This festival is observed especially in south Asian countries and in the West. It celebrates the start of Buddhism
Outline script for assembly leaders
In some Asian countries, elephants are used as transport or to carry or pull heavy loads. A very wise teacher who lived 2,500 years ago, and is now known as Buddha, pointed out that you can't teach a wild elephant to do this. It has to be trained by being harnessed to a tame one, so it can copy it. Buddha went on to say that his followers (or Buddhists) should follow and copy a teacher or wise person they trust and respect and in that way they will learn to live well.
The Buddha was originally a prince called Siddhartha Gotama. One night he left his palace to search for an answer to the question why people suffer or are unhappy. After many years searching and meeting many wise people, he sat down under a large bodhi tree. He stayed there, meditating, until he found the answer; until he was "enlightened". He got up from where he had been sitting, went to find five close friends and shared with them what Buddhists call the Four Noble Truths. This happened at Sarnath in northern India and each year on Dharma Day Buddhists give thanks that the Buddha shared his teaching.
The word dharma means truth and the Four Noble Truths are:
* In this world, nothing lasts forever.
* People suffer because they are greedy and selfish.
* People can stop being greedy and selfish.
* People can do this by following "the Eightfold Path" (right seeing, thinking, speaking, doing, living and working; being mindful of the world and right concentration).
* Elaborately decorated elephants often form part of Dharma Day processions (because of the Buddha's parable). Pupils might paint pictures of such an elephant or of the (emaciated) Buddha as he sat under the bodhi tree, meditating.
* Imagine and describe unselfish actions to illustrate each part of the Eightfold Path.
* The Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO) offers information about Buddhism. Its website (www.fwbo.orgcontactsUK-all.html) has links to centres around the country, including the Nottingham Buddhist Centre, which provides support for those teaching Buddhism and stress management courses for teachers. Tel:0115 956 1008.