Click on title to view photo in large format. Monks wait to meditate beneath the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, India. According to legend, Siddhartha Gutama (Buddha) meditated on this exact spot without moving until he attained enlightenment. Records are unclear about how long he meditated; some say six days, others say 49 days, while some even say it took six years. Once Buddha achieved nirvana, the Bodhi Tree became a sacred symbol of his enlightenment and followers began making a pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya to meditate beneath its branches.
Not everyone, however, embraced the new Dharma. Numerous times during the ensuing centuries, jealous rivals attempted to poison the tree or chop it down. In the end, it was toppled by a terrible storm. Fortunately, King Ashoka, a devoted disciple of Buddha, had carried a sapling from the original tree to Sri Lanka, where it had thrived. A cutting from this Sri Lankan tree was subsequently returned to Bodh Gaya and planted on the original site. Thus the majestic Bodhi Tree that today stands aside the Mahabodhi Temple is a true descendant of the one beneath which Buddha was enlightened. These monks, like the thousands of others who visit each year, believe meditating beneath the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya will help them to attain Buddhahood more quickly.