BODHI PUJA


Bodhi Trees were revered during the past Buddha Sasanas, are revered in the present Buddha Sasana, and will be revered in future Buddha Sasanas. Since the time when Arahant Sanghamitta brought the Maha Bodhi Tree sapling to Sri Lanka, a certain lineage of traditional keepers of the Bodhi Tree arrived with her, and they were known as Bodhaharakulas. Their chief roles were to guard the Bodhi Tree carry out daily customary acts of homage to the Bodhi Tree, and ensure proper respect and homage to the Bodhi by devotees. This lineage of keepers is unbroken till the present day.

Nowadays, within the premises of every Buddhist monasteries in Sri Lanka is planted at least one Bodhi Tree. In the olden days, the worship of the Bodhi Tree included offering of Kiri bath of milk-rice or milk, the hanging of flags on its branches and the making of aspirations.

In Sri Lanka, branches of a Bodhi Tree are never cut for any purpose except if birds perching upon it discharges droppings that soil a nearby stupa.

Among all the religious festivals around the Bodhi Tree in Sri Lanka the annual festival of bathing the Bodhi Tree (Bodhi-sinana-puja) is probably the most significant. It is a festival that serves the double purpose of honouring the Buddha and causing rainfall. This festival is influenced by the indigenous custom of Sri Lanka even before the arrival of the Bodhi Tree sapling.

One particular popular reflection on the Maha Bodhi Tree during an act of homage (Mahabodhi Vandana) is as follows:

"1 bow my head in homage to the Maha Bodhi Tree which was also paid homage by Buddha Gotama after his Perfect Enlightenment. I bow my head in homage to the Maha Bodhi Tree sitting at the foot of which Bodhisatta Gotama defeated Mara, the Evil One and his maleficent hordes and discovered for himself the Four Noble Truths and the Way to the end of rebirth. I bow down my head to the Maha Bodhi Tree sitting at the foot of which The Perfectly Enlightened One defeated all evil enemies. I too pay homage to the Maha Bodhi Tree which was paid homage by The Knower of the Worlds. Oh! the Maha Bodhi Tree. my inspired homage to thee!"

At Mahindarama Buddhist (Sri Lanka) Temple, many devotees attend the Bodhi-puja on the full-moon and new-moon days. Offerings of light, incense, flowers, and fruit juices are made after which the bhikkhus would lead a circum-ambulation of the Bodhi Tree three times. During the circum-ambulation, verses of homage to the Triple Gem and the Bodhi Tree are chanted. Verses of veneration to the Bodhi Tree most often chanted are as follows:

Yassa mule nisinnova; Sabbari vijayam aka; PattoSabbannu-tam sattha; Vande tam Bodhi padapam.

{Seated at whose base the Supreme Teacher overcame all foes, attaining Omniscience,
that very Bodhi Tree do I venerate.}

Ime ete maha Bodhi; Loka nathena pujita; Ahampi te namassami; Bodhi Raja namatthu te.

{This Great Tree of Perfect Enlightenment, the Lord of the world reverenced,
I too shall pay homage to thee. May there be homage to thee, O Great Bodhi Tree.}

Circum-ambulation of the Bodhi Tree {and for that matter even for the stupa (chedi, cetiya, or pagoda), or the statue of The Buddha} is in a clockwise direction, i.e. with one's right side nearest the revered object.


MORE FACTS on THE BODHI TREE

A specific tree gains the name Bodhi Tree by virtue of the fact that a Bodhisatta in his last rebirth gains Perfect Enlightenment while sitting under it. The genealogical line of trees which can be traced to the Bodhimanda are still called Bodhi Trees, but not the other trees of the same species.

A Bodhisatta about to gain Perfect Enlightenment does not 'accidentally' sat under 'an ordinary' tree and that tree became known as 'Bodhi Tree'. In fact, the specific tree destined to be the Bodhi Tree is one of the five treasures which arises at the same time when the infant Bodhisatta is born. For Buddha Gotama the five treasures were Princess Yasodhara (his consort), Ananda (his attendant), Kanthaka (his supernormal horse), Nidhikumbhi (treasure troves which rose from the Earth), the Mahabodhi rukkha (Great Bodhi Tree), and Kaludayi (his favourite childhood friend). All Bodhisattas, in their last rebirths, possess these five treasures, but the types of treasures differ. In other words, the types of Bodhi Trees are different for every Buddha that arises. Let us look at the various types of Bodhi Trees of the five Buddhas in this Baddhakappa (auspicious world period):

Name of the Buddha Pali name Common name Botanic name Sinhalese name
1.Buddha Kakusandha Sirisa Acacia Albizia Lebbeck Mahari.
2. Buddha Konagamana Udumbara Fi Ficus Glomerata Dimbul
3. Buddha Kassapa Nigrodha Banyan Ficus Bengalensis Nuga
4. Buddha Gotama Asattha Fig Ficus Religiosa Pipphali
3. Buddha Meitteya Naga Iron Wood Mesua Ferrea Na


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