The tree life has existed in almost every civilization and belief system in varying forms throughout time. Human beings as a whole have always recognized that trees are linked firmly to our survival as a race. Without trees it is doubtful other plants would be able to carry the CO2 conversion load of the earth. This belief is supported when we look at the results of deforestation worldwide, and still we cut them down. As a reminder of what we have clearly forgotten, I bring to you the Trees of Life Series, a look at the trees of life through out history.
Sacred Trees of India, the Peepal and Banyan Fig:
In India two types of Fig tree are held largely sacred; the Peepal and the Banyan. Both integrate religion and nature as many of the Trees of Life do.
In Hinduism the God Siva Dakshinamurthy represents the epitome of awareness, knowledge and understanding. Dakshinamurthy dwells under a massive Banyan tree called the, “Ashwath Vriksha”. Because Dakshinamurthy sits below the Banyan it is believed to be a symbol of immortality, and eternity. Some Hinduists also call the Banyan, “Kalpavriksha” or “wish fulfilling divine tree”. They believe one may obtain wishes or desires from the Banyan tree, such as immortality. In the Philippines and Guam the Banyan is also believed to house creatures such as fairies, dwarves and demons.
The Banyan however sacred is not considered a Tree of Life in my opinion, that title goes to the Peepal, more specifically the Bodhi, or Bo Tree. Rather than actually housing the world like the Yggdrasil Tree of Life from article one, the Bodhi tree is a tree of wisdom and enlightenment. You see Buddha, or the spiritual teacher who founded Buddhism is said to have sat below a Peepal tree now named the Budhi to receive enlightenment. How do we know the tree had anything to do with that? Buddha sat staring for weeks afterwards to show his gratitude to the Bodhi Tree for granting him its wisdom.
Unlike many of the other Trees of Life, the Bodhi tree can actually be visited, or at least a clone of the original. Sadly the first Bodhi tree was destroyed during a war. The cutting which reproduced the Bodhi tree is called the Sri Maha Bodhi and is the oldest tree in recorded history at 2500 years old. The tree can be visited in Sir Lanka where it has stood since 300 BC.
I believe wisdom is as important to life as life is itself hence the Bodhi Tree of Buddhism makes the Tree of life series. The people of India still believe the tree grants both wisdom and the protection of Buddha himself, ever reminding them that purity and enlightenment are as possible as a 2500 year old tree.
If you enjoyed this article be sure to check out article one, The Yggdrasil Tree and to check back for article three The Tree of life and Christianity.