A sacred sapling of the Bodhi Buddhist tree in Australian quarantine before Bendigo planting

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The Australian quarantine nurtures a sacred sapling from a Sri Lankan bohdi tree that can be directly related to Buddha over 2,300 years ago.

The sacred tree of Sri Lanka is revered by the worldwide Buddhist community and is a direct descendant of the original tree under which Buddha obtained enlightenment.

It is the oldest living tree with a known planting date.

The sapling will remain in Australian quarantine for 12 months and ultimately will be planted at the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion in Bendigo, Victoria.

The president of the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion, Ian Green, said that once the sapling is planted, Bendigo will become a pilgrimage destination for Buddhists around the world.

“Having this connection to history is very unusual and inspiring, and it brings the whole story of the Buddha to life,” Mr. Green said.

The tree will eventually be planted in a temple known as Bodhi Vhamma Vihara, and will become the first place in the Victoria region for Sri Lankan Buddhists to practice their rituals.

The oldest living tree in the world

Mr. Green said the importance of the tree to the Buddhist community is immense, as the original tree was the birthplace of Buddhism.

The first bodhi tree of the original “Sri Maha Bo” tree to be sent to Victoria. (

Provided: Deeptha Wickramaratna

)

“After making a great effort to try to find the spiritual meaning of his life, the Buddha sat in the shade of a bodhi tree in India and stayed there until he had this experience where he got enlightenment – which means he understood the answer to his questions and from that moment Buddhism was born, ”he said.

“It is still there today – it is actually guarded and maintained by a botanist and the whole thing is protected like a living treasure.

“To have a descendant of the tree that the Buddha sat under more than 2,000 years ago is incredibly moving,” Mr. Green said.

Year in quarantine

Australian plant protection officer Dr Gabrielle Vivien-Smith told ABC’s Fiona Parker that quarantine authorities hope the sapling will be released in May 2022.

Bodhi tree, buddhist, quarantine, biosecurity, laboratory
The precious young bodhi tree will spend 12 months in quarantine and will be tested weekly. (

Provided: Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Environment

)

The sapling will be tested weekly for pests and diseases for biosecurity reasons.

“It arrived as a bare root sapling without any soil,” she said.

“We look very carefully at all plants that come into Australia for pests and diseases. There are some really important parasites that we need to keep out of Australia, such as Xylella fastidiosa, which is the main phytosanitary threat in Australia.

Mr Green said the planting ceremony would be a “once in a lifetime event” which would have to wait until pandemic restrictions allow it.

“This is such an important thing for Buddhists and the Sri Lankan community,” he said.

“We’re just waiting for some fresh air to make this ceremony meaningful.”

Does the tree bode well for Bendigo’s winter?

The bare roots of a young tree lying on a white bench.  They look healthy and hairy.
The precious bodhi shrub is expected to be released from Australian quarantine in May 2022.(

Provided: Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Environment

)

Mr Green said one of the concerns with the sapling was making sure it was protected from the harsh winter frosts of Bendigo.

“So we have to be very careful with the frost. Once it has established itself and is a little higher it will go over the frost line and it will be protected.

“We acclimatized it under direct supervision.

“He was treated with as much respect and security as if he were back in Sri Lanka.”


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