I had no clue that there were trees more than 2,000 years old. Maybe 200 years, sure, but living trees that have been around longer than Christianity? That puts old sea turtles to shame.
What’s even more amazing is that one of the oldest living trees in the world is a cutting from the original Bodhi tree that the Buddha sat under when attaining enlightenment. The Buddha’s relics are scattered all over the globe, with a tooth here and an urn full of ashes there. But the tree he used is still in existence?—and verified? WTF.
That’s why I came to Sri Lanka in late February. I wanted to see Sri Lanka, but mostly I wanted to meet this amazing old tree.
The tree, known as the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, is the centerpiece of a Buddhist temple in the ancient northern city of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. It was brought to Sri Lanka from India in the 3rd century BC by Sangamitta Theri, the eldest daughter of the famous Indian ruler, Emperor Asoka. The emperor and his family were famously spiritual and open-minded, so Asoka’s daughter came to Sri Lanka and both brought the tree clipping and started an Order of female nuns when she came.
By 288 BC, the sacred tree was planted in its current location by the Sri Lankan king, Devanampiya Tissa. Since then, this old fig tree has stood as a wonder of the world—and a sacred spot for Buddhists all over the globe.
I would have expected the tree to die from a war or accident somewhere along the line in the past 2,000+ years. But it has lasted, partially because it is freaking cool that a tree has been around so long, and who wants to kill one of the oldest trees in the world? It helps that this is a religious site, too, which has ensured that the tree gets constant and uninterrupted care.
There have been close calls, however, especially in the 20th century. Two branches of the sacred tree were broken in separate storms in 1907 and 1911, and someone cut down a branch in 1929. Several monks also were massacred here in 1985 by the Tamil Tigers terrorist group that made Sri Lanka unsafe for decades. But these terrorists apparently spared the tree!
Okay, but enough about the history of the tree. Ready to see it with your own eyes? During my visit, I made a short 1-minute video of this Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree because who isn’t going to see this tree without sharing the experience? This needs to be on social media!
Watch the video below to see the oldest living tree in the world that is verified!
Peter is a relationship coach, writer/producer, and R&D monastic. He splits his time between San Francisco and Asia. Read more about Peter.