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 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
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.