The MV Bodhi Tree Is Gone

In the early morning of 26th August 2011, Monday, I was going through my emails when one terse message stopped me in my strides – “The Bodhi Tree in Mangala Vihara is gone. Brought down by last night’s thunderstorm”.

What? Gone??? That Big, Gigantic Bodhi Tree at MV??? Just couldn’t believe what I read.

Only the picture that was attached confirmed the shocking news. The truth finally sank in.

Yes, the once glorious colossal MV Bodhi Tree that had stood where it was over the last 50 years and venerated by many was gone. Very gone!

Then came a flurry of responses from other members …

“Anicca anicca anicca”

“Yeah, this is anicca in action. So why are we, sentient beings, holding on so tightly to impermanent objects?”

“We learn about Dhamma but we are mundane beings and ANICCA is a very very sorrowful occasion”

“Strange, the MV Bodhi Tree knows the correct position to fall!”

“The tree did not hit on the Buddha image and neither did it hit the late Bhante image, that is already very amazing!”

“This incident illustrates that nothing remains forever. It will be good to see things as they truly are.”

Feeling compelled to pay my last respect to the Bodhi Tree, I made my way to the MV and stood around gazing at the Bodhi Tree for about one hour before the 6:45pm puja, contemplating anicca.

Alas, the strong wind was not the only factor that brought down the Bodhi Tree; the other key factors were the weak roots and hollow trunk that were eaten away by termites over the years. Certain internal parts of the Bodhi Tree were rotted and fluffy. I picked up some internal pieces and these broke up and dropped to the ground like saw dust. The foundation was too weak to withstand the onslaught of the early morning thunderstorm and strong wind.

In the end, everything perishes… that’s anicca or impermanence.

The MV Bodhi Tree has its connection to the Maha Bodhi Tree at Bodh Gaya, India, under which Buddha gained enlightenment.

Recalling a little bit of history of how the MV Bodhi Tree came into being …

Buddhism in Sri Lanka had flourished after it was first introduced into the country in 250 BC by Ven Mahinda, son of King Asoka.

King Asoka later sent his daughter, Ven Sanghamitta, to Sri Lanka to help woman to enter the Bhikkhuni Order.  She brought with her a sapling of the sacred Bodhi Tree from Bodhi Gaya and planted it in the Mahamegha Garden of Anuradhapura with great festivities. It flourished as one of the most sacred objects of veneration and worship for millions of Buddhists.

In April 1947, when the late Ven Mahaweera started the construction of the Sri Lankaramaya temple in Singapore, he was presented with the sapling of the Bodhi Tree from Anuradhapura by the first Prime Minister of Ceylon, Mr D.S. Senanayake.

When Mangala Vihara was constructed, a sapling from the tree at Sri Lankaramaya was planted at Mangala Vihara on 31st March 1961.

That’s 50½ years of existence before it finally fell, or should I say “leaned to its right”.

As in the final exhortation of the Buddha …

“Behold, O disciples, I exhort you. Subject to change are all component things. Strive on with diligence”

It is a blessing that I was able to witness the “passing away” of the Bodhi Tree so that I am reminded once again of Anicca.

One Comment:

  1. The Bodhi Tree at MV was an important landmark for thepast 50 years. Its loss will surely be felt by many and some have said so to me in emails and sms. While it is true that the Bodhi Tree will be missed, we must discern the reasons why this is so. And it should not be because of attachment, because then, we would have failed to heed Buddha’s constant reminders to us that everything is not permanent. We venerate the Bodhi Tree because it reminds us of the Buddha, the Dhamma he taught us and the Sangha lineage which had continued to pass on the Teaching to us. It was also under the Bodhi Tree at Bodh Gaya that the Buddha took shelter before his Enlightenment. So being in the presence of a Bodhi Tree connects us to that fateful night more than 2,500 years ago when under the full moon, full knowledge was gained by the Buddha. We venerate the Bodhi Tree for these reasons. Such noble thoughts should be cultivated with or without the Bodhi Tree, although it will be easier for most when done in the presence of one.

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