550 BCE – Siddhartha Gautama, was born in India to a Warrior King who sheltered him from the world.  One day he left the palace and saw an old man, an ill man, a dead man, and a suffering man. He became convinced that suffering was the inevitable end of life. He came back to the palace and renounced himself as Prince and began journeying throughout India to understand the meaning of suffering.

After years of seeking answers through questions, deep meditation and near starvation he decided to meditate under a large old fig tree also known as a Bodhi Tree.  When a seed fell on his head he finally understood how mankind could choose to be free of suffering and still achieve salvation. This “enlightenment” also known as “Bodhi”, transformed him into the “Buddha” and he became the spiritual teacher of Buddhism.

He spent the rest of his long life teaching others to release themselves from suffering through the practice of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.  By accepting responsibility for your own thoughts and actions you could release yourself from the Wheel of Fate and achieve enlightenment.  He believed in being heart centered and staying present in the moment by accepting:

The Four Noble Truths:

Suffering exists.

Suffering arises from attachment to desires.

Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases.

Freedom from suffering is possible by practicing the Eightfold Path

The Eightfold Path

Right View/Perspective

Right Intention

Right Speech

Right Action

Right Livelihood

Right Effort

Right Mindfulness

Right Contemplation/Concentration

In religious iconography, the Bodhi tree is easily recognized by its heart-shaped leaves, which are usually prominently displayed.  The term “Bodhi tree” is also widely applied to currently existing trees, particularly the Sacred Fig growing at the Mahabodhi Temple, which is probably a direct descendant of the original specimen.  This tree is a frequent destination for pilgrims, being the most important of the four holy sites for Buddhists.

According to Buddhism, after his Enlightenment, the Buddha spent a whole week in front of the tree, standing with unblinking eyes, gazing at it with gratitude. The spot was used as a shrine during the lifetime of the Buddha, the only shrine that could be so used.

As the Buddha was dying his followers wanted to erect statues of him, but the Buddha asked that they keep the Bodhi Tree alive so it can help others awaken.

According to the Ceylon Chronicles, the Bodhi tree in Sri Lanka was planted in 288 BC, making it the oldest verified specimen of any flowering tree.

Holy Bodhi Tree from Bodhgaya

The Bodhi Tree at the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, Bihar, is the exact place where Prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment 2,600 years ago and became the Lord Buddha. Buddhists revere the holy Bodhi Tree and even the leaves are worshipped by them.

About 250 years after the Enlightenment, the Hindu Emperor, Ashoka visited the sacred Bodhi Tree and sat in the exact spot where the Buddha had sat. Ashoka had been a vicious military leader when he suddenly realized that non-violence was his true path. He was called to leave his palace and go to the Bodhi Tree to find himself.

There is a story that Ashoka’s wife had the tree secretly cut down because she became jealous of the time Ashoka spent there. But it grew again and a protective wall was also built at the time. Many sacred trees in India and other countries have been raised from the seeds of the ancient Bodhi tree.

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, Anuradhapura, Ancient Bodhi Tree

A shoot of the original Bodhi tree was taken to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century B.C. by Bhikkhuni Sangamitta, daughter of Ashoka, where the Lankan king Devanampiyatissa planted it at the Mahavihara monastery in Anuradhapura where it still flourishes today

“All that we are arises within our thoughts. 
With our thoughts, we make our world.” – 

 “You cannot travel the path until you have become the path itself” – Buddha

“Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.” – Buddha

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha

“Hatred is never conquered by hatred. Hatred is only conquered by love. This is the eternal law.” – Buddha

“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.” – Buddha

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” – Buddha

“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” – Buddha

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.”  – Buddha

“The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.” – Buddha

“The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.” – Buddha

“The wise ones fashioned speech with their thought, sifting it as grain is sifted through a sieve.” – Buddha

“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.” – Buddha

“There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.” – Buddha

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” – Buddha