It’s great to get a little rain in these drought-stricken parts, even if the precipitation totals from this mild storm are likely to be modest. In the pale autumn light I was struck by the beauty of the raindrops on the Ficus religiosa (Buddha Tree).
“The rain falls equally on all things.” According to Jack Kornfield, that is a “Zen saying.” If so, it might have been inspired in part by a passage in the Lotus Sutra, which says that “The Buddha appears here in the world like a great cloud universally covering all things … like the all-enriching rain.”
The historical Buddha is said to have gained enlightenment when he meditated under one of these trees, also known as Bodhi, Bo, or Peepal Trees. The place where his enlightenment occurred is today an important pilgrimage site, known as Bodh Gaya, in the Indian state of Bihar. It features trees said to be descendants of that one.
Though the rain may come down equally, regardless of what it falls on, some plants, of course, need more of it than others. The Buddha Tree is a kind of fig (it’s a broadleaf evergreen in the Moraceae family). It prefers hot, humid weather. Nonetheless, it’s doing pretty well in a container despite our cool dry summers (and despite the Sunset Western Garden book thinking it doesn’t grow in this zone). Not withstanding its preference for humidity, it is said to resent overwatering. This plant is maybe six or seven years old. I got it as a gift, as a seedling in a four-inch container. I continue to grow it in a container because in the ground it can reach a height of 100 feet or more.
In traditional South and East Asian medicine, the leaves and bark are used for a variety of ailments. But contact can cause an allergic reaction in some people.
According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, “The oldest plant in the world of known planting date is the Ficus religiosa tree called Sri Maha Bodhi which was planted at the temple at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, in 288 B. C. Today the bo tree is revered as a symbol for prosperity, happiness, good fortune and long life.”