In SACRED WORLD by Robert Pryor5 Comments

Under the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya
Siddhartha Buddha attained enlightenment in India at a place now known as Bodh Gaya. This small north Indian town has become the center of the Buddhist World and the Bodhi Tree is at the heart of Bodh Gaya. A large magnificent tree, it stands next to the Mahabodhi Temple marking the spot where Siddhartha reached enlightenment and became the Buddha. The present tree was planted in 1880 and is a direct descendant of the original one under which the Buddha sat for meditation. Spreading its great branches wide the Bodhi Tree attracts pilgrims from throughout the Buddhist World. On a recent visit there in October I encountered scores of Sri Lankan and Thai pilgrims dressed in white, Indian women in bright saris with their families, as well as Buddhist monks and nuns in orange, maroon, or grey robes depending on their tradition and country of origin. What strikes the visitor most about all of this activity is the remarkable diversity of people and the considerate manner in which they share this amazing site.

The Bodhi Tree is a type of fig tree (Ficus Religiosa) so during the time it is bearing fruit there is much life in the tree as birds and chipmunks are attracted to the tiny figs. October is one of those times so I was fortunate to be able to gather some of the seeds that had dropped from the tree. These can be planted easily and will grow very well in a tropical climate, or as house plants further north. In warmer Buddhist countries one will often find a Bodhi Tree in the grounds of the local temple as a reminder of Bodh Gaya and the Buddha’s enlightenment.

For me the main purpose of this visit was to sit quietly near the tree, observe the passing pilgrims and practice meditation. At first one is surprised by all the sounds as people move past, birds sing, and distant horns sound in the local bazaar. However, after a time the sounds begin to form a large spacious tent around one, and within is a stillness that is very profound at this amazing spot.

It is my hope that you may one day sit and meditate at the Bodhi Tree, but until then you might enjoy this short video of an afternoon visit to the Bodhi Tree:

Afternoon under the Bodhi Tree, Bodhgaya

The bodhi trees are fundamentally a strong type, and they want to grow if they are given a chance. Here is how to do:

a) Prepare a seed bed in a shallow pan 2 to 4 inches deep. Use a mixture of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 soil, and 1/3 perlite or vermiculite. An alternate method is to use potting soil mixed with small pieces of broken brick.

b) Open the small dried fruits which contain many tiny seeds. Spread the seeds and cover them with a 1/4 inch layer of the soil mixture. Moisten thoroughly.

c) While waiting for the seeds to sprout keep the pan warm and moist, but be sure that it is well drained.

d) Generally the seeds will begin to sprout in from one to two weeks. The new shoots should receive only indirect sunlight.

a) When the shoots are one or two inches tall they should be separated and put in individual pots.

b) If there are too many to put each one in a separate pot then a few can be placed in each pot with regular potting soil and a bit of the original sprouting mixture.

c) At this stage the small plants will grow best in a well lighted indoor space. If placed near a window be sure that they do not get too much direct sunlight, and are not exposed to freezing temperatures at night.

d) Plant fertilizer should be used weekly at half of the normal dose. Any of the types normally used will be fine.

e) The plants tend to have growth spurts, so don’t worry if they don’t grow much for some time.

a) When the plants get to be two or three feet high they can be placed outside, but only if there is no frost in the area.

b) If kept indoors the plants will remain healthy, but of course their growth will be limited by the size of the pot.

c) The young trees are a favorite food of tiny red spiders, so watch out for these.

d) These trees are semi-deciduous, so don’t be surprised if they loose some of their leaves. This is most likely to happen in hot weather or sometimes in April-May if your tree has a good memory of the Indian seasons.

e) When the tree gets big enough to sit under let us know, and we will come for a visit!

Note: If you have a green thumb, just ignore the instructions and use your own method.

About the Author
Robert Pryor

Robert Pryor

Robert Pryor was the Director of the Antioch Buddhist Studies Program in Bodh Gaya from 1979 to 2015. He and his wife Dianeah also led pilgrimages to Buddhist sites in South and Central Asia for many years. He is now retired and lives with his family in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Photo by Sandeep Handa, India

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    Does it require indirect sunlight indoors or is the fluorescent lighting of a workplace sufficient?

    1. Robert Pryor

      Hi Jack, Thanks for your question. It is best to have indirect natural light, but if this is not possible try to use a “grow light” for your Bodhi Tree indoors.
      Best Wishes,

  2. Avatar

    Thank you Robert, I am going to try again !

  3. Avatar

    I live in Los Angles, I bought Bodhi seeds from U.K. the seeds were so tiny, I thought it would not do anything, in stead of throwing them in a trash bin, I threw them under my arabian jasmin, I was so surprised, one day I found many were sprouting. I didn’t have time to separate them until a month ago. I was worried if I separate each of them they may not survive, so they are in a group in 3 pots outside. I don’t know how they grow, I will see. I may try to separate then some time later.

  4. Erik Pema Kunsang

    Thank you so much, Robert.

    Growing a bodhi-tree can also be a spiritual practice.

    Each step of the way from seed to tree
    connects directly with the fact that our reality
    is impermanent, unsteady, and ownerless.
    As the tree grows we acknowledge how no one is in charge
    and that factors rule the outcome.

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