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Buddha’s Beads Fetch Millions for Farmers in Central Nepal

Monk's prayer beads, Sera Monastery. Image by Flickr user Swetha R. Used under a CC license BY-ND 2.0

Monk's prayer beads, Sera Monastery. Image by Flickr user Swetha R. CC 2.0.

In news guaranteed to delight Buddhists and botanists around the world, a special kind of tree from central Nepal, the seeds of which are used to make a type of Buddhist prayer beads, has been described as a new species: Ziziphus budhensis.

A research article in the Indian Journal of Plant Sciences by Khem Raj Bhattarai and Mitra Lal Pathak states:

The seeds are highly valued and are used to make garlands. The garlands made by beads are used by Buddhist people for worship to ‘delight Lord Buddha’ and for spiritual peace and locally called Bodhichita. Smaller seeds are more highly prized than larger ones, and a garland of 108 beads of high values seeds costs up to 80 thousand Nepalese Rupees (ca. $800).

Known as Bodhichitta among the Buddhists and called Buddhachitta locally, the trees are so far known to be found only in the small area of Kavreplanchok. The tree is endemic to Nepal, and it's found nowhere else.

Further, the research says Buddhachitta is clearly different from the species of Ziziphus already known to grow in Nepal, and it did not match with the Ziziphus species reported in India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and China.

Given popular beliefs about the beads, the trees and their seeds produce, are in high demand, with prices skyrocketing on seeds until recently thought to be worthless. Today, they are a treasured commodity in India, China, Singapore, Japan, and Korea.

As for recent reports the beads are being exported to these countries.

A pathi (3.2 – 3.6 Kgs) of Buddhachitta growing in Kavre costs 25 lakhs

According to a legend, among the three plants left by Lord Buddha during his meditation, the plants in Lumbini and Namobudhha of Kavre died and only the one in the Timal region, in Nepal, survived—giving way to the current population.

In another story, the Tibetan Guru Padma Sambhav left a tree of Bodhichitta while he was in Kavre for meditation.

As reported by Setopati, ever since the Dalai Lama stated four years ago that the Budhhachitta from Nepal is of the best quality, the use, demand, popularity, and price of the beads has skyrocketed.

The Timal region boasts a Buddhachitta trade worth one billion Nepali rupees ($9.8 million). The local farmers who grow Buddhachitta trees sometimes earn hundreds of thousand rupees by selling a single tree.

As the trade has increased, however, so has the threat. Fearing robbery, traders have even started chartering helicopters to collect the Budhhachitta beads from farmers, reported the popular Internet portal Onlinekhabar:

Helicopter charter to buy Buddhachitta!

As reported by Nagariknews, some farmers with Buddhachitta trees have begun sleeping under the trees to save the seeds from theft.

Spending the night under Budhhachitta tree

Seeing the benefits of Buddhachitta, farmers have started planting even more trees on their lands. The researcher duo Bhattarai and Pathak say there is great potential to develop commercial farming of this species, creating lucrative revenue streams.

While people are in awe about this miracle tree, a forthcoming documentary “Beads of Meditation” is poised to unravel the religious, cultural, and scientific aspects of Budhhachitta.

A documentary on Buddhachitta

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