The Great spiritual hero - Gautama Buddha's journey to the path of his Enlightenment has a significant and inherent element which can never be missed, be it when narrating Buddha's legend, capturing him artistically on the canvas or simply imagining Buddha in your mind-its the image of Bodhi Tree which is always conjoined with Buddha. Infact, why only Buddha, the depictions of many Seers, Rishis or Ascetics are shown meditating surrounded by the nature and specifically under a tree and in their imagery , the absence of tree would seem to be like an incomplete picture.
Ever wondered why its a Tree that Buddha chose and not any other aspects of beautiful Mother Nature, like a free spirited but persistently flowing River or a sturdy & perennial Mountain peak? Yes, the history of Rishis/Seers does have stories around this elements too, but perhaps the selection of a Tree is the one commonly found motif. Is there a also a message attached with it which Buddha or other ascetics wanted to communicate to the seekers of life who treaded towards eternal & infinite Nature to trace their real paths.
And on the same thought, probably it was to grasp that subtle message that Hinduism must have established 'Vanaprastha' , be it a King or a common man has to make a way for the younger generation detaching themselves with their accomplishments within their threshold.
As the modern environmental saying goes , Trees are man's best friends but for our ancients, Trees were companions of man's spiritual quest. A Banyan tree under which Siddhartha became Buddha is a rich symbolic of being a multi layered and complex self of a human.
The Bodhi Tree is a world wisdom Tree with it's roots deep within earth, ancient and strong with waters of infinity. It's a tree of shelter, refuge and safety from the tigers of Ego and snakes of Desires. But the journey to reach this tree is very long and the traveller must undo the ties of relationships, call of ambitions, not only of this life but of all those previous lives too etched in subconscious and to see the threads that have been woven together into patterns of experiences, creating a mind capable and worthy of returning to the source.
Life is a set of challenging reflections with no permanent anchor in physical form. A Tree reflected in the water is like the self reflecting in awareness. From a distance and without close examination, the Tree like both person and physical world appear to be whole and consistent. But as the physical tree becomes a reflected tree, it becomes shadow dancing on waves and its solidarity disappears. So it is with the self and the world. Each must be recognized as parts of a larger whole and waves upon the ocean of change.
Thus, Tree is a symbolic representation of an individual's journey towards its origins, the real & infinite of his self. The way a tiny seed when begins is not aware of its wholeness but eventually grows open & free as a huge tree similarly the seed of mankind grows beyond ground, perceives its environment, cares about it and ultimately leaves the limitations of body & matter behind.
The trees are such a gift of learning from mother nature to mankind, showing us that way it's branches reach towards heaven, yet the vines are deep within earth, such should be a state of human beings who though grows outside towards the sky of Desires, ambitions and Ego but at the same time should be deeply rooted within the safety and comfort of his real self nourished with love, peace and compassion.