On Thursday, February 14th I took my Indian Studies class (almost entirely 9th graders) to the Tushita Mahayana Meditation Center to enhance our study of Buddhism. I led them through a “Compassion Meditation” and this is what they had to say…

When we all got into the room we all took pillows and sat on it. Ms. S then explained what the whole place was about. After that we closed our eyes and we sent happy thoughts to one person that we thought needed them the most. We did this because Ms. S said that we usually think only about ourselves. Which is true, people are very self-centered. I thought of this little street girl that I see every day at the stop light near my house. I had seen her crying the other day and I just couldn’t stop thinking about her. It just made me feel really sad. So I tried to send her all of the happy thoughts I had within me. After that we got to go and look around the room for awhile. Then we got back in the cars and left. – Scott

We went down to the bottom floor and each person grabbed a cushion and sat down on the floor. Then we were told to clear our minds completely and think of any one person that we know or we’ve seen that is suffering. Then from deep inside our hearts, we were to wish the best for this one person. Then we were to think of all the people in the world and do the same for them. I think this is a really good principle of this religion. When you think like this, you are basically telling yourself that every living person is in a way like you and is basically you. When you show compassion for these people, you are not only helping and caring for them but helping yourself. This philosophy is called “I am Thou.” – Anmol

While I was meditating Ms. Srinivasan whispered to us to think about someone who was suffering and to think about them from our side. She then told us to give them a blessing from the bottom of our hearts. At that moment I felt a sense of pride coming over me because I hadn’t done such a deed for someone in a long time which proves how selfish we humans can be. Others who live on the streets and live in hardships every day are satisfied and are happy to a certain degree. Those people are heroes and whom I look up to and am inspired by because they hardly complain. After that Ms. Srinivasan told us to remember the last time we ever helped anyone. Honestly for me it had been awhile because I always tried or attempted to but I never ended up helping my friend or family member. As I thought of this I felt dissatisfied. Even though it was only a blessing it came from my heart and I really care for that person but unfortunately they don’t know that. I hope someday they will. This experience has made me more mature and to keep a lookout to help those in need. – Kresha

We all took cushions and sat in an oval. After practicing some meditation positions and breathing exercises, we all thought about the things we were grateful for. I had many on my list, some of which were having a family who loves me and all my friends. Also, that I am privileged to have such a great education, a meal on my table every night and that my family is healthy and stable. Thinking about this really helped me to see the things that I usually take for granted. It has changed my perspective in the way that now every time I think my life isn’t going so great, it really isn’t because I’m not starving on the streets or anything. Next, we sent out a mental blessing to someone who we thought really needed it. I sent mine to my cousin, Lisa, who has been going through a really rough time lately and has had a miscarriage and is devastated. After I sent my blessing out to her it felt like she actually received it. – Sarah

I think that every religion is the same just looking at different points from different angles and giving more importance to some things. When you start seeing what each one is about you realize all of them are kind of the same. I think Buddhism is a really nice way of seeing life, but at the same time I think it is really difficult because you care a lot more for others than for you and it is really cool but I need to be honest…I mean for me it is really difficult. Anyway, if some day I can really care about others without thinking about myself first, it is going to be a miracle. I would really like to learn more about Buddhism. When we did the meditation I felt so relaxed and I think it is a good and nice way of remembering the people who are going though a hard moment, especially the ones you know but as well as every single person in the world that is suffering. In our daily life we hardly think about all of the people in the world that are suffering and when you think about that you realize how lucky you are and we live in a very nice bubble. I really like my bubble but I really want to try to get out of it especially when I am in India. – Ale

One of the most peaceful ten minutes of my life since I came to India. This field trop that we went on today was a very, very exciting experience for me because I am very fascinated by the Buddha. I have been reading the book “Buddha” by Karen Armstrong recently and find his theories and teachings very interesting and true. So for me to come here to a place where the Buddha is worshipped is something I have wanted to do for some weeks now. It was really interesting because I have never really meditated like that before and I found it rather nice. At first I thought I wouldn’t like it and that it was silly but when I got started I felt happy and excited at the same time. The whole concept of meditating and relaxing yourself in this way is something I have only read about in a book. I felt as if I had been lifted up. I felt lighter. – Rasmus

I liked the idea of love and compassion meaning different things. Love meaning you want to best for someone else and compassion meaning you want to end suffering. I think those meanings are much better than the meanings we all, know them for. You told us to think of someone we saw or remember or concentrate on sending them a blessing. This was interesting, in most religions people pray to a god, in this case it was like we were gods, but at the same time people. We were feeling for other people and sending them blessings, as if answering their prayers. – Alex

In this field trip to a Buddhist place, we meditated and thought about the suffering of other people. First we sat in a circle and breathed and then started thinking about someone other than ourselves who was suffering. We then offered them hope from our hearts that their suffering would stop. According to Buddhists life is suffering and when we discover the cause of suffering is desire or an expectation we understand that is we let go of our desires and expectations we wouldn’t suffer. However, that wasn’t the goal of this field trip. The goal was to move on from focusing on your own suffering and notice how much others around you suffer. The goal was to wish for the well being of someone else for a chance. We were asked when the last time we wishes for the wellbeing of someone from our hearts were, and honestly I had trouble remembering a time I wished well from the heart for someone other than myself, my family and some of my friends. This really showed me that I should be happy for what I have, because there’s someone out there who doesn’t have anything, and is truly suffering. – Anya

The meditation room itself was dimly lit, with a few candle-like lights which created a calm atmosphere. We sat in a big circle on top of pillows and began the process of meditation. The entire setting was so peaceful that Buddhist philosophy was made much easier; I tried my best to focus on my breathing and block out all thoughts and desires. While this needs much practice to accomplish, I felt I was much more successful than I was in the school setting. Here, I felt at peace; I felt inner peace and I felt peace around me. – Sheena

After a short crash course in prostrations we began to meditate. We relaxed and closed our eyes and focused on our breathing. Ms. S told us that our best friend is our breath because that is what leaves us last and that we should listen to it very closely. We were then told to choose someone who is having a hard time with life at the moment and that we should send our blessings to them. This was very hard as I see so many people that I know having a rough time right now but in the end I chose my grandmother and tried to send out positive thoughts and prayers for her general wellbeing. After our blessings, we focused on Delhi, the whole of India then Asia ands we were asked the last time we really thought about suffering in the world. I couldn’t remember and I figured that I should start to do some thinking. Meditation is very calming and I personally have the feeling of sleeping but being awake at the same time. The environment that we were meditating in at the dharma center also contributed to the calming affect it had on me. The lighting was appropriately dim and the fact that we could not hear any of the chaos and noise outside also helped us reach a point of isolation from everyone else in that room. I felt like I was alone and at peace with myself. I liked this field trip a lot as I feel this field trip was educational but also very enriching as it allowed some time to get in touch with our true selves as I know I wouldn’t usually do this. – Nina

The candles illuminated the room beautifully and the golden statues of the Buddha shown n in its own holy pool of light. It felt like a really magical place. As we sat down and you helped us meditate I felt so relaxed. More relaxed than I have felt for days! You see the last week or so my brain has been “buzzing.” It has been filled with so much school “stuff” that the only time I can rest mentally is when I sleep. It has been really bothering me of late and thankfully I for a few minutes felt at peace and my mind calmed down. I felt renewed and this really made my day head off to a good start. Buddhism is such an interesting religion. I find their beliefs fascinating, such as how they view death, it isn’t a bad thing, it is just an occurrence of life and you will be reborn, or reincarnated into another life. This is a nice way to view death, and although any death is a very sad event, they can at least be optimistic about it in some ways. It like you said Ms. Srinivasan, “Reincarnation is just like changing to put on some new clothes.” I feel inspired to take other to the dharma center because it gave me such peace of mind and at last I could relax and reflect on my life and the life of those around me. – Harriet

The surrounding area was peaceful and I was able to clear my mind. Once I had cleared my mind I was able to relax and really feel compassion for those who were suffering and are less fortunate than me. It allowed me to take in my surroundings and really think about what is important in life and how lucky I am to have the things I do. This trip showed me that I should take more time to relax and focus on the things around me. – Amina

As we entered the center we took off our shoes, this is symbolic for leaving the outside world behind. By leaving the world behind, I think it makes meditation easier and it is easier to calm your mind when it is not preoccupied. We entered into a meditation during our visit and I enjoyed it. It is good to liberate the mind from all its thoughts and enjoy a relaxing peace and quiet. We all sat in a circle during our meditation and everybody sat on the floor on cushions. The meditation room at the dharma center had a really great atmosphere as it was quiet and the room did not have harsh lighting which was easy on the yes and not too stressful. – Bridget

There was a big statue of Buddha which I have never seen before. It was all interesting to me. Then during the breathing exercise I felt good because I thought of how others were suffering deeply and I was fine. I had slow breaths; it felt good and peaceful under the dull lights. I wouldn’t mind doing it again. – Rohit

While thinking of people who are less fortunate than me, I pictured the two sisters I pass everyday on the way to school. One of them has something wrong with their foot, the other gets beat regularly. I thought about what it would feel like to live like that, it would probably break me. I realized that they were dealt a bad hand when they were born, but people like my driver, who had befriended them over the years, helped whenever they could. Every time I see them they always smile and wave, I think that it’s amazing they can do that when their world is so cruel, for lack of a better word. – Irena

The trip we went on Thursday was very meaningful to me. Inside, we learned lots of new things about the Buddha. Such as why his ears are so long and why there are different kinds of Buddhas. We also had our own time to think about other people excluding ourselves and blessing them. In that moment, I thought of lots of people and gave blessings to them. For example, I gave a blessing for the kid who was begging for money to me that morning on my way to school. I gave him a blessing while thinking how fortunate I am to be even thinking about these kinds of problems. Next, I gave my blessing to a friend of mine who looked like he was going through a tough time these days. I couldn’t ask him what the problem was because I knew it was family stuff, so I gave him a blessing to cheer him up a bit. Lastly, I have a blessing to a friend of mine that is having a tough time in school. Like I said before, the trip was very meaningful because it gave us all an opportunity to think about how fortunate we are and care about others than ourselves. – Brian

Usually I don’t enjoy meditation or yoga, this time I felt that it was really precious time to think about one person who was having a hard time and bless them kindly. Although our class couldn’t stay there long enough because of a lack of time to go back to school again, I felt really comfortable and purified after I blessed one kid I met in “Reach Out” one of the service clubs at the American Embassy High School who lived on the streets in front of the school. I couldn’t forget his bright eyes and facial expressions though he was very poor. – Jeeyeon

We entered the house, taking off our shoes first, and went to a room where there were several large statues of the Buddha. We sat in a circle and practiced meditating and creating these good vibes. In doing so, not only was I relaxed, but I also felt that possibly the person I was sending the vibe to might receive it and be happier. This chance to relax and be positive was both spiritually and physically calming. From our field trip I learned that Buddhism exists in the most random locations of the city and that it’s not the location of a religious center but rather what it contains. From the trip I learned a lot about the Buddhist religion and especially about the type of physical and mental preparation that must be done to move towards “enlightenment.” – Danny

We picked up pillows and sat in a corner of the room and sat down in a circle. We were told to think about someone who we wished to feel better, to do better, to have a better life. Here, surprisingly, made me think how unthankful I am for many people in my life. I think here I realized that I should be nicer to certain people in my life and that I should think more about them. – Conor

We all sat down on pillows in a circle. The class got told to just breathe quietly and free their thoughts. I found the whole process very relaxing and I was really concentrating on freeing my thoughts and spirit. We did this for a few minutes and then though about someone we wanted to support. – Nathalie

I really liked meditating, that helped me relax and forget the outside world a lot. I believe my spiritual well wishing might have done someone some good. – Kevin