|A visit to …||Redbridge Buddhist Cultural Centre
9 Balfour Road, Ilford, Essex, IG1 4HP
Telephone 020 8478 8286
by Anne Krisman, Little Heath School
Number 9, Balfour Road, Ilford is the address of the Redbridge Buddhist cultural centre, just at the back of the Exchange shopping centre. You can recognise it by the bright flags in the window. The Buddhist centre is served by two monks, one who is Sri Lankan and the English monk, the Venerable Bhikkhu Pesala.
Before my pupils began their visit, we stopped off at Sainsbury's to buy some flowers to take to the centre. Two pupils independently chose some mauve chrysanthemums and took them to the desk to be gift wrapped. It felt we were going on a spiritual journey.
At the centre, we took off our shoes and sat on cushions on the floor of the shrine room. Our flowers were being put in a vase on the shrine. A beautiful gold Buddha was the focus of the room and fascinated the pupils.
Bhikkhu Pesala sat with us, talking about what Buddhists believe about life. He was calm and understanding, making our pupils think about the implications of what they said. One talkative boy said he wanted to be reborn as a wasp and Bhikkhu Pesala helped him to rethink this idea, explaining how he might think he would want that, but how it would not be a good rebirth if you irritated people all the time.
Bhikkhu Pesala described his everyday life to the children, who were particularly fascinated by the way he did not handle money in his life and how someone came with him if he needed to use the bus. They were curious about his 'real name' and lifestyle before he became a monk, but Bhikkhu Pesala made them realise that this was his real name and life now. This also helped them to consider how 'rebirth' in many ways is a part of life. His comments on how he is dependent on others, for example, for providing food, struck a chord with our special needs pupils who see independence as a major goal in life.
The idea of life being the cause of suffering challenged the thinking of the adults on the trip and proved that a successful school trip is one that extends the experiences of everyone who attends it.
We finished our trip buying a brightly coloured flag for the classroom and receiving copies of Bhikkhu Pesala's books. I know that Bhikkhu Pesala would value more school visits.
Click here for the answers Bhikku Pesala gave to the students' questions
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