Some of my favourite winged friends are bees. Bees are cute, scary and an integral part of the life cycle. Where would we be without them? They pollinate the plants of the world thus being symbolic of fertility and many make delicious honey too. Even life itself is likened to their honey as a metaphor – how sweet it is! On a personal note, they just make me happy when I see them. So in honour of the bee, this post touches on the subject of their symbolism in Hindu culture, their current dilemma in the world and some of my own opinions about them.
Rich in symbolism, bees throughout many cultures and human history are used as symbols to help us to understand the intricacies of life. In Hinduism, the bee is a very powerful symbol. For instance, Vishnu who is known in Hinduism as the preserver of the universe is sometimes depicted as a bee on a lotus flower and Krishna who is known to be the 9th descent of or avatar of Vishnu has a blue bee in the middle of his forehead. Plus a quite stirring image is The Kama who with a bow-string of bees is the god of love – oh the sting of love!
Not only in visual imagery are bees in Hindu culture, they are found in the words of some very old texts including The Upanishads dating back to 5000 – 7000 years ago. In the CHANDOGYA Upanishad, the metaphor of the bee and its honey explain the concept of THAT ARE THOU to the student.
„As the bees make honey by gathering juices from many flowering plants and trees, and as these juices reduced to one honey do not know from what flowers they severallycome…”
In the BRIHADARANYAKA the earth itself, its beings and even the elements are explained as the honey of life –
”This earth is honey for all beings, all beings are honey for this earth. The intelligent, immortal being, the soul of this earth, and the intelligent, immortal being, the soul in the individual being – each is honey to the other.”
It continues on with this symbolism and is found in other examples as well. How beautiful the metaphor that these teachings make clear in imagery our relationship to each other, to the whole of life on earth and our relationship with the earth itself.
The bees dilemma
Our relationship with the bee is critical to life and sadly largely due to our influence, they are themselves in a crisis worldwide. What seems even sadder but perhaps necessary to stir people into action is relating their crisis (which is our crisis) in economic terms. An article entitled World Relies on Endangered Bees for 153 Billion Euros written on 28 May 2009 equates this crisis in the loss of currency. Nonetheless, it is informative and additionally, there are many, many links to interesting articles about bees and their future on the article page itself. For further reading on the bees dilemma, as well as other plants and insects, you can find many of the ”red lists” as PDFs available for download from the internet. Searching the internet for the phrase – bees red list pdf (add your country or continent to narrow results.)
So that brings us to the question – What can we do for the bees?
First what comes to mind is to of course plant a simple garden. It does not need to be large and there are so many plants that do not require a great amount of effort since they are drought resistant and hardy that attract bees specifically caryopteris, echinacea and sunflowers for starters. Another great bee attractor that may require a little more watering on your part is a few of the Salvia varieties, especially Salvia East Friesland and Salvia Patens. (Specific plant info requires a more detailed post…it’s on my list now :))
Just imagine that everyone on this earth planted 1 plant each in their city environment and multiply that by the world population and voila! That’s a lot of plants..um yes we’re talking billions. If you don’t know how to plan or build a garden read some of our gardening how-to’s a three part series of articles:
The other thing you can do is to make use of organic methods when caring for them. Also talking about this subject with your friends and family will spread awareness and sensitivity on this subject. You can even keep bees in a city environment, read about the effects this is having in Paris here.
Finally, we can all take simple actions that will make a difference. For instance, picking up litter you see and throw it in the bin is a nice way to show your thanks to the earth that you care for her. Live by example. In fact after writing this I came across a book by Michael Schacker that thinks we literally need „Plan Bee” his book is about the crisis and what we can do about (have not read it yet since I just found it now!) anyway it is A Spring without Bees: How Colony Collapse Disorder Has Endangered Our Food Supply.
Have any suggestions of what we can do to help the bees? Please share them by commenting.
Remember that in this dance of life on earth, bees play an integral role. Here is a beautiful video shared by Stella G on Vimeo entitled Dancing Bees set to music.
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A version of this post was originally published on Your Balcony Garden, the author’s former gardening blog. If you like this post please share with your friends.