What secrets do trees hold, what do they remind us of? Can we practice ahimsa-agriculture forgetting about the importance of trees? What is the role of forests in the lives of devotees and cows?
Vrindavana forests or deserts that remind us about the sin of Indra? Studying the Srimad Bhagavatam, we come across many descriptions of natural life. And in each case there are forests. In our modern view a forest may seem something “ancient”, deep and dark. However, reading the scriptures, we see that the forest was the environment in which the most nectarian lilas of the Lord took place, and where the people lived happily and the cows grazed in peace. Living on the land should not only be simple from the material point of view. It should also remind us about the Divine Couple. And if we have taken the decision to live on the land, let us try to manifest the wonderful “Vrindavana forests” around us, and not deserts that remind us of Indra’s sin…
Greed and envy have been propelling human beings in Kali-yuga forward along the path of “progress”. This has resulted in a revolution in agriculture – tractors, chemical fertilizers, millions and trillions of hectares of forests have been cut down so that the land could be used as fields, and some have been lost because the beds of the rivers were altered by human beings.
Sriman Caitanya Candra Caran prabhu says, “the trees are keepers”. But we have nothing more to keep. We need profit.
What do the trees keep? By practicing ahimsa-agriculture, we can clearly see that it is the trees that are the keepers of the balance of the living forces on Earth. Without them even the slightest change in nature, the tiniest preponderance of forces becomes destructive. We do not realize it, because in the world of modern agriculture it has become normal to fight this misbalance with the help of poisons. But what is the result for the Universe?
Here are some of the reasons we need to research deeper into the role of the trees in natural agriculture, in the life of the human and cow:
-Tree roots in the symbiotic connection with the mycelium participate in creating the mycorrhiza. Mycorrhiza is a kind of a neural net under the earth, which other plants can connect to, which produces antibiotics and fungicides, useful substances and microelements, and transfers them over kilometers. This “sponge”, made of mycelium that is built into the roots, saves and keeps the moisture, checks the development of pathogenic organisms and viruses. That means that a garden or a fruit orchard that has been planted in such an environment will have a natural protection, an immunity. And the owner of such a garden is going to be independent from the producers of poisons and other substances.
– The trees are the habitat for birds. Depending on the types of trees, there will be different species of birds. The bigger the diversity – the more sustainable the system. Birds are our biggest assistants in protection from the so-called “pests” – which become pests when there are no containing factors. By the way, it is true not only as regards insects, but also by containing the population of mice and snakes.
– The timber allotment of ¼-½ ha can give a family an uninterrupted amount of fire wood.
– Trees are the source of rough organics, cellulose (waste wood, etc.) which is essential for the harmonious systems of forest orchards. This function cannot be achieved by highly digestible mulch and manure.
– Trees of a higher order form shelters where shorter plants, for example, fruit orchards, shrubs and berry bushes are less exposed to drops in temperature, ground frosts, etc. In practice it lets us grow plants from warmer hardy zones in a cooler climate.
– Trees create protection against wind, a “microclimate” where the warmth is saved in cool periods and the humidity during the hot time of year.
– It is the absence of trees that creates the abundance of “indestructible” weeds. Since they are plants that follow their dharma and by design must survive practically in desert conditions, so it is natural that they are very resilient. And our garden herbs and annual garden crops simply cannot compete with them.
– Trees break through the soil dozens of meters deep, and their dying roots leave a web of channels in the earth. Thanks to such structure in the soil, water can go deep into the earth, getting accumulated there as in a reservoir, instead of running down into gulleys, carrying with them a fertile layer of humus and causing erosion. Also, thanks to such soil structure, there’s an effect of “dry watering” – condensation of moisture, along with the substances that are dissolved in the atmosphere, on the walls of the channels.
– Trees can get water and minerals from the deeper levels of subsoil, nourishing the higher levels with substances through defoliation, root secretions, etc. Mychorriza helps distribute it all over the plot. Herbs, vegetables and shrubs that have grown in such a fertilized soil become truly nourishing and life-giving for humans and cows. The manure of cows that graze in such forest orchards is truly a perfect fertilizer!
“They graze, going from forest to forest…”So we move on to the next aspect of forests – the forest as a place where cows live. Speaking of cows and cow protection, it is not possible to underestimate the importance of trees! Reading Caitanya Caritamrita (2.14.223) we come across the following words: “In Vṛndāvana there are cows that fulfill all desires, and their number is unlimited. They graze from forest to forest and deliver only milk. The people want nothing else.” We can see in this verse that the pasture grounds for the cows are also under the cover of trees. Because it is in the forest, even a planted one that has been restored by people, in the forest with its meadows, sunny glades and humid shadow gulleys, cows can find the necessary diversity of not only nourishing but also medicinal herbs. Thanks to such diversity, the artificial treatment of cows becomes something rare and exceptional – the nature of the Lord takes care of everything on her own!
Succession – is the evolution of gunas in your garden. One more important topic to be able to paint the whole picture is the topic of succession. Succession is a gradual, natural change of one community by others over a certain territory. It is the laws of evolution of the gunas of nature that are expressed in bio- and phyto-communities. Development from bare ground to a mature forest. Moss, lichen, grains, shrubs, broad leaved greenery, pioneer trees, intermediate community trees, fruit trees, creepers, ancient trees. Such is the natural scheme that takes dozens of years, and in some climates – hundreds of years to mature.
Why is it important for us to be aware of this notion? And what does it mean from a practical point of view? There is a saying: “A wild goose never laid a tame egg”. If we want to grow fruit trees, vegetables, berries, medicinal herbs, if we want to herd cows under the cover of trees and in diverse wild grasses – all that depends on the level of succession in the stages of a young forest. And if the level around our “grounds” is several steps lower, we are doomed to fight with couch grass, field bindweed, mice, mole-rats, and other representatives of a lower level of earth culture. They are not to blame – they are doing their job, preparing the place for the next step. And if we are not ready to wait for this step to come for 50 years, we need to advance the process by planting trees on our own. That means to study plants, know which trees are pioneers and can grow “in the front line”, which plants grow in the underwood and will not stand the harsh conditions, and which are true forest keepers, patriarchs and long livers. One needs to study what attracts different birds and creates mychorrizal web. The bigger the diversity of orders and families of plants on your plot, the more sustainable the system is. Our experience proves that!
Everything we need to say cannot fit into one article. But I hope that I have managed to inspire you in digging deeper into this topic. There are nice training courses and videos about forest gardens that describe the role of the trees in the life of humans and nature. A role which we have completely forgotten.
“Maybe you will not believe it, but many devotees still do not understand that the place where you live depends a lot on which trees are planted there. They forget about that. They come to Mayapur and say, “Wow, how beautiful!” And why is it beautiful? Because there are trees. They don’t even think about planting trees. Just imagine. How our consciousness is not developed enough to be able to see some things.
“It is said in the shastras, “A tree is a deity”. If we say “agriculture”, there must be valuable trees, important trees, they are – KEEPERS!…” (Sriman Caitanya Candra Caran prabhu from the conversation “We must plan our future”, International Leadership Sanga (Mayapur), February 19th, 2020).
Written by bhaktin Alyona Yundina