Bhagavad Gita- Chapt 15 Purushottama Yogah- Yoga of the Supreme Spirit

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Preamble

The  last six Chapters of Gita state that the ever changing finite world of  multiplicity is nothing but a projection of the Infinite and that the endless  painful experiences are all caused by our misapprehensions of the Reality. The  world of Matter and Spirit, the Field of experience and the Knower of the Field  were discussed. It was proved that the Knower of the Field without the Field of  experience is the Pure Consciousness, Pure Awareness which is infinite and permanent.

Upto  the thirteenth chapter we get an idea that the world of matter - the Cosmos -  is one homogeneous entity and the Spirit is nondual and infinite. The  variations in the expressions of the same Spirit and Matter in different  individuals are on account of the play of the three Gunas.

In  this Chapter Sri Krishna discusses the nature of the Spirit in all its  implications and explains the Unknown from the Known manifested objects of  perception, emotion and thought. Infinite is defined as the Imperishable (Akshara) with reference to the  perishable (Kshara) equipments of  matter.

Speaking  of the Kshara Purusha (Kshetra), the Akshara Purusha (Kshetrajna) and the  Supreme Person (Brahman), it explains  how Brahman is superior to both ‘Kshara’ and ‘Akshara’, why he is called the  Supreme Person, what is the value of   knowing him as the Supreme Person and how can He be realized. Hence this  Chapter is entitled “Purushottama Yoga” or the Yoga of the Supreme Person or  Supreme Spirit.

The  previous Chapter ended with a note that to worship the Lord with undeviating  love leads to liberation. But such love is not possible without detachment from  the world. So the Lord begins the present discourse with a description of the World  Tree in order to create in the aspirant an intense dispassion leading to love  and knowledge of the Supreme Lord, Brahman.

The  Text

THE COSMIC TREE

sri bhagavaan uvaacha
    oordhwamoolam adhahshaakham ashwattham praahur avyayam
    chhandaamsi yasya parnaani yastam veda sa vedavit  // 15.1 //

Sri  Bhagavan said
    They  (the scriptures) speak of the imperishable Asvatta tree (peepal tree) as having  its roots above and branches below, whose leaves are the Vedas and he who knows  this is the knower of the Vedas.

With  roots above and branches below, this world tree is eternal. It is Samsaravriksha, the cosmic tree. This  tree of samsara or cosmic existence  rests on a continuous series of births and deaths without beginning and end.  This tree cannot be cut down except by the knowledge and experience of man’s  identity with Brahman.

The  word ‘Asvatta’ means that which does not endure till the next day. The  phenomenal world is compared to the Asvatta tree on account of its ever-changing  nature. In an ordinary tree the roots extend downwards. But in the tree of the  world the roots are stated to be above. This is because the roots are Brahman  with maya (Saguna Brahman) since the Immortal Absolute (Nirguna Brahman) is  beyond the category of causality and Brahman with maya is very subtle and very  great and is supreme over all things.

The  branches are the cosmic mind, egoism, five subtle elements and the other cosmic  principles which are stated to extend downwards because as they go downward  they become more and more gross.

Just  as the leaves protect a tree, so the Vedas serve to protect the tree of the  world. They formulate its dharma and adharma with their causes and effects  and also show the way to prosperity and well-being in the relative world. The  knowledge of the Vedas gives men knowledge of the gods and the cosmos and hence  nothing else remains to be known beyond the tree of the world and Brahman.

adhashchordhwam   prasritaastasya shaakhaa
    gunapravriddhaa vishayapravaalaah
    adhashcha moolaanyanusantataani
    karmaanubandheeni manushyaloke // 15.2 //

Its  branches extend below and above, nourished by the Gunas with sense objects for  its twigs and below, in the world of men stretch forth the roots, giving rise  to actions.

Upward  and downward its branches spread: The flow of life in the individual is  sometimes for a higher evolution but very often it is to satisfy animal nature  i.e. towards a lower purpose. Thus the tree of life has its branches growing  both upwards and downwards.

Nourished  by the Gunas: The tendency to lead a higher or lower life is determined by the  dominance of any of the three Gunas.

Sense  objects are twigs:  Nodular twigs are  potential branches. Sense objects (shabda,  sparsha, roopa, rasa, gandha) are twigs because in the presence of these objects  there is a tendency to throw away higher values to attain carnal satisfaction.

Downward  the roots extend: When the main root of the tree is firmly fixed high above In  the Absolute, the subsidiary roots grow all around including downwards in the  world of men initiating action. These secondary roots are vasanas created in us  as a result of our past deeds driving us for actions and reactions, good or  evil, in the world. Just as the secondary roots bind the tree to the earth firmly;  these actions and reactions bind the individual to the plane of likes and  dislikes, profit and loss etc.

The  following two verses explain how we can cut down the tree and thereby  experience the pure source of the life's manifestation, the Infinite Life.