July 2017


Bodhi: The Trees that Sheltered the Supreme Enlightened
July 2017




The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura

The sacred Bo tree gave shelter to the supreme Gautama Buddha aiding him in his journey to attain Enlightenment. Likewise, the 27 Great Teachers of the Dhamma before him too attained Enlightenment under a sacred tree. Thus, the connection between the Buddha and the Bodhi is a revered bond.


Words: Tishani Sripathi | Photography: Vishwathan Tharmakulasingham


Yellow robes, tranquil temples with soft sand filled pathways, soothing chanting and sermons with great meaning, the serene image of the The Enlightened One and the shade of the Bodhi tree - these are the images that may come to one's mind when thinking of Buddhism. Steeped in deep understanding of the Samsãra or the circle of life in the world, Buddhism is a philosophy followed by many.


It demonstrates the ‘Middle path', a path to attain Nibbana and escape all suffering.The Great Teacher of the Dhamma, Shakyamuni Gautama Buddha is the 28th Buddha who graced the world.


An amazing aspect is the connection between these Trees and the 28 Enlightened Ones. Each of these Supreme Awakened Ones attained Enlightenment under the shade of a particular tree. The revered term Bodhi is given to these trees out of respect, depicting the worldly knowledge. The Bodhi and Buddha are said to be of the same age for it is believed that the tree manifests on the same day the Buddha is born, hence the Bodhi tree is assigned through cosmic prediction to the aspiring Buddha born to teach the Dhamma.


Gautama Buddha, the Buddha of present times, attained Enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, India. It has been said that the cosmic energy of the world centres in this sacred place and that it is only place that the Supreme One can attain Enlightenment. Thus, it is the place that all 28 Enlightened Buddhas discovered the path to Nibbana and realised the end to all suffering. Therefore, it is at this place that the designated tree for each Buddha grows.


Thus, the Gautama Buddha did so under the Sacred Bo tree or Sacred fig tree; the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, a sapling of the Sacred Bodhi continues to flourish at the ancient Mahamewna Gardens in Anuradhapura. Similarly, many sacred trees have provided the aspiring Buddhas with shelter.


It can also be discerned that the the sacred Bodhi that sheltered the Buddhas were not all different from each other and that there have been instances where the same type of tree did so to a number of The Great Teachers of the Dhamma.

Each of these Supreme Awakened Ones attained Enlightenment under the shade of a particular tree. The revered term Bodhi is given to these trees out of respect.


Thanhankara Buddha

A Ruk Aththana tree or Milkwood Pine gave shelter under which he attained enlightenment. It is known by the scientific name of Alstonia scholaris.


Medhankara Buddha

A tree by the name of Kaela was the Bodhi tree that gave sacred shelter.


Saranankara Buddha
Palol tree with the scientific name of Stereospermum chelonoides.


Deepankara Buddha
It is believed that either the Neralu tree (Cassine balae) or the Palol tree gave shelter to the fourth Enlightened One.


Kondanna Buddha
To whom the Sacred Sal tree with the scientific name of Shorea robusta extended its shade.


Sublime Enlightened ones Mangala, Sumana, Raevatha and Sobhitha,
were sheltered by the shade of a Great Na tree also known as Ironwood in its common term. Scientifically known as Mesua ferrea.


Anomadassi Buddha,
the tenth Buddha, took shade under a Kumbuk tree commonly named the Arjun tree (Terminalia arjun).


Similarities between the Buddhas:

  • Their Birth, Enlightenment and Parinibbana occur amidst the tranquility of nature. 
  • The mother of the Buddha passes away seven days after giving birth for it is said no other is blessed to be borne from such a sacred womb. 
  • All Buddhas leave their lay life on the day his only child, a son, is born. 
  • The first sermon of all Buddhas is conducted at the Isipaathanaramaya. 
  • Each Buddha is said to pass away by falling sick after consuming a poisonous mushroom.

 

Paduma Buddha and Narada Buddha (11th and 12th Buddhas respectively),
were extended the sublime shade of a Murutha tree, which is today more commonly known as the Queen's Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia speciosa).


Padumuththara Buddha,
the 13th Enlightened One, was given the shade of either a Kiri palu tree (Buchanania axillaris) or a Hora tree (Dipterocarpus zeylanicus)


Sumedha Buddha
The Bak Mee tree commonly known as Leichhardt tree or Cheesewood tree (Nauclea orientalis).


Sujatha Buddha

uncovered the path to Nibbana under the shade of a Una tree or Bamboo tree (Bambusa vulgaris)


Piyadassi Buddha

Another Kumbuk tree or the Arjun tree gave shelter to the 16th Great Teacher of the Dhamma.


Aththadasi Buddha,

to whom the Sapu or Yellow Champaca (Michelia champaca) extended its branches in shade.


Dhammadasi Buddha
The sacred Rath Karaw tree gave shelter to the 18th Buddha that graced the world.


Siddhaththa Buddha

The Kinihiriya tree or the Buttercup tree (Cochlospermum religiosum) gave shade to the 19th Seeker of the end to all Suffering.


Differences between the Buddhas:

  • While some were said to have lived for hundred thousand years, the present Buddha, Gauthama, lived for eighty years. 
  • The Buddha' period of sacrifice and hardship before Enlightenment varies from weeks to months to even years. 
  • While most Buddhas were of the Sakya caste some were from the Brahmin caste.

 

Tissa Buddha
The Kohomba tree known as the Neem tree with the scientific name of Azadirachta indica.


Pussa Buddha
The Nelli tree or the Gooseberry tree with the scientific name Phyllanthus emblica gave shelter the 21st Enlightened Buddha.


Vipassi Buddha,

was sheltered under a Palol tree known by the scientific name of Stereospermum chelonoides.


Sikhi Buddha
The Etamba tree or Sri Lankan Mango tree (Mangifera zeylanica) sprouted as destined to shelter the 23rd Buddha.


Vessagu Buddha

The Sal tree gave its sacred service to the aspiring Buddha.


Kakusanda Buddha

The great Mara tree commonly known as the Gulmohar tree or the Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia).


Konagama Buddha,

was given tranquility and shade under a Attikka (Dimbul) tree or Cluster Fig tree scientifically named Ficus glomerata.


Kashyapa Buddha

The Sacred Nuga tree or the Banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) sheltered the 27th Enlightened One.


Gautama Buddha,
the Great Teacher of the Dhamma of present times, was given shelter by an Asathu tree known as the Sacred Fig (Ficus religiosa).

It is predicted that the Buddha of the future, Maithree Buddha shall attain Enlightenment under the shade of a Na Tree.


Where each of these Sacred Bo Trees extended their branches to the Exalted Ones each of whom is said to have paid tremendous gratitude towards the Bodhi for one week.


It is predicted that the Buddha of the future, Maithree Buddha shall attain Enlightenment under the shade of a Na Tree. He too will attain Enlightenment at the same place, which in His time will be called 'Kethumathi' (today Bodh Gaya). The Na tree, the Bodhi assigned to Him, will manifest here upon his birth.


Such are the mystifying stories said about the Enlightened Ones and their Bodhi trees.


Information was provided by Shasana Keerthi Sri Kala Shuri, Ven Rathnapura Nanda Thero from Sri Shariputhra Viharaya at Narahenpita.

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    A representation of the 28 Supreme Buddhas and their Bodhi trees at the Attanagalla Rajamaha Viharaya

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    Leaves of the Palol tree at the Sri Shariputhra Viharaya at Narahenpita

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    Great Na Tree leaves

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    Foliage of the Kumbuk Tree

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    A flower in bloom on a branch of the Sal tree

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    A Great Nuga or Banyan Tree

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    A branch of the Bak Mee tree with blooms

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    Leaves of the Mara tree

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    The large leaves of the Kiri Palu tree

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