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The Path to the Bodhi Tree

Which way to Bodhi? “Right straight ahead,” was the answer given by an old woman near Mount Wutai centuries later in China, when seekers wished to find the Way. How did she know that, because the Bodhi tree was found in India, one must say. The Buddha’s awakening enabled the woman to teach what the World Honored one found out.

Siddhartha Gautama was said to be quick to learn and physically fit to make his mark in the warrior caste of the time. The Buddha was born into a noble family of the kshatriyas in Lumbini in 563 BCE as per historical events and 624 BCE according to Buddhist tradition. He was called Siddhartha Gautama in his childhood. His father was king Śuddhodana, leader of the Shakya clan in what was the growing state of Kosala, and his mother was queen Maya.

So to get to the Bodhi tree, the twenty-nine year old prince had to leave home, kin and possessions, and then of course his mind-as-egocentric. The tree of which I write offers much to our story. It was already there, it provided shade, it was sturdy, it had Siddhartha’s back. It seems this tree on a small hill stood out to him. Recall he was recovering from near-death onset from severe fasting. This was a deliberate attempt to get so close to death as to see it clearly and thus awaken to the meaning of birth and death. Now moving away from death as he moved away from a home of decanance, the way forward was not clear, yet one might suspect he knew it was not returning to the life splendor he left six years earlier. In a sense the path to the Bodhi tree, up that small hill offered kinhin.

Which side of the tree did he select as a place to sit? He was a skilled practitioner of Yoga and possibly found the flattest spot, or the best view, or leeward of the wind. The spot on that hill underneath that tree allowed him to teach that woman how to help others find the way to Mount Wutai. Join us at 7PM/ET 12/7/21 password FSZS to fill-in the blanks and hear the rest of the story.

December 8th is Rohatsu, the eight day of the twelfth month, celebrated as the day Siddhartha became “awakened-a Buddha.” For the Falmouth Soto Zen Sangha Friday, December 10, 2021 we will sit in zazen, replicating the last night of Siddhartha quest. We sit for twelve hours, from 6:30 PM - 6:30 AM. On Saturday 6:30 AM/ET 12/11, you may also join us on Zoom for a 30-minute talk on the Buddha’s first sermon called the “First Turning of the Dharma Wheel,”



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