Gita 15.01 explained

Link to purport by A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada

Transcript of Bhakti-Shastri class on this verse by Chaitanya Charan

We are in Jyana section and in this section Krishna systematically establishing how Jyana culminates in Bhakti. 

In 13th chapter He talked about 6 items Purusha, Prakriti, Jyana, Jneya, Kshetra, Kshetra-ajna and based on that He explained how by Bhakti one can get proper understanding of this and that was elaborated further in 14th chapter through the analysis of material nature by which one understand that if one transcends the mode one has to take shelter of devotional service. And the devotional service culminates in understanding Krishna is the support of Brahman. Now after concluding 14th chapter in emphasizing that Bhagvan is superior to Brahman then Krishna elaborates that theme in a different way, He explained Bhagvan is ultimate reality by emphasizing that Bhagvan is Puroshotama the Greatest Person. So this chapter is called as Purushotam Yoga as Srila Prabhupada translates the Yoga of the Supreme Person.


Chp15 Overview

1-6: Attain Liberation by detachment (The upside-down banyan tree)

7-11: Otherwise bondage and transmigration

12-15: How Krishna assists us in our material existence and our spiritual endeavor

16-18: The essence of Vedanta (Tri-ShlokiGita)

19-20: To know Krishna means to know everything

Bg 15.1

śrī-bhagavān uvāca
ūrdhva-mūlam adhaḥ-śākham
aśvatthaṁ prāhur avyayam
chandāṁsi yasya parṇāni
yas taṁ veda sa veda-vit


śrībhagavān uvāca — the Supreme Personality of Godhead said; ūrdhvamūlam — with roots above; adhaḥ — downwards; śākham — branches; aśvattham — a banyan tree; prāhuḥ — is said; avyayam — eternal; chandāṁsi— the Vedic hymns; yasya — of which; parṇāni — the leaves; yaḥ — anyone who; tam — that; veda — knows; saḥ — he; vedavit — the knower of the Vedas.


The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: It is said that there is an imperishable banyan tree that has its roots upward and its branches down and whose leaves are the Vedic hymns. One who knows this tree is the knower of the Vedas.


ūrdhva-mūlam adhaḥ-śākham

ūrdhva-mūlam, that which is above 


So roots are above and branches are below, adhaḥ-śākham

aśvatthaṁ prāhur avyayam

aśvattham — a banyan tree

prāhur avyayam, it is said to be imperishable

chandāṁsi yasya parṇāni
parṇāni are its leaves

So its leaves are the chanda, the Vedic hymns

yas taṁ veda, one who knows this tree in totality is the sa veda-vit

such a person is sa veda-vit, 

veda-vit, the knower of the Veda

so it is significant that Krishna says that the leaves are the Vedic Hymns and just knowing the leaves alone are not enough that means just knowing Vedic Hymns one doesn’t become veda-vit to become Veda-vit one has to know the complete tree. 

Krishna earlier in 2.53 told that Trai Gunya Vishya Veda, Veda talked about three things so go beyond the three modes Arjuna, similarly in 6.43-44 He has talked earlier about how Shabda Brahma Ati Vartate, the transcendentalist who is going in multi life time journey when come close to perfection that person is attracted spontaneously by the principles of spirituality and goes beyond Karma Kanda, goes beyond the range of fruitive activities which are talked about in the Vedic literature. 

So one who is the knower of the Vedas Ved-vit should not just know the Vedic Hymns, they are only the leaves within the tree. Leaves are just one part of the tree but along with the leave there are other parts they all comprise the tree and to understand the tree and its purpose, understand its nature, one who knows that is the knower of the vedas. 

So what is this tree being referred to here? One thing is very clear that it is a metaphor. This tree is used to refer to material existence, when we talk about material existence we are talking about the soul’s existence within matter, matter is existing always but matter is not aware of its existence so when we talk about material existence that is soul’s existence within matter, so the tree gives the example of existence of matter but not just existence of matter but the existence of soul within the arena of matter. 

And the tree represents material existence in the sense that here the things are upside down, things are opposite of the way they should be. In this material world Krishna is not in the center the soul has become center, this will be talked in 15.7.

Acharyas has explained that we see upside down tree in reflection so this material world is like a reflection of the spiritual world.

As we know material existence itself is imperishable, it is eternal. It may be manifested sometime it may not be manifested sometime. Matter is sometimes present sometimes absent but it is avyaya. 

Aśvattha has many meanings, one meaning is that which will not last, so as we discussed material existence is eternal but we are not attracted to material existence per say we are attracted to the forms we are attracted to the beautiful objects and those are not permanent, those are temporary, and because they are temporary there cannot be lasting happiness in those relationships. Relationships with other people, relationships between things of this material world. Are we attracted to the substratum of matter or to the soul? Generally we are attracted to the outer appearances and those appearances will disappear, they will not last.

Aśvattha has another meaning Asva is horse tha, a horse has habit of being situated on three feet, so like that this world is situated unsteadily, it is Eka Pad Vibhuti, three Pad of it is on spiritual world and we know that all material world is Eka Pad, it is one fourth of the totality of existence and major portion of material existence is in spiritual world.  

chandāṁsi yasya parṇāni
yas taṁ veda sa veda-vit

So Krishna introducing metaphor by pointing out that things are upside down over here. 

SP Purport: For one who is engaged in fruitive activities, there is no end to the banyan tree.

… The fruits represent the results of the living entities’ activities, namely, religion, economic development, sense gratification and liberation.

From Vedic Hymens Dharma, Artha, Kama & Moksha can come about.

SP Purport: Desire is the cause of things’ being situated in this reflected material light.

Because we have desire to enjoy separate from Krishna that is why we are in the material existence. 

SP Purport: A reflection is temporary, for it is sometimes seen and sometimes not seen. But the origin from whence the reflection is reflected is eternal. The material reflection of the real tree has to be cut off. When it is said that a person knows the Vedas, it is assumed that he knows how to cut off attachment to this material world. If one knows that process, he actually knows the Vedas. One who is attracted by the ritualistic formulas of the Vedas is attracted by the beautiful green leaves of the tree. He does not exactly know the purpose of the Vedas. The purpose of the Vedas, as disclosed by the Personality of Godhead Himself, is to cut down this reflected tree and attain the real tree of the spiritual world.

End of transcription.

Author: Vallabhi

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