The Bodhi Tree, also known as Bo (from the Sinhalese Bo), was a large and very old Sacred Fig tree (Ficus religiosa) located in Bodh Gaya (about 100 km (62 mi) from Patna in the Indian state of Bihar), under which Siddhartha Gautama, the spiritual teacher and founder of Buddhism later known as Gautama Buddha, is said to have achieved enlightenment, or Bodhi. In religious iconography, the Bodhi tree is recognizable by its heart-shaped leaves, which are usually prominently displayed.
The term "Bodhi Tree" is also widely applied to currently existing trees, particularly the Sacred Fig growing at the Mahabodhi Temple, which is a direct descendant planted in 288 BC from the original specimen. This tree is a frequent destination for pilgrims, being the most important of the four main Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Other holy Bodhi trees which have a great significance in the history of Buddhism are the Anandabodhi tree in Sravasti and the Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Both are believed to have been propagated from the original Bodhi tree.
In Buddhist chronology
The Bodhi tree at the Mahabodhi Temple is called the Sri Maha Bodhi. According to Buddhist texts the Buddha, after his Enlightenment, spent a whole week in front of the tree, standing with unblinking eyes, gazing at it with gratitude. A shrine, called Animisalocana cetiya, was later erected on the spot where he stood.
The spot was used as a shrine even in the lifetime of the Buddha. King Asoka was most diligent in paying homage to the Bodhi tree, and held a festival every year in its honour in the month of Kattika. 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. 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.
To Jetavana, Sravasti
Buddhist recounts that while the Buddha was yet alive, in order that people might make their offerings in the name of the Buddha when he was away on pilgrimage, he sanctioned the planting of a seed from the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya in front of the gateway of Jetavana Monastery near Sravasti. For this purpose Moggallana took a fruit from the tree as it dropped from its stalk, before it reached the ground. It was planted in a golden jar by Anathapindika with great pomp and ceremony. A sapling immediately sprouted forth, fifty cubits high, and in order to consecrate it the Buddha spent one night under it, rapt in meditation. This tree, because it was planted under the direction of Ananda, came to be known as the Ananda Bodhi.Then he ate six grains of rice.
To Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka
According to the Mahavamsa, the Sri Maha Bodhi in Sri Lanka was planted in 288 BC, making it the oldest verified specimen of any angiosperm. 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 his left foot in the Mahāmeghavana. The Buddha, on his death bed, had resolved five things, one being that the branch which should be taken to Ceylon should detach itself. From Gayā, the branch was taken to Pātaliputta, thence 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. Those who assisted the king at the ceremony of the planting of the Tree were the nobles of Kājaragāma and of Candanagāma and of Tivakka.
Coordinates: 8° 20.692'N 80° 23.838'E
The trees of previous Buddhas
According to the Mahavamsa, branches from the Bodhi trees of all the Buddhas born during this kalpa were planted in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) 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.
- Animisalocana cetiya
- Bodhi Tree British Library.
- Mahavamsa, chap. 17, 17. http://lakdiva.org/mahavamsa/chap017.html
- Mahavamsa, chap. 20, 4f. http://lakdiva.org/mahavamsa/chap020.html
- Mahavamsa, chap. 29, 41. http://lakdiva.org/mahavamsa/chap029.html
- Mahavamsa. chap. 17, 46f. http://lakdiva.org/mahavamsa/chap017.html
- For example, chap 15. http://lakdiva.org/mahavamsa/chap015.html
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- The Bodhi Tree Network - Listing of branches/saplings of the Bodhi Tree around the world, cultivation tips of Bo tree, and how to share Bodhi trees.
- The Bodhi-Tree Meditation - a Buddhist practice based on the Buddha's night of liberation
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