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Magha Puja

To look at the Buddhist festival of Magha Puja.

by Jude Scrutton

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To look at the Buddhist festival of Magha Puja.

Preparation and materials

  • Ten candles to hand out and one lit at the front of the assembly (sand trays for safety, following your school policy).

  • For more about meditation, and the festival of Magha Puja, go to
  • The following quote on a whiteboard or PowerPoint: ‘Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared’ (Buddha).
  • For section 3: if necessary, be prepared to explain who Buddha is.
  • Reflective music for the meditation (see ‘Time for reflection’).


  1. Give out the candles as the children enter the hall but save one. Light this at the front.

    When the children are assembled, ask those with candles to stand.

  2. Ask: How can we light the candles? Hopefully, the children will suggest using the flame of the lit candle to light up the others.

    Tell the children with candles to come up and light their candles from the lit one.
  3. Once completed, ask the children if the original candle was affected by sharing its light. Tell them that Buddha used this idea to teach an important life lesson.

    Show the Buddha quote (see ‘Preparation and materials’). If necessary, give some background information about Buddha.
  4. Nine months after Siddhartha Gautama was enlightened and became the first Buddha, an important event took place – 1,250 monks travelled spontaneously, without a prior invitation or appointment, to the Grove Temple to see Buddha. These monks were all arahants – an arahant was someone who had reached the goal of the Buddhist life (he had gained insight into the true nature of things, had ceased from all suffering and found true happiness). Buddha was the first arahant.

    These 1,250 monks were Buddha’s direct disciples. They had all been chosen and trained by Buddha himself.

    This meeting was called the Fourfold Assembly.
  5. At the Fourfold Assembly Buddha gave the following teaching (avadapatimokkha), a summary of the Buddhist way:

    –  Do not do any evil
    –  Do good
    –  Purify the mind.
  6. Three months before Buddha died, another important event took place in his life. He contemplated dying and concluded that after three months he would enter Nirvana (reached after death) and know the highest possible happiness.
  7. Today Buddhists around the world observe the festival of Magha Puja to remember and celebrate these two events.

    Celebrations include meditating, chanting, lighting of oil lamps, candlelit processions, giving gifts, meeting together to learn about Buddhism and making new resolves to follow the teaching of Buddha.  

Time for reflection

(Playing gentle music will help the children to meditate.)

Buddhists spend a lot of time in meditation, which is a process of emptying your mind of all thoughts, ideas and pictures.

For the next minute try to empty your mind so that it is completely quiet and still. Do not think about anything. You may find it hard to do, but it gets easier with practise.

May all beings everywhere who are plagued
with sufferings of body and mind
quickly be freed from their illnesses.
May those frightened cease to be afraid,
and may those bound be free.
May the powerless find power,
and may people think of befriending one another.
May those who find themselves in a trackless, fearful wilderness –
the children, the aged, the unprotected –
be guarded by beneficent celestials,
and may they swiftly attain Buddhahood.
(Buddhist Prayer for Peace)


‘In Christ there is no East or West’ (Come and Praise, 66)

Publication date: March 2013   (Vol.15 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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