BUDDHIST SYMBOLS

BUDDHISM, SYMBOLS AND SUPERSTITION


Thai Spirit House

Many Buddhists are very superstitious. They believe in astrology and consult monks as fortunetellers. Magic has traditionally been an element of Mahayana Buddhism.

Traditionally, it was thought the faith in the Dharma and good moral conduct was enough to keep evil spirits at bay but as interest in orthodox dharma began to fade interest in magic rose. Beginning around A.D. 300, spell-like mantras became common. By around A.D. 500 rituals contained many magical elements that were embraced by elite and ordinary people alike. Later magic was widely evoked to do things like producing bountiful harvests and bringing good health to children.

Buddhism has its share of miracles. Buddha wowed people by rising into the air, dividing his body into pieces and then rejoining them Holy men and saints have traveled to other worlds, assumed the form of gods and goddesses, walked through walls.

In Japan and some other places, peacocks are symbols of healing, The Amitabha Buddha and Bodhisattvas are sometimes depicted sitting on them. Some believed that rubbing Buddha’s belly brings good luck.

Websites and Resources on Buddhism: Buddha Net buddhanet.net/e-learning/basic-guide ; Religious Tolerance Page religioustolerance.org/buddhism ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Internet Sacred Texts Archive sacred-texts.com/bud/index ; Introduction to Buddhism webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/buddhaintro ; Early Buddhist texts, translations, and parallels, SuttaCentral suttacentral.net ; East Asian Buddhist Studies: A Reference Guide, UCLA web.archive.org ; View on Buddhism viewonbuddhism.org ; Tricycle: The Buddhist Review tricycle.org ; BBC - Religion: Buddhism bbc.co.uk/religion ; Buddhist Centre thebuddhistcentre.com; A sketch of the Buddha's Life accesstoinsight.org ; What Was The Buddha Like? by Ven S. Dhammika buddhanet.net ; Jataka Tales (Stories About Buddha) sacred-texts.com ; Illustrated Jataka Tales and Buddhist stories ignca.nic.in/jatak ; Buddhist Tales buddhanet.net ; Arahants, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas by Bhikkhu Bodhi accesstoinsight.org ; Victoria and Albert Museum vam.ac.uk/collections/asia/asia_features/buddhism/index ;

Buddhist Art: Victoria and Albert Museum vam.ac.uk/collections/asia/asia_features/buddhism/index ; Buddhist Symbols viewonbuddhism.org/general_symbols_buddhism ; Wikipedia article on Buddhist Art Wikipedia ; Guimet Museum in Paris guimet.fr ; Buddhist Artwork buddhanet.net/budart/index ; Asian Art at the British Museum britishmuseum.org ; Buddhism and Buddhist Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org ; Buddhist Art Huntington Archives Buddhist Art dsal.uchicago.edu/huntington ; Buddhist Art Resources academicinfo.net/buddhismart ; Buddhist Art, Smithsonian freersackler.si.edu

Eight Auspicious Symbols of Tibetan Buddhism

The Eight Auspicious Symbols of Tibetan Buddhism are associated with gifts made to Buddha upon his enlightenment. The first four are: 1) the Precious Parasol (symbolizing protective powers of the Buddhist doctrine, it is usually placed over Buddha images to protect them from evil spirits); 2) the White Conch Shell (symbolizing the propagation of the Buddhist doctrine, blown to signal prayer time and celebrate the Buddha’s enlightenment and the potential of all humans for enlightenment); 3) the Golden Fishes (representing abundance, felicity and liberation from the Wheel of Life); and 4) the Lotus Flower (symbolizing purity and compassion of Buddha because it is a beautiful thing that rises from muddy waters).

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The other Eight Auspicious Symbols are: 5) the Banner of Victory (marking the victory of Buddhist wisdom over ignorance and the expulsion of all worries); 6) the Knot of Eternity (representing the eternal, intertwined passage of time, harmony, love and unity); 7) the Vase of Great Treasures (containing the jewels of enlightenment, the water of eternity and votive offerings to the deities); and 8) the Wheel of Law (representing the Eightfold Path to salvation and the movement of Buddhist laws). Also known as the Wheel of Dharma, the Wheel of Law turns 12 times, three times for each of the Four Noble Truths.



Mt. Meru

Both Hindus and Buddhists believe that Mt. Meru — the great "mountain above the mountains" — lies at the center of the universe and is the home of the gods. Located on the vertical axis of the egg shaped cosmos, it is surrounded by seven concentric mountain rings, around which revolve the sun, moon, the planets and the continents of the earth. The earth itself is a huge disk with four continents , supported by a vast circular ocean, which is supported by “gold earth,” which in turn is supported by a layer of air which rest in space. Within the universe are many such worlds.


Kailash on a Tibetan Buddhist thanka

Buddhists believe "that Meru lies between four worlds in the four cardinal directions; that it is square at the bottom and round at the top; that its has a length of 80,000 yojana [about 84,000 miles], one half of which rises into heaven, whilst the other half goes down into the earth. That side which is next to our world consist of blue sapphires, which is the reason why heaven appears to us blue; the other sides are of rubies, yellow and white gems.” At the base Mt. Meru are golden mountains and continents, including Jambubudvida, "the everyday human realm."

Every statue of Buddha has an imaginary vertical line running through it that represents the central axis of Mt. Meru. When Buddhist walk clockwise three times around statues of Buddha they are symbolically circling Mt. Meru.

Mt. Kailas — a 22,028-foot-high (6,714-meter-high) pyramid of ice and rock in south-central Tibet north of main Himalayan range — is an important pilgrimage site for both Buddhists and Hindus who regard it as an earthly image of Mt. Meru. Many Hindus believed it to be the source for three sacred rivers — the Indus, the Brahmaputra and Sutleh — and the paradise home of Shiva, one of their most important Hindu gods. Tibetan Buddhists believe the 11th-century poet and mystic Milarepa was carried to the peak on the rays of the morning sun.

Buddha Footprints

Carved footprints called “buddhapada” are among the oldest-known works of Buddhist art and faith, with the oldest examples from the A.D. 1st century Gandhara in Pakistan. One such piece carved in grey stone has a pair of truth wheels on each meter-long foot. Smaller ones have been carved on lapis lazuli seals less then two centimeters in length.

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Buddha feet with
auspicious symbols
Footprints of The Buddha are important objects of veneration, both in terms of purported footprints left behind by the historical Buddha and representations of his footprints. Because they seem to convey his presence without him actually being there footprints have came to represent transcendental power.

Footprints are both representations of the Buddha’s presence and absence, and loss and recovery. They are images that are easy to identify with. In ancient times, footprints and hand prints were regarded as the physical touch of Buddha and other major religious figures. The Buddha himself said, “Creatures without feet have love, / And likewise those that have two feet / And those that have four feet I love, / And those, too, that have many feet.”

A footprint was chosen as representative of The Buddha because it expressed humility and addressed the fear that his image might be worshiped. On footprints, The Buddha is reported to have said: “In the future, intelligent being will see the scriptures and understand. Those of less intelligence will wonder whether The Buddha appeared in the world. In order to remove the doubts. I have set my footprints in stone.”

Carved footprints was supposed to be imprinted with 108 auspicious symbols. The hand or palm of The Buddha is an important symbol. In Tibet, footprints and to a lesser degree handprints of revered lamas appear on thangkas. They are often placed next to the subject’s patron deity or an image of the lama himself. The handprints often look like handprints in prehistoric caves or the ones at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

Dharmachakra (Wheel of Law or the Wheel of Dharma)

The Dharmachakra (also known as The Wheel of Law or the Wheel of Dharma) represents Dharma, the cosmos and the concept of karma. The central wheel is symbolic of Buddha's teachings which set the wheel of dharma in motion. A symbol from ancient India also found in Hinduism and Jainism, it has represented Buddhism, Gautama Buddha's teachings and his walking of the path to Enlightenment since the earliest days of Buddhism. The symbol is also connected to the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. The Sanskrit noun dharma means "to hold, maintain, keep" and has come to mean both "law" and “teachings.” [Source: Wikipedia]

The Dharmachakra is one of the oldest known Buddhist symbols found in Indian art, appearing with the first surviving post-Indus Valley Civilization Indian iconography in the time of the Buddhist king Ashoka, who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent from c. 268 to 232 B.C.. The Buddha is said to have set the dhammacakka in motion when he delivered his first sermon, which is described in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. The wheel itself depicts ideas about the cycle of sa sāra[citation needed] and furthermore the Noble Eightfold Path.

Rotating Konarka chaka
Dharmachakra
Buddhism adopted the wheel as the main symbol of the chakravartin "wheel-turner", the ideal king or "universal monarch", symbolising the ability to cut through all obstacles and illusions.[5] According to Harrison, the symbolism of "the wheel of the law" and the order of Nature is also visible in the Tibetan prayer wheels. The moving wheels symbolize the movement of cosmic order.

Tibetan Buddhist Wheel of Life

The wheel of law or the wheel of Dharma represents Dharma, the cosmos and the concept of karma. The central wheel is symbolic of Buddha’s teachings which set the wheel of dharma in motion.

The walls or entrances of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and pagodas are often decorated with "Wheels of Life," paintings representing principals of Buddhism. They are complex, image-filled paintings that aim to show viewers how desire imprisons us in a world of suffering and rebirth and that the mind is only a delusion.

The three cardinal sins — passion and delusion (represented by a cock), hatred (a snake), and greed and stupidity (a pig) — are often situated at the center of the wheel. The wheel is turned by Yama, the Lord of Death, who represents the limitations of existence. At the bottom of the wheel are hot and cold hells and a scale used to measure good and bad karma one has accumulated in one’s lifetime.

In the ring outside the center are the 8 or 12 karma formations, which contain the victims of bad karma (black background) on the left and the beneficiaries of good karma (white background) on the right. In the next ring are the six spheres of existence; then the twelve links in the chain of causation, culminating in the search for truth; and finally in the outer most ring are symbols depicting impermanence or death.

The six spheres of existence are; 1) the realm of the gods, a transitory place where happiness rises above suffering; 2) the realm of the “asuras” (jealous gods), where creatures of all sorts fight over fruit on the wishing tree and have to be reminded by Buddha to stay on the path; 3) the realm of the “pretas” (the hungry ghosts), the home of grotesque figures who have given into greed and can’t eat because their throats are too narrow; 4) the hells, where creatures with cold hearts and anger live in misery; 5) the realm of the animals, a place of ignorance, lethargy and apathy; and 6) the realm of the humans, characterized by birth, old age, disease, sickness and death.

The twelve links in the chain of causation features: 1) a blind woman (symbolizing ignorance); 2) a potter (unconscious of will); 3) a monkey (consciousness); 4) men in a boat (self-consciousness); 5) house (the five senses); 6) lovers (attachment); 7) a man with an arrow in his eye (feeling); 9) people drinking (desire); 10) a figure grasping fruit from a tree (greed); 11) pregnancy (birth); and 12) a man with a corpse (death).

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Tibetan Buddhist Wheel of Life

Swastika

The swastika is one of the holiest symbols in Hinduism. It represents the seat of God, the sun and is regarded as good luck. Arms bent in a clockwise direction have traditionally meant health and life and the movement of the sun. The Nazis used a swastika with arms bent in a counter-clockwise direction. The word swastika comes from two Sanskrit words “su” , meaning “good,” and “asti” , meaning “to exist,” and together they mean “let good prevail.”

The swastika is one of the oldest known symbols, even older than the ancient Egyptian Ankh. It has been found pottery and coins from ancient Troy show that date to 1000 B.C. and found on coins from ancient China and very old blankets made by American Indians. Some say it has been associated with Hinduism for 5,000 years. According to legend Buddha left behind swastikas instead of foot prints. A 10,000-year-old swastika was found painted on the wall of a cave.

A majolica seal bearing a swastika was found at an Indus civilization state, dated to 2000 to 2500 B.C. Erica Wagner wrote in the Washington Post: “After the om, the swastika is still the second most important symbol in Hindu mythology — and Hindus understandably protested the proposed ban. The word itself is derived from two Sanskrit words, su (good) and asati (to exist); together they are taken to mean "may good prevail." In Hindu thought, the 20-sided polygon can represent the eternal nature of the Brahman, or supreme spirit of the universe, because it points in all directions. Rudyard Kipling, who was strongly influenced by Indian culture, had a swastika on the dust jackets of all his books until the rise of Nazism made this inappropriate; Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, used the symbol, too, until the 1930s. It is found in Native American cultures, particularly among the Navajo and the Hopi. A swastika is laid in the floor of Amiens Cathedral in France. [Source: Erica Wagner, Washington Post, March 13, 2005]

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Modern Hindus and Buddhist use swastikas to decorate temples, doorways and jewelry as a way to attract good fortune. Many Hindus wear them as a symbol of their faith like Christians wearing crosses. In 2005, there was a campaign among Hindus to “redeem” the swastika. The efforts was made after officials in Europe suggested the symbol be banned — after Britain’s Prince Harry wore a Nazi uniform to a party — because of the association of the symbol with death and hate and anti-Semitism.




Nazis and Swastika

The arms of the traditional Hindu and Buddhist swastika go in the opposite direction of the Nazi swastika. The original swastika adopted by the Nazi party in 1920 had arms that went in the same direction. It is believed that Allied wartime propaganda was responsible for the false belief that Hitler later reversed the swastika to the left-armed version because of its association with death.

Erica Wagner wrote in the Washington Post: “Hitler adopted it because of its links to Indian Aryan culture; the Nazis considered the early Aryans of India to be a prototypical "master race." The Nazi party formally adopted the swastika — what they called the Hakenkreuz, or hooked cross — in 1920. In "Mein Kampf," Adolf Hitler, who well understood the power of the visual over the power of the mere word, reflected in his writing the care put into its redesign: "I myself, meanwhile, after innumerable attempts, had laid down a final form; a flag with a red background, a white disk, and a black swastika in the middle. After long trials I also found a definite proportion between the size of the flag and the size of the white disk, as well as the shape and thickness of the swastika." [Source: Erica Wagner, Washington Post, March 13, 2005]


swastika on a temple in Seoul

The atrocities of the Nazi regime and its program of directed genocide have rendered that symbol almost entirely out of bounds. In Germany and Austria, use of the swastika has been banned outside academic and educational contexts since 1949; recently, copies of Philip Roth's new novel, "The Plot Against America," which imagines an alternative America sympathetic to the Nazis during World War II — were kept out of Germany because the cover features an American postage stamp adorned with a swastika. The publishers produced a separate edition for Germany and Austria (the "Hapsburg edition," it was dubbed), which replaced the swastika with a black X.

It was a royal gaffe — when Prince Harry went to a fancy dress party clothed as a Nazi officer just days before the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz — that prompted the call for the swastika to be banned throughout the European Union. "E.U. action is urgent," Franco Fratini, the European commissioner for justice, said, "and has to forbid very clearly the Nazi symbols in the European Union."

White Elephants

The elephant has traditionally been a symbol of The Buddha. Elephants hold a special place in Buddhism because Buddha's mother conceived The Buddha after having a dream about a white elephant entering her body.

Among the Thais, Burmese and other peoples of Southeast Asia, white elephants are regarded as symbols of power and fertility. According to Buddhist lore the Buddha’s mother Queen Mahamaya dreamed of white baby elephant at the conception of Lord Buddha. The discovery of white elephants in the wild is a major event that causes a big stir in the countries of Southeast Asia. This is stark contrast to the West where the expression “white elephant” describes an expensive but useless thing.

White elephants are regarded as the most auspicious of all animals in Laos, Thailand, Burma and Cambodia as far back as anyone can remember. They have been sought after and the object of envy. Kings added possession of them to their titles. Great empires have gone to war over them. The royal "white elephants" in Thailand are in fact are pinkish brown or with some whitish markings. They are often difficult to distinguish from normal elephants. Only one looks genuinely pale. The others look like normal elephants. Their proper name is chang samkan, meaning “important” or “significant” elephant. Most are not albinos, which are usually whitish beige.


white elephant from the Vessantara, Jataka

What exactly defines a white elephant is the subject of large body of literature. In Thailand they are rare, light-toned animals that must have a particular set of characteristics to be labeled as white. The criteria to define a white in elephant in Thailand is secret and takes experts weeks to sort out. The basic requirements are for a white elephant are that it must have some “white” skin (pink splotches on the skin), white eyes, a white upper palate, white nails, white fur, white tail hair and a white scrotum. In Thailand white elephants are supposed to be treated with the same respect accord royal children.

By law every white elephant born in Thailand must be presented to the king. Prospective candidates are chosen not only on the basis of pink skin splotches but also on the shape of their trunk and tail, the quality of their vocalizations and even the smell of their dropping. The royal families in Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia used to keep white elephants but the custom has largely died out there along with the power of the royal families.

"To an inexperienced man they may look like normal elephants," the overseer of ceremonies at the Royal Palace in Bangkok told National Geographic. "But I have studied them all my life to be able to tell you about their special qualities: a certain shape to their ankles and tail. A whiteness of the eyes, the hair tops, the white skin between folds, and the nails. The greatest of all elephants has two extra toe nails. He is of the same rank as a prince." The name of this cherished elephant has a name four lines long, proclaiming him to be a lotus-colored gift.

Lotuses

In Buddhism and Asia the lotus symbolizes self-development, enlightenment and purity because it rooted in the mud, grows from through dirty water and without getting dirty and emerges as a thing of beauty. It represents enlightened beings such as Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and has come to symbolize the Buddha.

The Sacred Lotus is a large bloom on a long thick thorny and fibrous stalk. The buds are like elongated bulbs that narrow at the tip. But when the petals open the flowers are fabulous. The color of the sacred lotus is a mix of whitish pink and red. And the white lotus is pristine and pure. The fibrous stalks yield strong threads. which are used for weaving the sacred ornamental robe offered to Buddha Images.


lotus flower

Amid the dirty waters of small streams and rivers as well as from the semi-stagnant pools of water throughout the tropical area of Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, etc.) can be seen the bright green floating leaves and the lovely colors of the Lotus. Such is the contrast of the flower to the environment wherein it grows, that long ago, Buddha used it as a symbol of his teachings. Growing out of the impure, the dirty, and the waste products of civilization, the Lotus lifts high its stately and lovely blossom in such unsullied and pure form that it is an object lesson. [Source: The Religions of South Vietnam in Faith and Fact, US Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel, Chaplains Division ,1967 ++]

The Lotus flower is a religious symbol as well as a popular food and a sight that creates aesthetic pleasure. There are at least five varieties of the Lotus with the water lily being included, even if not always accepted as a true Lotus; but the Thai people refer to the two types as "string Lotus" and "stalk Lotus" with several types of "string Lotus" with flowers of purple, white to pale blue, and red. There are also at least five kinds of "stalk Lotus", with each having its own characteristics and charm when closely studied. ++

As food the lotus was known to the Greek Homer and was widely used by the Chinese, Japanese and Southeast Asians. Its seed may be eaten fresh or dried and used in sweet soups and deserts. The root may be used in salad, boiled in soup, or preserved in sugar and used as desert. From the root may also be extracted a fine starch used by the inhabitants of that area for certain special foods. Lotus seeds are green and resemble large peanuts and come embedded in a cup-like bulb. stalk. It is a very tasty ingredient in steamed duck or as part of the stuffing in duck roast. They can also be eaten raw. Before the era of plastics lotus leaves were used to wrap fresh fish and meat in bazaars.

Nymphaeceae is a family of water plants which includes the water lilies, the sacred lotus (Nelumbo) and the spectacular Queen Victoria water lily (victoria amagorica). It is a family of 8 genera with 90 species found in fresh waters throughout the world. Where there are ponds, lakes and streams these plants are found. Common species in Asia include the: 1) European White Water Lily (Nymphaea alba); 2) Indian Water Lily (N. Nouchali Burmf); 3) Indian Blue Water Lily (N. Stellata Willd); 4) Barclaya longi folia Walld; 5) Pygmy Water Lily (N. tetra gona Georgi); 6) Nymphaea Stellata Willd; and 7) Sacred Lotus or Egyptian Lotus (Nelumbium speciosum Willd). The Sacred Lotus, is believed to bloom only in sunlight and the white lily, is said to bloom only with moonlight. [Source: Kyi Kyi Hla]

Lotuses and Buddhism

Buddha taught that as the flower achieves its mark in spite of its environment, so may men lose their passions and desires and thereby find release in the spiritual serenity of Nirvana. The Lotus bud is perhaps the single most popular offering of the Buddhist as he worships at his temple, or his home altar. It is quite often held in the folded hands of the listener within the temple as sermons are given or meditation is practiced. Often in the early morning hours as the Buddhist monk makes his way through the streets with the "merit bowl" wherein the laity may earn merit by giving cooked rice, there will be a Lotus bud or two within his hand. Likewise, it has come to form a part of Asian architectural and sculptural motifs. ++


Buddha seated on a lotus

Sometimes the Lotus is compared to the feet, the heart, or the life-giving attributes of the Buddhist female. Moreover it has a history that predates Buddhism as its symbolism was also of Hindu heritage. For instance, Brahman legend tells the story of how when Brahman, the god of the universe, was creating this universe, he went to sleep on the job; as he slept, the Lotus bud appeared from his naval and its petals opened, Vishnu emerged and finished the creation. ++

Buddha used its four stages to symbolize the four types of people and their distance from enlightenment. The four stages are: (1) the Lotus bud deeply submerged as it starts its development; (2) the bud about to reach the surface of the pond; (3) after the bud has cleared the surface, but with leaf and bud still folded; and (4) the bud standing tall and straight with its beauty undefiled by the mire from which it grows. Because of this symbolism, it is always proper to use it as a floral offering to monks when ceremonies are performed or as means of earning merit. The Lotus bud signifies in Buddhism that the worshipper is capable of reaching enlightenment because of the opportunities within his grasp. The unopened bud also tends to last longer than other flowers, and it has the capacity to bloom when placed in water and left before the altar. ++

The lotus motif is a decorative feature found on the architecture of Buddhist shrines and sacred depositories such as chedis (stupas). The upper part of a chedi just below the pinnacle consists of the diamond bud—the pennant-shaped vane. The umbrella is an elongated bulbous portion of the chedi known as the banana bud. Just below it a motif of large lotus petals encircling the chedi. Next is the part of the chedi that resembles a spreading upturned lotus flower. Then comes the a motif of small lotus petals. And lastly is the motif which resembles an inverted lotus flower. These motifs add to the grace and beauty of chedis. The lotus motif also decorates the pinnacles of tiered roofs of monasteries and palaces and there is also a vessel somewhat like a fruit stand decorated with lotus petals for offering food and fruits at sacred Buddha shrines. The exotic lotus is a motif which also adorns the gold thrones on which we place Buddha images.

Bodhi Tree

Bo tree, also called Bodhi tree, is a kind of fig tree also called the pipal. According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha sat under a the pipal (Ficus religiosa) when he attained Enlightenment (Bodhi) at Bodh Gaya (near Gaya, west-central Bihar state, India). A living pipal at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, is said to have grown from a cutting from the Bo tree sent to that city by King Ashoka in the 3rd century B.C. [Source: Encyclopedia Britanica]

Ficus (genus Ficus) is a group of about 900 species of trees, shrubs, and vines, commonly called figs. Native primarily to tropical areas of East Asia, they are distributed throughout the world’s tropics. Many are tall forest trees that are buttressed by great spreading roots; others are planted as ornamentals. The Bodhi tree has heart-shaped leaves. They have traditionally been planted close to Buddhist monasteries.


Buddha under the Bodhi tree

The Sacred Fig growing at the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya is said to have been planted in in 288 B.C. from the original specimen. This tree is a frequent destination for pilgrims to Bodh Gaya and is regarded by many Buddhists as the most important of the four main Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Another holy Bodhi trees which have a great significance in the history of Buddhism is the Anandabodhi tree in Sravasti. Like the Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, it is thought to have been propagated from the original Bodhi tree.

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 Ashoka 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, Tissarakkha- 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 Maha- Thu-pa are mentioned thirty thousand monks from the Bodhimanda Vihara, led by Cittagutta. The tree was again cut down by King Pusyamitra Sunga in the 2nd century BC, and by King Shashanka in 600 AD. Every time the tree was destroyed, a new tree was planted at the same place. In 1881 a British archaeologist planted a Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya after the previous one had died due to old age. [Source: Wikipedia]

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: East Asia History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu , “Topics in Japanese Cultural History” by Gregory Smits, Penn State University figal-sensei.org, Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia, Asia Society Museum asiasocietymuseum.org , “The Essence of Buddhism” Edited by E. Haldeman-Julius, 1922, Project Gutenberg, Virtual Library Sri Lanka lankalibrary.com “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “Encyclopedia of the World's Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures: Volume 5 East and Southeast Asia” edited by Paul Hockings (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1993); “ National Geographic, the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018


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