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BODHI (AWAKENING)

 
In Buddhism, bodhi means the awakening experience attained by Gautama Buddha and his accomplished disciples and refers to the unique consciousness of a fully liberated yogi. Bodhi is sometimes described as complete and perfect sanity, or awareness of the true nature of the universe. After attainment, it is believed one is freed from the cycle of samsara: birth, suffering, death and rebirth. Bodhi is most commonly translated into English as enlightenment. This word conveys the insight and wisdom possessed by a buddha and is similarly used in Christian mysticism to convey the saint's condition of being lit by a higher power - the merging of the human and the divine in theology. There is no image of "light" associated with the term "bodhi". Rather it expresses the notion of awakening from a dream and of being aware and knowing (reality). It is thus more accurate to think of bodhi as spiritual "awakening", rather than "enlightenment".
 
Bodhi is attained when the ten fetters that bind a human being to the wheel of samsara have been dissolved; when the Four Noble Truths have been fully understood and all volitional conditioning has reached cessation (nirodha), giving rise to transcendent peace (nibbana). At this moment, the psychological roots of all greed (lobha), aversion (dosa), delusion (moha), ignorance (avijja), craving (tanha) and ego-centered consciousness (attā) are completely uprooted.
 
Bodhi is the ultimate goal of Buddhist life (brahmacarya). It is achieved by observing the eightfold path, the development of the paramitas (virtues) and profound wisdom into the dependently arisen nature of phenomena.
 
 
Certain Mahayana Buddhist sutras stress that bodhi is always present and perfect, and simply needs to be "uncovered" or disclosed to purified vision. Thus the "Sutra of Perfect Awakening" has the Buddha teach that, like gold within its ore, bodhi is always there within the being's mind, but requires the obscuring mundane ore (the surrounding defilements of samsara and of impaired, un-awakened perception) to be removed. The Buddha declares:
 

"Good sons, it is like smelting gold ore. The gold does not come into being because of smelting ... Even though it passes through endless time, the nature of the gold is never corrupted. It is wrong to say that it is not originally perfect. The Perfect Enlightenment of the Tathagata [Buddha] is also like this."

 
Similar doctrines are encountered in the Tathagatagarbha sutras, which tell of the immanent presence of the Buddha Principle (Buddha-dhatu/ Buddha-nature or Dharmakaya / Dhammakaya) within all beings. Here, the Tathagatagarbha (Buddha-Matrix) is tantamount to the indwelling transformation and liberation power of bodhi, which bestows an infinitude of unifying vision. The Buddha of the Shurangama Sutra states:
 

"My uncreated and unending profound Enlightenment accords with the Tathagatagarbha, which is absolute bodhi, and ensures my perfect insight into the Dharma realm [realm of Ultimate Truth], where the one is infinite and the infinite is one."

 
The Bodhi Tree is a specimen of the Sacred Fig (Ficus religiosa) in what is now the town of Bodhgaya. It was while sitting in meditation under this tree that Siddhartha Gautama became enlightened. In the legends of Mahayana Buddhism, it was said that Queen Maya held a branch of one of these trees while resting in Lumbini Garden and her son, Siddhartha, was born.
 
 
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