The Biosphere Tree

What is The Biosphere Tree?

Mystical significance


The Tree in the news

Testimonials (and more photos!)

The Biosphere Tree:

Hawaii's answer to Biospheres One and Two is a great Indian banyan (Ficus) flourishing in lush Manoa Valley on the Hawaiian island of O'ahu. It comprises the Southeast corner of the "Gayasphere," a living dome of giant bamboo and lineage-holder Bodhi trees woven together with sacred and medicinal vines. The seven-level "treehouse" is a collage of floors suspended below transparent roofs, with a central pyramid of giant bamboo piercing the canopy of the tree, allowing a sweeping bird's-eye view of the valley and the sea beyond Waikiki. The highest level is a holy place 120 feet above the stream which flows through the many trunks of the tree. The bathroom on the lowest level boasts a composting toilet. 12-volt electricity lights the tree and solar panels are planned. Access is a by a hanging bridge which connects the sloping hillside to the heart of the tree. A steel "star-dome" 7 feet in diameter swings like a pendulum over a pool in the stream.

Begun 30 years ago as a project by then-owner Bob Durant for the neighbor kids, the "treehouse" has grown with the tree -- banyans grow up and out in all directions, sending down wispy aerial roots which connect to the earth to form strong ancillary trunks, or entwine with branches below to support the higher branches, an infinite interconnectedness of spheres-within-spheres. Artist Richard Gee, at home in the tops of trees and with the encouragement of owner Daniel Susott, MD, hoists the huge bamboo into the heart of the tree, and uses pullies and zip lines to bring building materials across into the tree. There are about 1,500 sq.feet of floorspace, of which half is under roof.

As many as 60 people have celebrated in the tree at one time. This project is dedicated to the happiness of all Beings.


Our treehouse is featured (pp. 70-73) in TREEHOUSES, a new book by Chelsea Green Publishing Co. all about (you guessed it) tree houses! It's a fascinating read and has great photographs about our site and lots of others, delving into the incredible variety of existing settings and designs found around the globe. The book even features a "How To" guide to building your own!

To order the book, or to read more about it, click here.

Mystical Significance

The "Tree of Life" is called "Aping" by the Punan people of Borneo. In Lawrence Blair's book RING OF FIRE: AN INDONESIAN ODDYSEY, the high priest Nanyet says: "In trance and sleep, or even awake, our dream wanderers can ascend the Trunk, the Kayu Abilau, to talk with Aping. With Aping's help, our dream wanderers can direct our way not only through the forest, but also at the major crossroads of our inner lives. Most of us spend our lives wandering throughout amongst the roots of the world -- but our dream wanderers, once awakened, can move amongst the upper branches of the Tree of Life, encompassing all things. It is this dreaming, flying body which knowsour beginning and our end -- and which binds all times and tribes and creatures together as one." Blair continues: "And after Borneo, returning to the sacred Banyan tree and its simian custodians, I had felt that all great trees, what's left of them, do indeed link heaven and earth in a single forest of life."

Blessed by Tibetan rinpoches, the Biosphere Tree hosts the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, whose monthly meetings begin with "Buddhism 101," teaching and meditation in the Tree. Full-Moon Sacred Sound circles were held here for a time, and "starving artists" participating in the Hawaii International Film Festival often take shelter here. (Many famous people such as movie producer & director Quentin Tarantino and Nobel-prize nominee writer Arthur C. Clark found solace and inspiration here.) Besides being the venue for cultural and spiritual events, it's a fun place to sleep when the wind isn't too strong; one is lulled to sleep by the sounds of the breeze and rain and stream, awakening to the morning "bird symphony."

Some of the Beings which frequent the Tree - the Sweetpea fairy!




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