Bodhi Tree

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The Bodhi Tree at the Mahabodhi Temple. Propagated from the Sri Maha Bodhi, which in turn is propagated from the original Bodhi Tree at this location.
A direct clone descendant of the Bodhi tree, planted at Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu, Hawaii

The Bodhi Tree was a large and very old sacred fig tree (Ficus religiosa), which grew at the Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya. Siddhartha Gautama, the spiritual teacher and founder of Buddhism, later known as Gautama Buddha, achieved Bodhi (spiritual enlightenment) while sitting under this tree. The Bodhi tree is easily recognised because of its heart-shaped leaves.

The word "Bodhi tree" is also applied to some existing trees, particularly the Sacred Fig growing at the Mahabodhi Temple, which is probably a direct descendant of the original tree. This tree is a frequent place for pilgrims to visit, being the most important of the four holy sites for Buddhists.

Historical events[change | change source]

The Bodhi tree at the Mahabodhi Temple is called the Sri MahaBodhi. According to Buddhism, after his Enlightenment, Buddha spent a whole week in front of the tree, standing with unblinking eyes, gazing at it with gratitude. A shrine was later built where he had stood.

The spot was used as a shrine even in the lifetime of Buddha, the only shrine that could be so used. King Asoka held a festival every year in its honor in the month of Kattika.[1]: 17  His queen, Tissarakkhā, was jealous of the Tree, and three years after she became queen (i.e., in the nineteenth year of Asoka's reign), she caused the tree to be killed by means of mandu thorns.[1]: 20  The tree, however, grew again, and a great monastery was attached to the Bodhimanda called the Bodhimanda Vihara. Among those present at the foundation of the Mahā Thūpa are mentioned thirty thousand monks from the Bodhimanda Vihara, led by Cittagutta.[1]: 29 

To Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka[change | change source]

Some part of the Bodhi Tree was sent to Sri Lanka by Ashoka. It was planted in 288 BC, making it the oldest verified specimen of any plant. In this year (the twelfth year of King Asoka's reign) the right branch of the Bodhi tree was brought by Sanghamittā to Anurādhapura and placed by Devānāmpiyatissa in the Mahāmeghavana. Buddha, on his death bed, had resolved "Mahavamsa": 17  From Gayā, the branch was taken to Pātaliputta, then to Tāmalittī, where it was placed in a ship and taken to Jambukola, across the sea; finally it arrived at Anuradhapura, staying on the way at Tivakka.

The trees of other Buddhas[change | change source]

According to the Ceylon Chronicles (e.g., Mhv.xv), branches from the Bodhi trees of all the Buddhas born during this kalpa were planted in Ceylon on the spot where the sacred Bodhi tree stands today in Anurādhapura. The branch of Kakusandha's tree was brought by a nun called Rucānandā, Konagamana's by Kantakānandā (or Kanakadattā), and Kassapa's by Sudhammā.

Other websites[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Geiger, Wilhelm (1912). The Mahavamsa: the great chronicle of Lanka. Ceylon: Ceylon Government Information Department.