Few natural elements can boast as many mentions in religious scriptures and stories as the heavenly-scented agarwood (Oud). Mahayana Buddhism’s key scriptures - the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra, tales of previous births of Gautama Buddha - Jātakas, and the Theravada Buddhist scripture Vimānavatthuare are just some of the texts that highlight agarwood as one of the most prized materials in the Buddhist religion and culture.
But why is agarwood incense so special in Buddhism?
Join us as we examine the many uses of agarwood in Buddhism and beyond.
What Is Agarwood?
Agarwood is a fragrant wood with a fascinating origin story. For this wood to exist in all its fragrant glory, an agarwood tree must first be infected by a specific fungus. The tree will respond by producing aromatic resins that get embedded in the heartwood.
The tree is then cut down, and select pieces are crafted into incense, wood chips made for burning or essential oil. These are often burned or anointed as a part of rituals or other sacred practices like meditation.
Only a tiny percentage of the world’s agarwood trees produce the fragrant Oud scent, making it a highly sought-after and costly ingredient. First-grade agarwood can cost tens of thousands of dollars per pound, more than the cost of gold.
How Is Agarwood Used in Buddhism?
Agarwood’s rarity and exclusivity, combined with its warm and sweet scent, have made it a staple in Buddhist practices. That this ancient wood is born in deep, sacred forests and that its scent is other-worldly has placed an incomparable value on agarwood among Buddhists. Practitioners have long used this aromatic wood in worship in a variety of ways from crafting prayer beads to lighting incense. .
The Precious Beads of Buddhist Monks
In Buddhism, monks use precious beads, usually 108, as a part of various spiritual practices. They can focus and calm their mind during meditation and recitation by touching the beads individually.
These beads are commonly made out of chunks of agarwood and are said to have healing powers. According to a legend, high-ranking Buddhist monks would travel through the country and use the beads to treat the sick. For this purpose, they would crush the beads from their rosaries into a drink for the ailing individual.
Burning agarwood incense is a common practice among Buddhist monks and nuns. They do so to pay their respects to Buddha and thank him for his kindness and teachings.
Agarwood is perceived as an ethereal scent, even called the “scent of Nirvana.” Once the agarwood wood is burned, the scent slowly radiates into the space, filling it with a sense of spiritual serenity. In this environment, the practitioners can connect to the higher realms and pray to Buddha for their well-being and family. As the scent soars toward heaven, their prayers become a reality.
The scent of agarwood also frees the mind from the chaos of everyday life, allowing people to feel more grounded and focus on fostering inner strength and peace.
The New Age of Agarwood
As time went by, more and more people started realizing the magnificent powers of agarwood, leading it to spread far beyond Buddhism.
This precious wood is still revered for its healing properties and is used to alleviate pain (especially rheumatic and arthritic conditions), improve skin health, and support the digestive system.
Thanks to its calming properties and thousands of years of spiritual use, agarwood is still part of meditative practices worldwide. This aromatic treasure is seen as a pathway to the inner world. It increases self-awareness, balances emotions, and generates positive energy.
The heavenly scent of Oud, paired with the prestige born out of its scarcity, has added another use for this wood: an incredibly popular perfume ingredient.
Perfumes with Oud are among the most expensive fragrances globally and are highly sought-after by perfume enthusiasts worldwide. You’ll immediately recognize a perfume with Oud. It has a rich, woody aroma that takes you on a captivating sensory journey.
Expanding the Wonderful World of Agarwood
Those who appreciate the mesmerizing notes of an Oud perfume will be delighted to know that agarwood essential oils (known as liquid gold) have also found their way into the skincare industry. There’s only one brand to thank for this - Khalm Skincare®.Adding the brand’s Oud-infused moisturizer, oil elixir, and foaming cleanser to your routine allows you to welcome this miracle ingredient into your life and experience its benefits firsthand.