A Vedic Journey To Meet Natures Hidden Teachers - Birch
Ravīndra-svarūpa: The plants have more consciousness, manifest consciousness, than aquatics?
Ravīndra-svarūpa: That plants and grass, they are more conscious than aquatics.
Prabhupāda: Yes. That is also mentioned in the Bhāgavata, about different animals, how they are conscious, developed.
Svarūpa Dāmodara: In the Bhāgavata, in the later chapters, Śrīla Prabhupāda? Not up to the present Fourth Canto that...
Prabhupāda: Fourth Canto there is, how one animal is more conscious than the other.
Devotee: Prabhupāda, did you say that trees have the ability to see and hear in the Bhāgavatam?
Birch / Björk (Betula)
If the Oak is king of the forest then the Birch is certainly Queen, especially here in Sweden. With her beautiful silver bark and flowing branches, the Birch is obviously feminine in character.
She is amongst the first of trees to colonize new ground and she can withstand many extremes of temperature showing us the resilience and primary importance of the feminine aspect. As the ice-caps left northern Europe and Scandinavia at the end of the last ice-age Birch was quick to take root.
She moves us with her grace and beauty and helps us to glimpse the world of emotion that is ever present just under the surface of our perception of reality. Birches power time is in the early Spring when the first strings of life emerge after the cold dark winter. She carries us into summer where she matures into the fullest expression scattering thousands of tiny seeds on the winds. Birches sap rises early in Spring, surging in response to the returning sun.
This sap has been tapped as a restorative drink, although for followers of the Vedic tradition it is recommended in the 6th canto of Srimad Bhagavatam not to drink the sap of trees.
Birch bark burns even when wet, due to the high content of resins and oils, which many a grateful traveler or backpacker has found. But real caution should be used when gathering any natural material, Mother nature can provide but only where there is abundance and minimal damage is caused to the tree or environment. It is good manners to ask before you take. The tar available from the bark has been used as glue, to waterproof canoes and buckets. When mixed with ground charcoal it forms a very hard, glossy join.
The Birch spreads joy and lightheartedness. She reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously, to stay graceful, playful and pliable. She emphasizes the importance of encouraging youthfulness, innocence and a gentle attitude towards others. Birch is an emblem of gentleness as anyone who has watched her dropping branches on a spring day can testify.
She is youthful love in tree form. Crowns and garlands woven of her branches were worn during the seasonal celebrations and Spring rites of old Europe. She shows the strength that is inherent in softness and adaptability. She encourages us to be gentle in our dealings with others. She teaches us how to accept change and the growth, showing that in adapting to any situation we can live in varied and challenging circumstances. She teaches us to not fear new situations but to enter into them with the knowledge that we are supported at the very source of our being.
As the ice-caps retreated from northern Europe the Birch was one of the first trees to colonize the bare earth and the northern hemisphere remains her stronghold, emphasizing her connection to new beginnings, the end of Winter and the stirring of life in Spring.
The clean whiteness of her trunk instructs us how to live correctly, reminding us to be spotless in our actions. This is no easy task but living a life based on higher principles is something we should practice on a regular basis. The white bole of Birch is reminiscent of purity; the universal principles of Mercy, Truthfulness, Austerity and Cleanliness. These four principles can be related to four life guidelines that spiritual aspirants from many traditions follow to a greater or lesser degree, these are; abstaining from eating meat (promotes Mercy), avoiding from gambling and cheating (cultivates Truthfulness), not using intoxicants (helps us become Austere), and regulating sex life (Promotes Cleanliness).
We are used to seeing rules and regulations as negative and restrictive but in practicing these four principles we can quickly experience the benefit they bring, not only to ourselves but also in our relationships to others. Meditating with the feminine energy of the Birch tree helps us birth a new understanding of why we need such guidelines in our lives. Being a tree of new beginnings and cyclic renewal the otherworldly beauty of her branches and trunk are a good place to cultivate and nurture our dreams and aspirations, to search out what is our unique gift in relation to reality. If we feel drawn to Birch trees it is most likely she is standing guardian over a transition or new start in our lives and calling us to listen to our inner voice.
The birch is home to a wide range of bracket and polypore fungus that can often be seen protruding from her slender trunk many of which have many medicinal and practical uses; including and not limited to, Chaga and its anti-cancer and superfood properties and birch polypore with many varied uses from and not limited to, fire starting tinder and antiseptic bandage!
The canopy and leaves of the birch tree are a favorite home of several butterfly species emphasizing the birches role in bringing about transformation and new beginnings.
The joyful, youthful energy of the birch tree helps us dissipate feelings of depression and sorrow and is a useful tree for those recovering from addictions or abusive situations which is how my own personal journey with Birch and the knowledge given by our brother and sister trees began. I hope you find and enter into your own reawakening of our personal relationship to Mother nature and the trees there-in, Haribol!