Yesterday on AskMetaFilter, there was a question regarding birthday gifts for Buddhists. And oh boy howdy, do I ever have answers on THAT. Thankfully, in addition to a MetaFilter account that I might add my own succinct answers, I also have a blog where I may ramble at length.
Zafu. This is the classic meditation cushion, especially for Zen type Buddhism. I mostly associate the zafu with being quite young and small and not *quite* big enough to sit at the kitchen table properly. Instead of a phone book or a booster seat, I sat on my mom’s zafu.
Small Buddha statue. These aren’t terribly hard to find at all. If you have a specialty tea store in your area, chances are they have Buddha statues. With the popularity of Eastern themes in home decor and the Buddha being a sort of cultural shorthand for “calm,” it’s pretty easy to find a Buddha statue, even if there’s not necessarily a big Buddhist community in your area.
Everything I’ve read by His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been amazing. I would absolutely recommend his more layperson/secular books to pretty much all humans regardless of religious orientation. The Universe in a Single Atom is a great place to start for those with a basic interest in science – or, if that’s not your bag, The Art of Happiness is a very good book on compassion without getting too heavy on Buddhist philosophy. Of course, if you’re giving this to a practicing Buddhist, there’s no harm in going full throttle on the doctrine and getting something heavier.
Coloring books! Ok, so, I’m thirty and I still love to color. I have both of these (Buddhist Paintings and Tibetan Art) and they’re lovely. They’re very intricate and I would advise giving a set of nice markers or colored pencils along with them.
Tibetan Prayer Flags. These are especially lovely if you have an outdoor space to hang them – a porch or a deck or some such. I’ve actually thought about getting some for Paulo’s room, but that might be a bit much even for me.
And speaking of… for the Buddhist mama/papa/baby on your list:
Zen Shorts. This book is beautiful and simple, even for a non-Buddhist baby. The stories are pretty universal and no mention of Buddhism specifically is made. Featuring a lovely panda! We have this and while he doesn’t have the patience to hear the whole story – The Whuff loves looking at the pictures. Also in this series: Zen Ties, Zen Ghosts.
Prince Siddhartha: The Story of Buddha. I had this book as a kiddo and it’s beautiful and enchanting and I’m absolutely hunting down a copy for Paulo when he gets a little older and has the patience for stories longer than “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”
Unfortunately, my favorite Buddhist children’s book – which is just my favorite children’s book in general – The Mountains of Tibet, appears to be out of print. If you do ever stumble across a copy, snatch it up. The art is gorgeous, the story is wonderful, it’s just beautiful in every way. I had it as a kiddo and was given a second copy of it a few years back that I since passed on to Paulo on his Birth Day. I suppose I’ll be taking it out of harm’s way if it’s going to be difficult to replace!