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 Post subject: The origin of worshipping trees
 Post Posted: Sat Aug 27, 2005 10:03 pm 
The origin of worshipping trees

by Rohan Jayetilleke
@ Budusarana

From ancient times, in the vast and varied landscape of India, the divine has been perceived to dwell in trees, hills, mountains, caves, lakes, springs, rivers and the sea shore.

These beliefs are beautifully conveyed in the Brahat Samhita, a text compiled in the sixth century A.D. which describes “The Gods always play where lakes are, where the sun’s rays are warded off by umbrellas of lotus clusters, where rivers have for their bracelets the sound of the flight or cureleys. Where groves are near rivers, mountain and springs”. These places in the early Indian language came to be known as ‘Cetiya’ meaning wish – fulfilling site. This term ‘Cetiya’ was borrowed by the Buddhists and where Buddhas Sacred Relics or those of His Arahants came to be known as ‘Cetiya’ or ‘Caitya’ meaning the same objective, for worship and oblations to seek fulfilment of their wishes.

The Buddha too from Uruvela (Modern Lungesvari) traversed on foot and reached Gaya, on the banks of Neranjana River, to seek Enlightenment (Buddhahood) under the Banyan Tree, which was also a Cetiya of the Indian Hindus. The other trees under which he rested for seven weeks were also Cetiyas of the Hindus as Gaya was a place of assemblage of recluses in search of Moksha or Redemption from ever recurring life circle. The Buddha spent His seventh week after Enlightenment at Rajayatana, which too was such a Cetiya forest tree of the Vedic religion followers. Rajayatana, means place of performing Yaj, oblations by the Kings and from there Buddha walked to Isipatana’s Saranath Deer Park in Varanasi (Benaris) covering a distance of 127s miles on foot in seven days. Thus Buddha attained Enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, delivered His first sermon at the Deer Park, a place of meditation of recluses and also passed away in Kusinara (Kusinagar) in a grove of trees. As prince Siddhartha, Buddha was born under the Sal Tree at Lumbini (Rumindai) in present Nepal Terai.
Buddha at the age of 80, commenced His last journey on foot with His Chief Attendant from Rajagaha (modern Rajgir) to Kushinara, for the final passing away and en route He rested at these Vedic Shrines (Cetiyas) namely Udeni Cetiya in Vaishali in the Gotamaka Cetiya, Sattamba Cetiya, Bahuputta Cetiya, Sarandada Cetiya and Capala Cetiya, which were green wood groves, places of performing Yajna (oblations) by Brahmins etc. Thus tree worship is a tradition running into many millennia from pre-Buddhsitic times of India and still continue to be with the Indian Hindus. Indians are simple folks and even in death their mortal remains re-cremated in pyres of about four feet in height by the rivers at places called Ghats. There are no banners and handouts and expensive ceremonies of Pansakulas and veiling. In death as well as in marriages and daily life simplicity is the keynote in the Indian lives. These simple rituals are an indictment to image building funeral ceremonies and rituals of Sri Lankan Buddhists. Thus in these riverside cetiyas, the departed cross over to be reconciled with the Gods. After these simple rites for 14 days called Shraddh, food and water are kept inside the home for the departed and on the 15th day a vegetarian lunch is shared by the next of kin. Thus the departed is forgotten, with no periodical alms givings.

Over the millennia India’s geography was woven with mythology, folklore, historical events and religious beliefs, and numerous sites all over the country were identified as Sacred by different faiths, and they continue to be revered even today. For example, the Hindu shrine Tirupathi, 40 km from Chennai, on a hill is the place which has the largest number of devotees (Hindus) congregating in a day numbering arounds 4 lakhs, where women, men and even young children shave their heads having being successful in their vows for certain wishes. The oldest and most enduring Sacred Trees are those associated with Sacred Trees. Even trees are valued for the tangible benefits derived from their produce, such as fruit, fuel and timber and medicine derived from them as well as the shades they offer travellers, their symbolism travels beyond their physical offerings. In ancient India, Vaisya Sresthins (merchants) in caravans criss crossed the country with over 500 carts in pursuit of their tradings and these travelling merchants rested under trees during the hottest hours of the day and night. In gratitude they first made human sacrifices, later animal sacrifices, added pinches of the blood on the tree trunk and added a spot or “Tilak’ with the blood on their foreheads. With the burning of the carcases, they did the same with the tree and had three strokes of ash on their foreheads. Later this practice became symbolic and blood was replaced with reddish sandstone powder. This custom with ashes and red paste still continues with the Hindus. The trees are regarded as abodes of deities or spirits. A Sacred Tree was perceived as possessing knowledge as well as powers that could shower blessings, offer boons, or rid one of intractable afflictions not cured by medicine. Sacred Trees are also associated with physical as well as spiritual purity, longevity and fertility. In Sanchi in Bhopal, at the gateway to the Great Stupas on the hill, one could observe the magnificent sculpture of a Shalbhanjika, the fertility tree-spirit, who by her charming and graceful touch causes the tree to bloom.

On a metaphysical level, a tree was deemed auspicious as it spreads across the three sectors; its roots meshing the earth, its trunk rising from the earth heavenward and its branches too affording seats for the Gods. The trees added another qualification, as one that helps recluses to meditate undisturbed by the hustle and bustle of home and hearth or of the cities and villages. Thus trees passed through the centuries as sacred objects fit for worship, conservation and promotion. In Indian mythology, Panchvati, the Sacred grove was a garden of the five Sacred Trees and it was the accepted fact that meditating in this grove, leads one towards self-realisation of Moksha. These trees are the pipal, bel, banyan, amla and ashok. Among the varied tree species, trees of the genus Ficus including pipal ficus religiosa, the banyam ficus bengalensis and gular ficus glomereta, are outstanding among the Sacred Trees. The researches have revealed that these trees, such as the pipal and banyan bear fruit during the period when the other trees are not in fruition, and thus important food sources of birds and insects, when food from trees for them are rarities.

In India in these sacred groves fruits and leaves are not harvested and if circumstances force them they do it after seeking the permission of the Gods after an appropriate oblation. Thus the ecology lasts undisturbed in India. In various parts of India one could observe shrines either placed or built near the base of the tree and the deity living in the tree. Sometimes later idols came to be placed under the tree, and a parapet wall built around it. In Buddhists’ Shrines of Bodhi Trees, the Bodhi Wall was built with little compartment to place flowers, incense and other offerings such as lamps etc., and came to be known as Bodgigara (Bodhihosue). Thus present day Bodhi Pooja is an outcome of the age-old Vedic cult of Cetiyas of India, that still survive.

 Post subject:
 Post Posted: Sun Jul 23, 2006 1:21 pm 

Joined: Wed Jun 28, 2006 11:07 pm
Posts: 12
Location: Israel
The tree is covered with a lot of leaves.
The leaves rustle, speak, argue among themselves.
But shouldn't they know that the roots feed them?
Physicists behave as leaves.
They rustle, speak, argue among themselves.
But they forget the roots of science, namely that we build the base
of a science on abstract ideas.
The base of the classical mechanics is constructed on abstract
separate absolute space and abstract separate absolute time of Newton.
The base of thermodynamics is constructed on the abstract
ideal gas theory.
The base of the theory of radiation is constructed on
the abstract black body theory.
The base of SRT is constructed on the abstract theory
of four-dimensional space theory.
On this abstract base, physicists build a concrete building of
science and are surprised when they discover paradoxes in it.
But in nature there are no paradoxes observed.
Something is not in order with logical thinking.
It is necessary to stop, look back and
to reconsider the abstract base of science.
Maybe the abstract ideas are not abstract ones.
But everyone is in a hurry to try to understand reality,
and they create new abstraction. It is a way to “mad infinity”.
Therefore we live in the world of abstraction, of paradoxes,
in the Orwell,s world.
How to break off this circuit of abstraction?
How we can understand the Existence logically?

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