The Bodhi (Sacred Fig) Tree: The Enlightenment of Buddha
After asceticism and concentrating on meditation and Anapana-sati (awareness of breathing in and out), Siddhartha is said to have discovered what Buddhists call the Middle Way—a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. He accepted a little milk and rice pudding from a village girl named Sujata, who wrongly believed him to be the spirit that had granted her a wish, such was his emaciated appearance. Then, sitting under a pipal tree, now known as the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, India, he vowed never to arise until he had found the Truth. Kaundinya and the other four companions, believing that he had abandoned his search and become undisciplined, left. After 49 days meditating, at the age of 35, he attained Enlightenment; according to some traditions, this occurred approximately in the fifth lunar month, and according to others in the twelfth. Gautama, from then on, was known as the Buddha or “Awakened One.” Buddha is also sometimes translated as “The Enlightened One.” Often, he is referred to in Buddhism as Shakyamuni Buddha or “The Awakened One of the Shakya Clan.”
At this point, he is believed to have realized complete awakening and insight into the nature and cause of human suffering, which was ignorance, along with steps necessary to eliminate it. This was then categorized into ‘Four Noble Truths‘; the state of supreme liberation—possible for any being—was called Nirvana. He then allegedly came to possess the Ten Characteristics, which are said to belong to every Buddha.
According to one of the stories in the Āyācana Sutta (Samyutta Nikaya VI.1), a scripture found in the Pāli and other canons, immediately after his Enlightenment, the Buddha was wondering whether or not he should teach the Dharma to human beings. He was concerned that, as human beings were overpowered by greed, hatred and delusion, they would not be able to see the true dharma, which was subtle, deep and hard to understand. However, Brahmā Sahampati interceded and asked that he teach the dharma to the world, as “there will be those who will understand the Dharma“. With his great compassion to all beings in the universe, the Buddha agreed to become a teacher.
The Bodhi Tree at the Sri Mahabodhi Temple. Propagated from the Sri Maha Bodhi, which in turn is propagated from the original Bodhi Tree at this location.
Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya in front of the gateway of Jetavana Monastery
The Bodhi Tree, also known as Bo (from the Sinhalese Bo), was a large and very old Sacred Fig tree (Ficus religiosa) located in Bodh Gaya(about 100 km (62 mi) from Patna in the Indian state of Bihar), under which Siddhartha Gautama, the spiritual teacher and founder of Buddhismlater known as Gautama Buddha, achieved enlightenment, or Bodhi. In religious iconography, the Bodhi tree is recognizable by its heart-shaped leaves, which are usually prominently displayed. It takes 100 to 3,000 years for a bodhi tree to fully grow.
The term “Bodhi Tree” is also widely applied to currently existing trees, particularly the Sacred Fig growing at the Mahabodhi Temple, which is a direct descendant of the original specimen. This tree is a frequent destination for pilgrims, being the most important of the four main Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Other holy Bodhi trees which have a great significance in the history of Buddhism are the Anandabodhi tree in Sravasti and the Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Both are believed to have been propagated from the original Bodhi tree.