Watering a Bodhi Tree, Sri Lanka, July 2013
Watering a Bodhi Tree, Sri Lanka, July 2013

Circumambulation of temples or deity images is an integral part of Hindu and Buddhist devotional practice, and it was one of my favorite moments in Sri Lanka… but not exactly because I’m some devout guy or even understand some of these practices…  mostly I just  love repetition and concentrated thought and effort on a single task.

At this particular place, we were circumambulating a Bodhi Tree, a sapling from the original Bodhi Tree where the Buddha found enlightenment.

We used these colorful buckets and filled them with water— then rotated the tree 3 times, once in honor of the Buddha, once for his teachings ( the Dharma ) , and once for the community of practitioners (the Sangha) …  known together as the “three jewels”.

Over time, I learned they do this not just with Bodhi Tree’s but also with Temples and Shrines and Stuppa’s…they do it with most historical and significant treasures…  paying respect and honoring these 3 “gifts” in their lives—- essentially an expression of gratitude for what matters most.

I  was deeply moved by the expression of gratitude— witnessing thousands of people all stopping, pausing from their lives to express gratitude for the road they follow– taking time to acknowledge that something before them has helped them navigate their inner and outer lives in such a significant way…. and pledging, in a way, to carry on the teachings and practice… to continue living with these principles as core to their daily lives.

The tree was the perfect symbol to me because after we circumambulated 3 times, we poured the water into a reservoir that then watered the Bodhi Tree.  It was magnificent– huge and thriving as a result, in my opinion, not from the water, but from the sincere gratitude it received nearly around the clock everyday, for centuries.

I think this is core to how we all grow– by expressing and receiving gratitude.