13 April 2009

A place of veneration

Previous Vice President of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Bob Lamb once said that, “the park’s landscape is a show in itself.” While landscaping has always been intricately tied to the cohesive sense of place within the Disney theme parks, the choice of flowers and foliage has never been as bound to a park’s story as those that have taken root inside of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a fact that can be seen in a single tree, the Bodhi Tree.This particular Bodhi Tree, or Sacred Fig (Ficus religiosa), can be found along the meandering pathway of the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Asia. Its placement in Disney’s Animal Kingdom creates a unified backdrop for stories across the Asian spectrum, as the tree is native to India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, southwest China, and Vietnam. As with any good story, however, the story of the Bodhi Tree does not end with its mere geographical association.

Buddhism looks up the trees with reverence, as it is said that Buddha sat beneath the branches of a Ficus religiosa and achieved enlightenment, or bodhi, hence the tree’s common name. Though the original Bodhi Tree is a site of reverence, the destination of many pilgrimages, other tree have also been labeled Bodhi Trees, including up to 40 trees that are thought to have sprouted from the original Bodhi Tree’s saplings.

After a Bodhi Tree has survived to a certain age, it can be adorned with various bands of scarves or other cloth to show admiration for its age and structure. As a sacred site to Buddhists, the Bodhi Trees are often the sites of prayers and alms with additional ornamentation coming from offerings.

A small plaque that stands at the base of Bodhi Tree along the Maharajah Jungle Trek reads, in part, that the tree is, “a place of veneration. Scarves and garlands are hung as offerings. Bells are representing prayers that have been answered.”

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