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May 9, 2020

The Significance of Buddha Purnima or Full Moon

On May 7, it was full moon or Buddha Purnima, or Vesak as its also know. It’s the most auspicious day for Buddhists, as it’s the day the Buddha, as Siddhartha was born, received enlightenment and left his earthly body. Globally, Buddhists give homage to the Buddha by visiting temples and carrying out rituals.

An important ritual is the watering of the Bodhi Tree, as its linked to the life of the Buddha and our journey as seekers to find the path. To understand why the tree is watered, let’s look at the significance of the Bodhi tree in Buddhism.

The Bodhi Tree is the Ficus Religioso and in India, also known as the Peepul tree. It is the most sacred tree for Buddhists, as it was under this tree in Bodh Gaya that Siddhartha attained Enlightenment. Buddhists believe that the Bodhi tree symbolises wisdom, compassion, awareness, and the boundless potential within each of us to make the journey to achieve all of this.

A tree starts as a seed and grows to bear buds, branches, blossoms, and fruit. Similarly, as individuals, we undergo various stages of self-growth to reach our true potential. Just as the tree brings life-giving oxygen and nourishment to the environment around it, we aim not only for self-growth, but for a symbiotic relationship with those around us and the universe itself. That is the true realisation of infinite potential.

The Bodhi Tree is often depicted as growing out of its own reflection. It is said that the tree’s reflective image represents that same limitless potential we strive to achieve in our lifetime. Through meditation, the more spiritual act of reflection brings forth the awareness that invites enlightenment. As the Buddha did beneath the Bodhi Tree, by sitting still and befriending the self through deep inner reflection, we stop searching for what we want and become aware of what we need.

The Bodhi Tree is a true lesson in equilibrium. Its resilient roots go deep into the soil to draw nourishment from the waters below. Its branches reach high and proud, seeking sunshine and a place amidst the sky. This dichotomy represents the Yin and Yang of the self, often being pulled in two quite different directions while striving for a balance. If we trust the strength of our powerful roots as we reach for the sky, we will remain grounded with no fear of the unknown.

While the Bodhi Tree represents many profound and complex notions, it is also known for its release of positive and playful vibes. One of its lessons is to let go, embrace the now and have fun! When the wind blows through its branches, the Bodhi Tree dances. And, it invites us to dance with it.

In Buddhism, water symbolises life. It is the purest form of food and the element in nature that carries everything with it. Water symbolises purity, clarity, calmness, and reminds us of the need to cleanse our minds and reach a state of purity.

On Buddha Purnima one of the important rituals it to offer water to the Buddha and water the Bodhi tree. Besides keeping the tree alive in the summer heat of May — when the days are longest, nights shortest and the earth dry – Buddhists want to make sure the tree does not die.

The pouring of water is also an expression of respect for the Buddha and his close association with the tree. As the sun sets and the moon rises, candles are lit and placed at the foot of the Bodhi tree, signifying our goal to light up our path towards enlightenment.


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