The Bodhi Tree’s Swedish Offshoot

Posted on March 26th, 2009 by

Even the casual student of Buddhism has probably heard the story of Siddhartha Gautama’s long sit under a fig tree, during which time he reached enlightenment. That tree, now referred to as the Bodhi Tree, was  in Bodh Gaya, India; a current descendant of it, found near the Mahabhodi Temple in that city,  is today an important pilgrimage site.

Sun in the leaves of the Swedish descendent of the Bodhi tree.

Sun in the leaves of the Swedish descendent of the Bodhi tree.

Turns out that a cutting from the original tree also made its way to Sri Lanka, where it was rooted. A cutting was subsequently taken from THAT tree…and rooted in the botanical garden at the University of Uppsala.  (Did Neurath’s boat get repaired with wood from this fig tree? Did Plato’s third man perhaps sit under a third fig tree? Allusions to famous philosophical metaphors-of-once-or-twice-removedness are irresistable at this point.)

The documentary evidence

The documentary evidence

Lisa is spending spring break traveling and learning with the Gustavus Semester in Sweden program, led by Roland Thorstensson. Two philosophy students–major Alex Legeros and minor Andrew Nelson–are a part of the group. During our fascinating tour of the botanic gardens, we had a chance to stop and admire the Bodhi Tree’s Swedish offshoot. We were not, alas, able to stand under the tree long enough to be enlightened.

Thanks to Alex for making the photos.

 

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