Gita Series – 142: Bhagavad Gita Chapter XV. Verse 1 – 2
The XV chapter of Bhagavad Gita is known as “puruṣottamayogaḥ”. Puruṣottam refers to the Brahman, the Supreme Spirit. This chapter consists of 20 verses.
Kṛṣṇa said: “The one who is aware of the inverted eternal peepul tree, with its root upwards and leaves below, knowing its roots as the Lord, its stem as Brahmā, the god in-charge of creation, its leaves as Vedas, is the real knower of Vedas. This tree is nourished by the three guṇa-s and sensory objects forming the foliage of the branches, spread above and below. Its roots going down, cause the bondage arising out of actions.”
Kṛṣṇa begins to provide further elucidations on the Brahman, as it is only the Brahman, who is to be realised. Kṛṣṇa has taken an inverted peepul tree for example. This tree is with thick foliage and a huge trunk with deep roots. Its branches and leaves are used for various religious purposes. Now, one has to visualize this peepul, tree upside down. This inverted tree represents saṃsāra, the normal mundane and materialistic life. The roots that are important to nourish the tree is now on the upper side, is the abode of the Brahman. The root, through which the tree is nourished, is the Brahman, who is atop of this inverted tree. Without roots, tree cannot sustain and without the Brahman, the universe cannot sustain. Since, the Brahman is the highest amongst all the existence, a comparison is drawn to an inverted tree. One may argue that when leaves are the cause of photosynthesis, why the tree should be inverted. The simple answer is that a tree can survive without leaves, but not without roots. This tree as such represents the creative aspect of prakṛti, endowed with guṇa-s. A human form can be compared to an inverted tree; brain to the roots, trunk to organs of actions and foliage to organs of perception. If a tree as such, is drawn for comparison, then their roots, the main life giving part of the tree remains underneath. If the Brahman is referred to the foliage of a normal tree, obviously, the foliage is not the life giving one.
In the inverted tree, the root is the Brahman, its trunk is the lord of creation, Brahmā and its foliage represent all the living beings. Vedas represent knowledge here. When the foliage is pruned, the growth of the tree is also affected and this goes to prove the importance of knowledge in shaping one’s life. The foliage of a tree undergoes changes, depending upon the season like autumn and spring, which indicates the death and birth of beings. The root does not undergo any changes like the foliage. This also goes to prove that the Brahman alone is eternal and all the beings are perishable. The knower of this fact is called the knower of Vedas. Vedas teach the importance of the Imperishable Brahman, from whom alone, the entire universe manifests. The Brahman is the life giving force like the root of the tree and the beings, like the tree’s foliage undergo birth and death, signifying the transmigration of the beings.
Basically, a man is nourished by his inherent qualities. Neither a saint will become a villain nor does a villain transform into a saint, overnight. One has to fight it out to overcome the impingement of guṇa-s. The guṇa-s are always inherent in prakṛti and are the cause for saṃsāra, the materialistic life comprising of desire, attachment, etc for which sensory organs are used. These sensory organs cause deep impressions in the mind, making the mind corrupt and polluted with multifarious thoughts, leaving no room in the mind for contemplating the Lord. The impact of impressions is so great that one is not able to free himself from the bondage and on the contrary goes further down into the miseries of bondage. This leads to a situation, where a person is not able to redeem himself from the painful process of transmigration. Either by acting or by reacting, he accumulates more karma and gets sunk in the deep ocean of miseries and pains of repeated transmigrations.
There is a reference to this inverted tree in Kaṭha Upaniṣhad (II.iii.1) which says, “This world is like a big peepul tree that is rooted high above (the Brahman) and has its branches (living beings) spread out below. The phenomenal world is timeless as it comes and goes like waves of ocean. The root of the three, the Brahman is pure and immortal and all the worlds rest on it. Nothing can surpass it and this is truly That.”