Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The love of trees in Buddhism (video)

Ashley Wells, Seven, Pat Macpherson, Wisdom Quarterly edit of Wikipedia entry Bodhi tree
Massive Japanese Buddha  statue in Bodh Gaya, India (Gallery: thezensite.com)
Gandhara Buddha (buddhaskulptur.de)
Wayfaring Indian ascetics and Buddhist devotees meditate beneath sacred fig trees to this day.
They begin by doing parikrama (circumambulation) around the tree as a mark of reverence.
Usually seven walkabouts are done around the lush tree in the morning chanting "Vriksha Rajaya Namaha," which means "Salutation to the King of Trees."
Buddhist lore maintains that the historical Buddha Gautama attained enlightenment (bodhi) while meditating underneath the Bodhi tree, a Ficus religiosa or "sacred fig."
Idealized image of Siddhartha awakening under a tree
The ancestor of the original tree is in present day Bodh Gaya (Enlightenment Grove, the forested portion of the northern Indian city of Gaya where Siddhartha meditated until he became the Buddha or "Awakened One"), in Bihar (Vihara) state. 
The original Bodhi tree and the Sri Maha Bodhi (Sacred Great Enlightenment Tree) propagated from it are notable specimens of the Sacred Fig -- the oldest historically documented tree in the world. The known planting date of this offspring tree, in 288 BCE, actually makes it the oldest verified age for any flowering plant.[Note]
In Theravada ("The Teaching of the Enlightened Elders") Buddhist Southeast Asia, the tree's massive trunk is often the site of Buddhist and animist shrines.
Not every Ficus religiosa can be called a "Bodhi tree." A Bodhi tree can trace its parent to another Bodhi tree, and the line goes back until the first Bodhi tree, which Siddhartha chose among many kinds of trees to gain enlightenment under.

Buddhist Prehistory 
Wisdom Quarterly
The love and significance of trees goes much farther than this. In the Buddhist history of previous buddhas, the Buddha lists their names, parents, chief disciples, and the kind of tree they gained bodhi ("enlightenment") under.
It is not limited to Ficus religiosa, the sacred fig, or the Buddha's own Bodhi tree.

Moreover, the Bo tree is not the only tree to have gained prominence by the Buddha's life in ancient India. He gained final nirvana under two Sal trees. And he meditated under a Banyan and other trees before choosing that one tree that, according to legend, had waited more than 30 years for him. It is said that at the birth of the Bodhisatta (in his final life born as Siddhartha), his wife Yasodhara and his tree, the Bo, were also born, such is their significance.

The amazing thing about trees, about biotic life interdependent with materiality on this planet, is that they go way back to the beginning of the current cycle. It is said that the "first trees" were in fact massive mushroom with network roots (mycelium) running into the Earth and connecting them. The forbidden fruit in Judeo-Christian lore also seems to refer to a mushroom rather than a viper's apples.

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