Friday, September 2, 2011

Bodhi-puja - ေဗာဓိပူဇာ

We (at Mangala Vihara Buddhist Temple, Singapore and some other temples and monasteries in the world, especially in Sri Lanka) pay homage to Bodhi-trees. The prominent reason is that the Ascetic Gotama attained Enlightenment under the Bodhi-tree. Is Bodhi-puja or paying homage to the Bodhi-tree, simply, a kind of tree worship? Frankly speaking, previously I did not pay homage to Bodhi-trees. But now I need to follow my temple’s tradition. I must pay homage to the Bodhi-tree at the temple, every day. When I need to do this, I need to define the meaning of what I’m doing. And thus I explored the Theravada Buddhist texts to find the following.

In the Nidhikanda-sutta-vannana of Khuddhakapatha-atthakatha, three kinds of cetiyas are stated: paribhoga-cetiya which is pagoda or sacred monument used by the Buddha, for example a Bodhi-tree; uddissaka-cetiya which is Buddha image or statue; and dhatu-cetiya which is pagoda or stupa where the Buddha’s relic is enshrined.

Moreover, Bodhi-tree is a symbol representing the Buddha himself. This symbolism was confirmed by the Buddha himself when he recommended the planting of a Bodhi-tree at Jetavana Monastery for worship and offerings during his absence (Kalingabodhi-jataka-vannana).

According to the commentary of Samannaphala-sutta etc., a monk who enters the courtyard of a Bodhi-tree should venerate the tree, and he should behave with all of his modesty as if he were in the presence of the Buddha.

In the Tipitaka, we find different kinds of Bodhi-pujas done by the disciples of Gotama Buddha in their previous existences. Following are some of the Bodhi-pujas. Vimala Thera: In the time of Kassapa Buddha, he watered the Bodhi-tree with scented water and he made a wish: “In my future may I be born with the body without stains, but clean and pure” (Vimala-tthera-gatha-vannana, Khuddaka Nikaya). Jambuka Thera: In the time of Tissa Buddha he paid homage to the Bodhi-tree and he fanned the tree with a fan in the manner of veneration to it (Jambuka-tthera-gatha-vannana, Khuddaka Nikaya). Sihasana-dayaka Thera: In the time of Padumuttara Buddha he offered a jeweled throne to the Bodhi-tree and he offered flowers and joss-sticks to the tree (Sihasanadayaka-thera-apadana-vannana).

Today we pay homage to the Bodhi-tree and we offer it flowers, candles, joss sticks etc. And we occasionally circumambulate the Bodhi-tree once or thrice to pay respect to it. The act of circumambulation is a Buddhist traditional way of paying respect to those worthy of respect. For example, at the end of Samannaphala-sutta, King Ajatasattu, delighting and rejoicing in the Buddha’s words, rose from his seat, bowed down to him, and left only after circumambulating the Buddha.

From the above it should be concluded that Bodhi-puja, paying homage to the Bodhi-tree, is Buddha-puja, paying homage to the Buddha.

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