To be a Buddhist is not of utmost importance for Buddhists. There isn’t one stanza in the entire Buddhist world that says may all become Buddhist. We pray, may all become Buddha, awakened ones. At the end you shrug off Buddhism. Use it for now but abandon it once the job is done.
All major religions of the world have systems of educating children in their traditions, beliefs, rituals, and values. There are maktab and madrasas for Muslims, Catholic schools, Jewish day schools, Sunday schools, Catechism classes, all kinds of afterschool programs, camps, and specialized schools meant to teach children to become the stewards of their respective religious traditions. Buddhist education for children has, for the most part, been offered to monastic communities with grassroots initiatives few and far between. Because Buddhism is not culture bound, there are few broadly accepted holidays, festivals and customs to introduce to children. Often, the transference of the Buddhist view happens in the home. Some Buddhist parents have independently created programs for children, but there is no generally accepted content or method for teaching the dharma to children.
To bridge this gap, a team of educators and active Buddhists, inspired by the vision of Bhutanese Buddhist master Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, began exploring the possibility of creating such a model of education. It became clear that the model had to be developed in situ, in an actual school. Middle Way education was established to spearhead this effort.
In 2017 after exploring options in Bali, Indonesia, India and Taiwan, it was decided that the Middle Way pilot school should be located in Upstate New York. “The Hudson Valley is the ideal location for our pilot school and founding families will have a significant impact on the development of this model,” says Middle Way Executive Director, Noa Jones. “The welcoming mindset in this area, along with supportive communities like Zen Mountain Monastery, KTD, and other centers of study and practice, makes this area a fertile ground for a new model of education to come into being.”
The intention is to eventually help other communities around the world seed their own schools using the training, curriculum, and other resources, once they have been implemented, assessed and adjusted at the pilot school.