Six of Pentacles
Sacred Site – The Bodhi Tree, India.
From the Little White Book: “According to tradition, under the shelter of its branches Siddhartha, after prolonged meditation, attained bodhi (illumination), and became the Buddha.” The Bodhi tree is one of the earliest Buddhist symbols and an object of great respect. When people asked the Buddha who they should pay respect to when he was absent, he replied that they should pay respect to a Bodhi tree. Since then Bodhi trees have been planted near Buddhist temples across the globe. They remind us of the dependence of our lives on nature and to be kind to each other.
An incredibly abbreviated telling of the Buddha’s life.
The Buddha was born Siddhartha (he who achieves his aim) Gautama in what is now Nepal in the 6th century BCE. His father was an elected chief of a tribe, his mother died only a week after giving birth to him. A hermit seer upon meeting the baby foretold great things for the young Siddhartha, he said he would either become a great king or a great spiritual leader. Siddhartha’s father wanted to shield him from the hardship and suffering of the world, and so raised him in a palace with little contact with the outside world. When the boy turned 16, his father arranged his marriage to a cousin named Yasodhara, they had a baby together and lived their young lives together within the confines of the palace.
Siddhartha was in his late 20’s when he ventured outside the palace walls and was confronted with the realities of human life. He saw an old man and his charioteer had to explain that all people grow old. With further trips into the outside world the young Siddhartha encountered a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and an ascetic. His charioteer explained everything he could to Siddhartha, that people grow old and die, that there are diseases in the world and that some people renounce the world in order to seek release from fear of death and suffering. Siddhartha was overcome by this knowledge and the philosophical thoughts that accompanied them. At age 29 he left his wife, his son and the palace to try to find a way to relieve the suffering that he now understood to be one of the defining traits of humanity.
For six years Siddhartha led an ascetic life and took part in its practices, meditating and studying under five religious teachers who, marveling at his dedication became his followers. His dedication was such that when answers to his questions weren’t forthcoming he redoubled his efforts, he fasted nearly to starvation, and refused water. But no matter how hard he tried, Siddhartha could not reach the level of satisfaction he sought, that is until one day whilst sitting under the Bodhi Tree, a girl offered him a bowl of milk and honey. As he accepted the food, he realised that he was doing it all wrong, that living under these harsh physical conditions was not helping him get what he wanted, spiritual enlightenment. So he had his milk and honey, drank water and washed in the river. His five followers deciding that Siddhartha had given up on the ascetic life and would now follow a less austere life, left him (oh ye of little faith). Siddhartha sat under the Bodhi tree meditating for forty-nine days, purifying his mind and examining his life and previous lives until from within, Siddhartha finally saw the answer to the questions of suffering that had been his quest for so long. It was in that moment of pure enlightenment that Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha (he who is awake). At Sarnath (Knight of Chalices), he met up with the five ascetics who’d abandoned him at the Bodhi Tree and it was there that he gave his first sermon.
The Mahabodhi Temple at the Bodhi Tree, the site of Buddha’s enlightenment, is now a pilgrimage site.
Keywords: Sharing, charity, assistance.
Possible deck specific interpretations: Not so much an interpretation; every time I see this card my eye is drawn to the monks and that one is above the other. In the more “traditional” image of this card a person is distributing money, being charitable. I wonder in this image from the Sacred Sites deck, who is giving and who is taking between the two monks.