A Page from Our History

In July 1970, the Bodhi Tree Bookstore began life in a quiet neighborhood on Melrose Avenue, offering a wide range of metaphysical and religious titles. Our name comes from the “tree of enlightenment” where the Buddha sat in meditation until he achieved the state of grace that awakened him.

The Bodhi Tree Bookstore opened at a time of sweeping challenges to society brought about by the Beat Generation, the Vietnam war, political assassinations, psychedelics, innovative and dynamic West-coast folk-rock music, flower children, hippies and the Beatles.

Along with these happenings, a spiritual community emerged that talked about a new, wonderful, fresh way to live, infused by the “Wisdom of the Ages” or the “Perennial Philosophy” and one that could transform everything into beauty, light and love.

This clarion call spoke to something within the minds of the founders Stan Madson and Phil Thompson, so they dropped out of the aerospace engineering community and created the Bodhi Tree Bookstore. In those days, spiritual books were not readily available, and their destiny was to gather them together and make them accessible to all.

It was the right time and place, and the Bodhi Tree Bookstore became a Mecca for all things spiritual. Within Bodhi Tree, one had the sense that the wisdom contained in the books could transform not only oneself and the community but the entire society as well. Governments would mature and the entire cosmos would be different.

The Bodhi Tree Bookstore grew into a flourishing landmark, with its roots strongly grounded in the spiritual community. It was a way station for eclectic spirits—for people interested in bridging the insights drawn from Eastern and Western religious and mystical literature.

Inside, the store was a series of small, intimate rooms with wooden bookcases and chairs for relaxed browsing. Lining the walls were pictures of authors, seers, sages, senseis, prophets, gurus, imams and rabbis benignly blessing all who passed within. Among the soothing sounds, one could hear the tinkling of chimes and the subtle strains of classical and world music mixed with the buzz of seekers’ conversations.

There were pots of free herbal teas on a table in the center of the store and a container of free “mystery” incense on the front counter. Many people have commented that the nature of the material found at the Bodhi Tree Bookstore and the sense of the physical space helped them open into consciousness and find their place in the cosmos. For many, it was a restful sanctuary from the outside world.

Bodhi Tree Speakers and Teachers

The Bodhi Tree Bookstore offered almost daily events and workshops in the annex building. It was a large, comfortable room that seated approximately 65 people.

Some of the notable authors who presented at the Bodhi Tree Bookstore include: Robert Aitken, Lynn V. Andrews, Peter Bogdanovich, Gregg Braden, Joan Borysenko, Sylvia Browne, Julia Cameron, Fritjof Capra, Deepak Chopra, Sonia Choquette, Andrew Cohen, David Deida, Dr. Masaru Emoto, Georg Feuerstein, Shakti Gawain, Amit Goswami PhD, Graham Hancock, Dr. Jean Houston, Laura Huxley, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jack Kornfield, Stephen Levine, Bruce Lipton, Terence McKenna, Drunvalo Melchizedek, Franz Metcalf, Deena Metzger, Dan Millman, Thomas Moore, Caroline Myss, Thich Nhat Hanh, Christiane Northrup, Judith Orloff, Gary Quinn, James Redfield, Rachel Naomi Remen MD, don Miguel Ruiz, Sharon Salzberg, Leonard Shlain, Huston Smith, Lama Surya Das, Starhawk, Robert A. F. Thurman, Linda Noble Topf, Eckhart Tolle, James Van Praag, Alberto Villoldo PhD, Doreen Virtue PhD, Brian L. Weiss MD, Hank Wesselman and Marianne Williamson.

On a lazy Sunday afternoon in 1983, actress Shirley MacLaine wandered into the Bodhi Tree Bookstore and embarked on a journey that changed her life, the life of the bookstore and the spiritual life of mainstream America.

She described her first and subsequent visits to the Bodhi Tree Bookstore in her book Out on a Limb, in which she revealed her study and exploration of reincarnation, trance channeling and other metaphysical matters. From the publication of that book, and the television series that followed, spirituality went mainstream and the Bodhi Tree Bookstore became widely known.

Starting in the mid-1980s, new books on spirituality were pouring off the presses as every publisher strove to address the emerging interest in consciousness. By 2009, the Bodhi Tree Bookstore had a vast inventory of around 30,000 titles. This wide assortment of spiritual paraphernalia included everything and anything that could possibly be useful to a person who had embarked on—or was about to embark on—the gestalt path to self-knowledge.

The store was frequented by many celebrity customers, and it was not uncommon to see actors and musicians lost in the books. It was a place that everyone, large or small, who was on a spiritual exploration could share in their journey together.

Part of the special flavor of the Bodhi Tree Bookstore was its thoughtful and helpful staff. In these times of a rapidly changing book-selling environment with its ever-expanding superstores and online commerce, the Bodhi Tree Bookstore remained committed to helping individuals and the community come to an understanding of themselves and their relationship to all that is outside of themselves and to participate in the process of self and social development.

The End of an Era Marks a New Beginning

The Bodhi Tree Bookstore was a pathfinder in spreading the word about the personal value of spiritual transformation. The popularity of the movement opened many avenues of access.

No longer was spiritual material only available in local specialty bookstores. Internet stores such as Amazon and large bookstore chains such as Barnes and Noble began to carry spiritual books as well.

When the city of Los Angeles decided to make parking on the streets permit-only around the Bodhi Tree off now-popular Melrose Avenue, it became challenging for customers to visit the little bookshop everyone loved. With all this in consideration, and after some 40 years in business, co-owners Phil Thompson and Stan Madson decided to retire.

Over 2000 people came the last day our doors were open on Melrose Avenue to express how much the store had helped them, transformed their lives and perhaps even saved their lives. One woman told how she met her husband at the store when they found themselves both reaching for the same book. Several people talked about being brought to the store by their parents when they were children.

Bodhi Tree Today

Our beautiful new beginning began when a visionary new owner for the business emerged with the experience, energy and resources to continue the Bodhi Tree brand by opening new doors to the world online and sharing what so many in Los Angeles have experienced from the store.

BodhiTree.com is a blend of high-quality physical and digital products to assist in your spiritual awakening in a modern era. We do our best to source ethically and sustainably products while paying careful attention your experience.

Every resource we make accessible to you at BodhiTree.com is designed to be socially responsible and help renew and enrich your life through true transformational learning and practice.

Like our namesake and the bookstore whose spirit we carry forward, we believe in the open exchange of teachings for self-mastery and spiritual growth.

Our goal is to empower individuals to cultivate their spiritual practice by exploring the wide variety of tools and teachings we make available for them.

Through our spiritual tools, literature and future online learning platform, we offer a place for you to keep asking questions, engage with others and empower yourself. Feel free to contact us with any questions or comments you may have.

We are grateful for your love and beleaf in us,

Bodhi Tree