves and they become calmer. In general, they feel they have a practical tool to use in the face of any type of adversity or challenge.

During the course, there will be meditation instructions as well as other activities such as games, art, and storytelling. The children will be divided into groups according to their age for many activities. They will be assigned counselors who will personally accompany and assist them throughout the course, providing support and guidance as needed.

The intent of the children’s course is serious. It is not appropriate for children who are too young or otherwise unable to follow directions or to participate in organized, self-modulating activities. It is also not appropriate for children who are unable to understand the meaning or purpose of the daily timetable and Code of Conduct. Segregation of the sexes will be maintained at all times in the accommodations as well as in the meditation hall and during much of the course.

It is not mandatory that a parent or guardian accompanies your child to the course. Parents or guardians who are students of Goenkaji or his assistant teachers are welcome to stay at the center and participate in work projects. Since parents or guardians will not be participating in the course, they will follow a separate schedule. They will also be accommodated separately from the children. Only those children who feel comfortable staying in separate accommodations from their parents are encouraged to attend. We ask that parents and affiliated adults refrain from communicating with or contacting their children throughout the course.

Parents or guardians who have not completed a ten-day course with Goenkaji or his assistant teachers are welcome to stay with their children during registration, but should then leave the center until the course is over. There are numerous hotels, motels and campsites in the area.

Before applying for the course, please make sure that both you and your child have read and understood the Code of Conduct and Sample Timetable.

Code of Conduct

Learning to practice Anapana meditation is very valuable because it helps you to become a better person. Practicing Anapana meditation will help you to train your mind to become concentrated and calm. This will make your mind strong so that you will be able to avoid doing or saying things that are hurtful or harmful to yourself and to others. This strength of mind will help you to feel happier and more peaceful. Practicing Anapana and learning to concentrate will help you to become the master of your mind.

To help you succeed in practicing Anapana meditation it is important that you do your best to follow the instructions that you will be given during the course. While you are at the course, it is also important that you agree to follow the Code of Conduct written below. In the same way that a house needs a good foundation to support it, so the practice of Anapana needs a good foundation. This good foundation for Anapana is built by following the Code of Conduct. It will help you to avoid performing actions that are harmful or hurtful to yourself and others.

During the first meditation session at the course you will be asked to repeat the following five vows or precepts. These are written in bold and underneath each is an explanation. Please read them carefully so that you will understand what you are saying when the time comes:

Bodhi Leaf I shall abstain from killing
I promise to try to treat all beings kindly and not kill them or harm them in any way.

Bodhi Leaf I shall abstain from stealing
I promise to take only what is given to me and not take anything which belongs to others without permission.

Bodhi Leaf I shall abstain from a life of misconduct
I promise to treat other boys and girls as if they were my brothers or sisters or best friends.

Bodhi Leaf I shall abstain from speaking lies, harsh words, backbiting, etc. which will harm others
I promise to speak truthfully, kindly and gently, and not to tell lies or to say hurtful things to anybody or about anybody.

Bodhi Leaf I shall abstain from taking any intoxicant
I promise not to take any alcohol, drugs or intoxicants, but to keep my mind clear.

At the bottom of your application form you will find a question that asks if you agree to try to follow this Code of Conduct while you are at the one-day meditation course site.

2-day Course Timetable

Day 0 Saturday
11:30am Lunch & Student Registration begins
2:00pm Welcome and orientation talk with children and parents
2:45pm Course begins in Meditation hall
3:30pm Activities
4:15pm Meditation Hall Activities
5:00pm Dinner/Activities/Free time
6:30pm Meditation Hall & Checking
7:30pm Break
8:00pm Meditation Hall Activities
8:45pm Back top dormitories
9:15pm Lights out
Day 1 Sunday
6:30am Wake up
7:00am Meditation Hall Activities
7:45am Breakfast & Service Activities
9:00am Meditation Hall Activities
9:45am Snack/Service Activities
11:00am Meditation Hall Activities
12:00pm Lunch, Writing/drawing activity, Feedback writing
1:00pm Meditation Hall Activities, Closing discourse & Metta
1:45pm Clean up dormitories
2:30pm Course ends after clean up

Registration Information

Children’s courses require pre-registration. To apply for a course (either sit or serve), please visit the schedule page and click on the “apply” link next to the course. If you have further questions, please email the course registrar below.

Children’s Course Registrar
Phone: 408-471-7642
Fax: 800-734-1558
Email: [email protected]

NOTE: Please leave all writing materials, books, games, cassette players, etc. at home.