The meaning of the bodhi tree

Indeed, the name bodhi (also known as bo) means “awakening.” Even the scientific world recognizes the spiritual associations with this tree as its botanical name, ficus religiosa, means “religious fig.”

The bodhi tree is sacred in India, and venerated in Bodhgaya where it is said the descendant of the original tree where the Buddha experienced spiritual awakening still grows.

Even before the Buddha’s spiritual expansion sparked the revolutionary religious teachings of Buddhism, the bodhi tree symbolism was associated with Vishnu, a major archetypal Hindu god. Vishnu is the sustainer of the universe and part of the holy trinity with Brahma and Shiva completing the divine triad.

Ancient Indian art depicts Vishnu nestled amongst the delicate leaves of the bodhi, peering out through the universe with his infinite spiritual vision. It makes me wonder if the bodhi was a source of energy for Vishnu.

Looking at the bodhi, it wouldn’t be an unreasonable assumption. It exhudes a high, bright, fine energy. It speaks of playfulness and thoughtfulness. Its leaves are lively and just as the ancient Celts utilized the dance of the aspen as an augury, I’m quite sure Buddist monks can interpret the sign language of the lilting bodhi leaves.

Additionally, the bodhi moves its body in wild rhythmic contortions, forming organic twists that curl up in our imaginations. When we look upon it with childlike eyes we can see whirling clouds, dancing maidens, and beautifully wrinkled faces of old sages laughing in the bodhi bark.

Furthering it’s honorable status, the tender bodhi leaves provides nourishment to elephants, a sacred animal to India.