Also known as the sacred fig, or Ficus religiosa (and also the peepal), the magnificent bodhi tree is tremendously sacred to Buddhists because the Buddha sat beneath one as he obtained enlightenment. It’s also said that for the entire week following his enlightenment, he stood still, gazing at it lovingly. Although the original tree under which he sat is believed to have been cut down by a queen who was jealous of the attention paid to it by her devout husband—and two of its successors have been cut down by subsequent monarchs—a descendant of the Buddha’s bodhi, dwelling in its original location, is visited by Buddhists pilgrims to this day. (And descendants at other Buddhist monasteries are also pilgrimage sites.)
But even before the Buddha’s time, the bodhi was sacred to Hindus, and it is said that both Buddha and Vishnu were born beneath one. The fact that the bodhi’s leaves tremble even when no wind is blowing has traditionally been seen as a sure indication of his divinity.
Bodhi translates to “enlightenment,” just as Buddha means “enlightened one.” As mentioned above, when the Buddha first experienced his famed enlightenment, he was sitting beneath a bodhi tree. In the words of Moyra Caldecott in Myths of the Sacred Tree, near the conclusion of his forty-nine-day meditation
[h]e could feel the great tree drawing nourishment and energy from the earth. He could feel it drawing nourishment and energy from the air and sun. He began to feel the same energy pumping in his heart. He began to feel that there was no distinction between the tree and himself. He was the tree. The tree was him. The earth and the sky were also part of the tree and hence of him.
If, like the Buddha, you desire to call in more spiritual enlightenment and awakening, try meditating under a bodhi tree, performing a visualization exercise incorporating a bodhi tree (similar to the Buddha’s enlightenment experience described above), or simply sitting in quiet contemplation with one. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that elephants—beings who noticeably exude a calm and awakened state of consciousness, and who have been associated with the Buddha—munch on the leaves of bodhi trees.
Fertility and Masculinity
Since such archetypal masculine divinities as Vishnu and Buddha were both legendarily born beneath the bodhi, it should come as no surprise that bodhi trees have traditionally been employed to help bring about the conception of a male child. While this might not be applicable to our frequent, modern-day lack of preference for one gender over another (not to mention our perilously overabundant human population), we can see it as a part of the bodhi tree’s association with both fertility and masculinity. From an energetic perspective, masculinity may be seen as the active, projective principle as opposed to the passive, receptive (feminine) principle, while fertility may be seen as a synonym for prosperity and abundance. As such, to bless a project with forward, active movement and fruitfulness you might visit a bodhi tree and lovingly connect by placing your palms on the trunk. Then, when you feel ready, state your intention and lovingly request the tree’s assistance.
If you’re “birthing” a new project or life condition, you might like to perform a blessing by lightly holding two of a bodhi tree’s neighboring branches and allowing yourself to receive an infusion of strength and fortitude.
Traditionally, the bodhi tree has been magically employed to help support physical healing on behalf of an ailing friend or family member. For this purpose, visit a bodhi tree on seven consecutive days and—after petitioning the tree for a miracle healing for your loved one—offer one cup of water to the tree seven times on each of the seven days (for a total of seven cups of water each day).
The constant movement of the bodhi tree’s leaves is a beautiful indication of the tree’s magical aliveness, as well as the potent presence of nature spirits within and around him. To connect with nature spirits (such as fairies and the unique personality that animates each individual tree), visit a bodhi tree and relax comfortably while gazing at his leaves. Allow yourself to receive healing energy and intuitive messages through the greenery’s infinite dance.
Offering water to sacred trees and requesting their assistance in “rainmaking” (or magically bringing about rain) has taken place in numerous cultures. According to a Sri Lankan text known as the Mahavamsa, offering water to bodhi trees for this purpose is an extremely ancient practice. The text also relates this rainmaking chant, which it says originated more than two thousand years ago: “May the rains fall in time, may the harvest be bountiful, may the world be prosperous, may the rulers be righteous.”
If your region could use some rainfall, and if you’d like to perform a blessing ceremony for the world along with your rainmaking efforts, bring pure water in a clay vessel to a Bodhi tree. Empower it with love as you imagine it filled with bright white light, and then offer it to the tree. Then speak the above chant once, making sure to do so clearly, mindfully, humbly, and with love.
The bodhi tree’s divine alignment and active positivity provides a potent protection boost. While simply spending time with a bodhi tree can increase the natural protectiveness of your personal energetic field, walking around the trunk in a clockwise direction nine times will have a particularly protective and purifying effect.
If you’re in need of a little wise guidance, or you’d like to increase your own personal wisdom on any given issue, you need look no further than a living bodhi tree. A true guru of the tree kingdom, simply spending time with a bodhi tree can offer the counsel you need. For this purpose, visit the tree as you would a spiritual master. Kneel near the trunk and silently offer up your challenge or situation through your thoughts and emotions. Then simply relax and be with the tree until you feel centered, grounded, and calmly certain about how to proceed.