The Sacred Bo-tree

The Sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi or the Sacred Bo-tree in Anuradhapura has a history spanning more than 2,200 years. This huge tree came to the island as a sapling brought by the Princess Sangamitta, sister of Mahinda who introduced the Buddha’s teachings to Sri Lanka. The sapling is said to have been taken from the south side of the Bodhgaya, the side of the tree where Buddha was sitting when he attained enlightenment.

Historically the Sacred Bo-tree is the oldest surviving tree on the earth and is considered to be the mother to many of the older Bo trees found in Buddhist temples all over the world. In a twist of fate, the original Bodhgaya tree in India was destroyed and clippings from the Sri Maha Bodhi were used to produce the Bodhgaya that exists there today.

One of the reasons this tree has survived so long is it has been tended by an uninterrupted succession of guardians, even during the periods of foreign occupation. Today the Sri Maha Bodhi is one of the most sacred and popular places to pilgrimage on the island. Thousands of devotees and visitors come to make offerings, usually on poya days. The tree is very well guarded. I was searched several times on my way into the area. Pilgrims are not allowed to go near the foot of the tree in the upper terrace. They have to worship and make their offerings on altars provided on the lower terrace so that no damage is done to the tree by the multitudes that throng there.

While I was sitting under the tree I was amazed at the fervor at which people were doing their prayers. Many were chanting, weeping, bowing and praying with vigor that I have never seen until today. I made an offering in the temple then sat and watched people. While I was sitting I tried to decide if it would be an offense for me to take one of the leaves that had fallen on the ground. In the middle of my internal debate a rather large leaf detached itself from the tree and fell on my head. I took this as a sign and put it in my scrapbook. It will forever be known as the Buddha leaf that fell on my head.

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