The Buddha Got Enlightened Under a Tree

Rick Fields

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Over the next few days, I often joined pilgrims from around the world as they entered the little enclosure to pay homage and perform ceremonies. The Japanese, immaculate in black robes over snow-white kimonos, their freshly shaven heads glistening in the sun, chanted the Heart Sutra. Burmese, Thai, and Sinhalese chanted in Pali, Taiwanese in Chinese. Tibetans lit butter lamps and hung prayer flags.

One evening I sat next to a gray-clad Korean nun who sat on her knees, back straight, eyes downcast in rapt concentration. She stayed immobile all day and maybe all night too. The Indian caretaker locked and unlocked the gate to let various groups of pilgrims in as we went on sitting on the far side of the tree. The roots had broken through the circular concrete support, and were raising and breaking out of the confinement of the stone floor. The pale green long-stemmed heart-shaped leaves trembled in the slightest breeze.

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