So I’m putting some serious thought into getting another tattoo. For those of you who don’t know me or have just forgotten, I have four tattoos already and yes the rumor is true, they are addictive. I’ve been pretty good at holding out though, as I was last inked almost eight years ago in 2001. My newest idea for a tattoo is a bodhi tree, (or at least a version of one, the tree in the picture is a variation, not exactly what you'd see if you googled "bodhi tree"). I’ve been toying with this idea for quite a while and although I’m convinced that this is the tattoo for me, I still don’t know exactly where to put it.
Now a little back story on what this is and why it is significant:
The Bodhi Tree ("Tree of Awakening," ) in Bodhgaya is a direct descendent of the tree under which Siddharta Gautama attained enlightenment. According to Buddhist tradition, Siddharta Gautama finally abandoned years of rigorous fasting and asceticism by accepting milk and honey from a young woman. He then sat down beneath the Bodhi Tree and vowed not to move until he attained enlightenment. After 49 days of concentrated meditation and several battles with Mara (illusion), Siddharta became Buddha or “the Enlightened One”.
The Bodhi Tree is a species of fig. The Bodhi Tree that exists today is not the exact one that shaded the Buddha's meditation 2,500 years ago, but it may well be a direct descendent.
Because of its close association with enlightenment, which is the goal of all Buddhists, the tree has great sacred and symbolic significance. According to some Buddhists, the Bodhi Tree is the center of the world and the site at which all Buddhas (enlightened ones) attain enlightenment.
In early Buddhist art, before the Buddha image was used, the image of a tree was one of the symbols used to represent him. Still today, it is customary to plant a Bodhi Tree in every Buddhist monastery to symbolize the presence of the dharma (Buddhist teachings).
At Bodhgaya, the Bodhi Tree is a favorite place for pilgrims to meditate and contemplate the Buddha's teachings. Many also hang prayer flags or leave offerings at the sacred site. www.sacred-destinations.com/india/bodhgaya-bodhi-tree.htm
As for Buddhism itself, it is basically a family of beliefs and practices, considered by many to be a religion. Buddhism is based on the teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, (Buddha) who lived in the northeastern India and died somewhere around 400 BCE. Buddha himself was an awakened teacher who shared his insights to help people end their suffering and escape the cycle of rebirths (samsara). At it’s core, (although the idea of a common definition is debatable) what I can appreciate about Buddhism is the goals of ethical conduct and altruistic behaviour, devotional practices,renunciation of worldly matters,meditation, physical exercises like hatha yoga, study, and the cultivation of wisdom. A quick glance at the eight-fold path ( the path to end suffering) gives an idea of Buddhism’s beliefs. Some of the principals are: view reality as it is not just as it appears to be, speak in a truthful and non hurtful way, act in a non harmful way, and make an effort to improve. Pretty good stuff, huh?
Whenever I get a tattoo I try to make sure that it is something meaningful to me. I don’t want to put something permanent on my body that I just got at the last minute because it looked cool at the time. I don’t want to regret getting inked, and so far, I haven’t. So, after writing this I’m all the more convinced and ready to get my Bodhi tree. I think I’m forgetting something though… don’t tattoos hurt?