Discovering that my tibetan prayer beads were an amazing gift indeed – Tales from Varanasi

After a 13 hour overnight, draining(!), train ride to Varanasi, during which commuters battled it out for bunks, and Apji almost got into a fist fight with an Australian lady defending my bunk bed, (some spanish guy had taken hers so she thought it would be ok to take someone elses,) and where Sam and I had a rather polite conversation with an old indian man deliberating over something as important as what day it was (we had no idea, but it was Wednesday), we reach the main Indian Buddhist state of Varanasi, where Buddha had preached his first sermon after reaching enlightenment.

We visit a Buddhist temple in Sarnath that depicts the life of Buddha through the artwork on its walls. There I speak to a Buddhist devotee who ran a little charity stall in the temple while buying some prayer beads (Japa Malas).

T – ‘Sorry, I don’t know much about prayer beads, what’s the difference between these two?’ (pointing at the dark beads verse the light beads)

Devotee – ‘These are sandalwood and are more expensive’, then he points to the prayer beads I was wearing around my neck,’where did you get those?’

T, touching the pretty prayer beads around her neck – ‘An old Tibetan lady gave these to me as a gift in China’ (refer to ‘why? Are my prayer beads good ones?’

Devotee, smiles – ‘Yes, those are very good’

T, surprised – ‘Oh great! And do you know what kind of beads they are? People always ask me and I can never tell them, and I’ve been trying to look for more in India but I haven’t been able to find any beads like mine’

Devotee – ‘It is made from bodhi seeds’

T – ‘Bohdi seeds, cool, and bodhi seeds are good?’ (he nods) ‘great, thanks!’

I walk out of there and head next door where the group were waiting under a type of fig tree that had a border of golden Buddha models encased in glass built around it. There I learnt that this tree was very sacred. It was a direct descendant (cut off) from the tree that Siddhartha Gautama had achieved enlightenment while meditating under its sheltering leaves.

It was under this tree that Siddhartha Gautama became Buddha.

This tree, I discovered, was the Bohdi Tree.