Sunday, August 16, 2015


Arboristirpal Succession

Robert Byron (1905-1941), First Russia, Then Tibet: Travels Through a Changing World (London: Macmillan, 1933; rpt. London: Tauris Parke, 2011), pp. 246-247:
The pipal-tree, whose shade induced so momentous a consequence, still exists by courtesy, though its position has altered and it is probably fifteenth or twentieth in descent from its original ancestor. An actual child of the latter has survived elsewhere, at Anaradjpura in Ceylon, where I saw it, now but a fragment of arboreal senility. This was planted about 240 BC, and its guardianship at the hands of the Buddhist monks has suffered no recorded interruption. The trees of Buddh Gaya, on the other hand, have endured much violence. The original was cut down by Asoka of all people, when he was still an unbeliever. Next day, having sprung miraculously to life, his queen cut it down again, and the roots had to be revived with perfumed milk. So tells Huien-Thsang. When he saw the tree its height was no more than forty or fifty feet. For in the the year 600 the Rajah Sasangka had cut it down again, and had further dug up the roots and burnt them. Twenty years later came the Rajah Purnavarma, who revived the roots once more with the milk of a thousand cows. The next mention of the tree is by Doctor Buchanan in 1811, who described it as in full vigour and not exceeding one hundred years of age. When, in 1876, this tree had decayed and was blown down, there were seedlings ready to replace it. A few years later, remains of a pipal-tree were found which could not have been less than twelve-hundred years old, owing to a buttress which had stood that time on top of them. These were in the proper place, the vicinity of the Vajrasan throne, the diamond meridian, centre of the Universe, a sandstone seat which still survives and which marks the actual point of the great Illumination.
"Arboristirpal succession" is a pun on "apostolic succession," from arbor, arbŏris = tree and stirps, stirpis = stem, stock, race, family, lineage. I also considered "arboristolonic," from stŏlo, stolōnis = shoot, branch, twig, scion. "Arboristolic" would be a hybrid, from Latin and Greek roots (cf. apostolic, from ἀποστέλλω = dispatch on some mission or service).

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


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