IX. Banyan – Reflection – Hermit
Genus: Ficus. Family: Moraceae.
The banyan tree, Ficus benghalensis, represents a time of becoming self-aware through reflection, meditation, silence and a quieting of one’s mind. Imagine entering the sacred space of a banyan tree grove and walking among its roots.
The banyan tree is an Indian fig tree whose branches produce aerial roots that can mature and cover several acres. Banyans are the biggest trees in the world in terms of the total coverage area. The biggest banyan alive today is in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. It covers 4.7 acres and can shelter 20,000 people. Banyan trees naturally create sacred spaces because their massive roots seem to come from the sky to form a multi-stemmed temple made from one tree. Ancient Greek historians wrote of Alexander the Great and his army of 7,000 taking shelter under a single tree in 326 BCE.
The banyan tree is the national tree of India. Banyan trees are large evergreen trees that have the ability to shield us from the outside world. Once inside the sacred space of a banyan, we enter the place of the wise one. Here we can honor our need for privacy and introspection.
The banyan tree is one of 850 species of fig with its own unique fig wasps that pollinate it by entering a small hole and laying her eggs within the fig. Banyans contain both male and female flowers within the fig, and the male and female wasps that
Hindu texts describe the banyan as the “world tree” that grows upside-down to bring blessings to humanity. Yogis spoke to crowds of people under the shade of the banyan tree. The banyan also provided back support and shelter during periods of prolonged meditation. It is said that Krishna read the Bhagavad Gita under a banyan tree.
In 1667 and 1674, English poet John Milton immortalized the banyan tree in his epic poem “Paradise Lost.”
The banyan is not to be confused with the bodhi tree or peepal tree, referred to as the sacred fig or ficus religiosa.
Buddha sat under a bodhi tree when he became enlightened. The branches of a bodhi tree reach up and out versus down like the banyan.
Message: Banyan reminds us to slow down and reflect on the events that are happening in our lives now before moving forward. The spirit of banyan is the perfect tree to help us connect with our true nature, to retreat and withdraw into our self for reflection and guidance. The answers we seek are already within us.
Challenge: Feeling isolated, alone, bitter, reclusive or odd. Work with the gentle spirit of the banyan tree to help find our way back to our self.