Bodhi, a Pali word meaning ‘awaken,’ is the name given to the individual tree growing at Bodh Gaya which the Buddha was sitting under when he became enlightened. This Bodhi Tree was a variety of fig known to botanists as Figus religiousa and which has large spreading branches and rounded leaves with a characteristic pointed tip. In the several accounts of the Buddha’s enlightenment in the Tipitaka, the Bodhi Tree is only mentioned once (Udana 1, repeated at Vinaya 1. 1-7). Tradition says that after his enlightenment the Buddha sat for seven days gazing at the Bodhi Tree out of gratitude for the shelter it had given him (Jataka 1. 77); and modern Buddhists still revere this species of tree for the same reason. The present Bodhi Tree at Bodh Gaya was planted in 1880 and is a distant ancestor of the original one. Bodhi trees are sometimes mistakenly called banyans which is another species of tree altogether.
- Buddhism A to Z. Ven. Dhammika, 2007.