Flowers, Fruits and Foliage of Faith, Part 2
Most Europeans and North Americans will be familiar with Harvest or Thanksgiving Festivals at their local place of worship. This is a time to offer thanks to one's God for the wondrous variety of flowers, crops, trees and fruits nature provides. It is also a time to give thanks, and celebrate, the gathering in of the Harvest and the bounty that nature, and man's labor, brings to the world. At this time, we are all reminded of the importance of nature and how it brings sustenance, beauty and faith into our lives.
Here in Thailand, rice is the most important crop and, on an early morning, one can see it being offered to Buddhist monks as they walk making "binderbaht". Also, there are particular trees and flowers which are associated with the country's faith. Last month, we looked at the Lotus and Jambu Tree (Rose Apple) and their significance to Buddhism. This month, we feature the Bho Tree and the Frangipani Tree.
The Bho Tree is known to botanists as Ficus Religiosa but may also be commonly known as the Boddhi or Peepul Tree. It is a tree most highly revered in the Buddhist faith because it was under such as tree, as he sat meditating, that Lord Buddha reached his ultimate understanding and enlightenment. Practically every major Buddhist monastery has at least one Bho Tree on its grounds, and the most precious ones are those which have come as cuttings from India, from the actual tree under which the Buddha is believed to have sat. Sometimes one will even find a single, framed Bho leaf in Buddhist homes; often this is supposed to be a leaf from the actual tree in India. As a reminder of the Buddha as a man, such a leaf is probably even more potent to an earnest believer than any manmade image of the man. It is only more superstitious persons who sometimes believe such manmade images can actually have magical powers in themselves. Those who truly understand the message of the Budhha, who saw himself only as a teacher, know that happenings in this world have more to do with a man's own actions than with any divine intervention. Even though those actions may have been taken in a previous life. Physically, the Bho Tree is large with branches spreading wide, begins to branch from the trunk at about the height of a man, and long reaching from an irregularly shaped trunk. The leaves are an elongated heart shape about the size of a person's hand and sensitive to the slightest whisper of air so, when they quiver in the lightest of air currents, it would appear that the tree is inhabited by many spirits (Phee). Traditionally, most Thai temple bells have the clapper cast in the same shape as the Bho Tree leaf. The tree itself, although it will readily grown in most tropical areas, is usually only to be found within temple compounds where they achieve ancient and venerable dignity.
The Frangipani Tree or Plumeria Acutifolia and it is a native of the American tropics while the more familiar name is traced to an Italian or source. In Thailand, it is called the Temple Tree and can grow to a height of 12 meters. The trunk and branches are thick and knobby with clusters of leaves and blossoms at the tips. The leaves are long and smooth edged while the flowers are either white or pink with a yellow centre. The flowers are pretty and heavily perfumed which makes them popular for decorating offerings to the temple. In Thai, the tree is called tohn lanthom which also sounds like the Thai word for "agony" (ranthom) and this is why it is usually found in, or close to, a temple where the tree can be free of its suffering in a sacred environment.
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