श्रीभगवानुवाच | ऊर्ध्वमूलमधःशाखमश्वत्थं प्राहुरव्ययम् | छन्दांसि यस्य पर्णानि यस्तं वेद स वेदवित् ||१५-१||
śrībhagavānuvāca . ūrdhvamūlamadhaḥśākhamaśvatthaṃ prāhuravyayam . chandāṃsi yasya parṇāni yastaṃ veda sa vedavit ||15-1||
15.1. The Bhagavat said [The scriptures] speak of a non-perishing holy Fig-tree, which has root that is high (or above) and branches that are low (or below) and of which the [Vedic] hymns are leaves-he who knows this (Tree) is the knower of the Vedas;
Shri Purohit Swami
15.1 “Lord Shri Krishna continued: This phenomenal creation, which is both ephemeral and eternal, is like a tree, but having its seed above in the Highest and its ramifications on this earth below. The scriptures are its leaves, and he who understands this, knows.
Sri Abhinav Gupta
15.1 See Comment under 15.2
15.1 The Lord said The Vedas speak of the imperishable ‘Asvattha tree’ called Samsara, which has its ‘roots above and branches below’, in such passages as the following: This Asvattha tree with its roots above and branches below is eternal’ (Ka. U., 6.1), and ‘He who knows the tree with its roots above and branches below’ (Tai. A., 1.11.5). It has its roots above since it has its roots in Brahma (the Creator otherwise known as Hiranyagarbha) who is seated above the seven worlds. It has ‘branches below’ ending with denizens like men, animals, beasts, worms, insects, birds and immovables. It is ‘immutable’ since it cannot be felled, being of the form of a continual flow. It can be felled only at the dawn of perfect knowledge which causes detachment. They say that the leaves of this Asvattha tree constitute the Vedas. ‘The Vedas are said to be the leaves’, since this tree of Samsara increases by actions prompted by worldly desires as taught in certain Srutis as, ‘He who desires prosperity should sacrifice a white animal to Vayu’ (Taitt. Sam., 2.1.1) and ‘The desirer of offspring shall offer to Indra and Agni a sacrifice with eleven cups of rice-cakes’ (Ibid., 2.2.1). Indeed the tree flourishes with the help of leaves. He who knows the Asvattha of such a nature ‘knows the Vedas’. The Vedas also set forth the means of felling this tree of Samsara. He who understands this is called the knower of the Vedas, since knowledge of the nature of the tree to be cut off is helpful to the knowledge concerning the means of felling the tree.
This tree spreads downward with men etc., who are the products of their Karma, as branches. It again spreads above into Gandharvas, Yaksas, gods, etc. They are nourished by the Gunas of Sattva etc. They have tender shoots augmented by sense-objects.
How does this happen? Sri Krsna explains:
15.1 Urdhva-mulam, that which has its roots upwards:- Brahman, possessed of the unmanifest power in the form of Maya, is referred to by the word ‘upward’ because of Its subtleness in point of time by virtue of Its being the Cause, and also because of Its eternality and vastness; and That is the root (mulam) of this world. The Tree of the World which is such, is urdhva-mulam. This accords with the Upanisadic text, ‘This has its roots above and branches below’ (Ka. 2.6.1). In the Purana also we have: It sprouts from the Root in the form of the Unmanifest; it grows through the sturdiness of that very One. And it has abundance of intelligence as its trunk, and the appertures of the organs as the hollows. The great elements are its boughs [A.G. takes the word visakha (boughs) in the sense of stambha, perhaps meaning the aerial roots.-Tr.]; so also, it has the objects of perception as its leaves. It has virtue and vice as its beautiful flowers, and happiness and sorrow are the fruits it bears. This eternal Tree presided over by Brahman is a means of livelihood to all creatures. And this verily is the resort of Brahman [Or, etat brahma-vanam means: This Tree has Brahman as its object of adoration, its support. For, the world has nothing but Brahman as its support.] in it Brahman dwells for ever. Having felled and split this Tree with the great sword of Knowledge, and then attaining the bliss of the Self, one does not return from that (bliss).’ (Cf. Mbh. As. 47.12-15.) That Tree which has its roots upwards and is constituted by the enchantment of mundane existence, and adhah-sakham, which has the branches downwards-mahat, [See under 7.4.-Tr.] egoism, subtle elements, etc. are its branches (sakhah), as it were, extending downwards (adhah); so, it has its branches downwards-; that Tree with its branches downwards, which does not (a) last (stha) even for the morrow (svah), is asvatthah (lit. Peepul tree). Ahuh, they say; that the asvatthah, Peepul Tree, undergoing destruction every moment; is avyayam, imperishable, and constituted by the enchantments of mundane existence. Having been in existence from time without beginning, that Tree of the World is imperishable. It is, indeed, will known as the sustainer of the beginningless and ceaseless series of bodies etc. They call that the imperishable. Of that very Tree of the World here is another alification: Yasya, that Tree of the World of which; chandamsi-chandas being derived in the sense of covering (protecting)-, the Vedas in the form of Rk, Yajus and Sama; are the parnani, leaves, as it were. As leaves serve as protectors of a tree, so the Vedas serve as the protectors of the world; for they reveal what are virtue and vice as also their causes and results. Yah, he who; veda, knows; tam, that-the Tree of the World along with its root, as has been explained; sah, he; is a vedavit, knower of the Vedas, i.e. versed in the meaning of the Vedas. Since, apart from this Tree of the World along with its root, not even an iota of any other thing remains to be known, therefore he who knows the purport of the Vedas is omniscient. In this way the Lord euligizes the knowledge of the Tree together with its root. An imagery of the other parts of that very Tree of the World is being presented:
15.1 The Lord said They speak of an immutable Asvattha tree with its roots above and branches below. Its leaves are the Vedas. He who knows it knows the Vedas.
15.1 The Blessed Lord said They say that the peepul Tree, which has its roots upward and the branches downward, and of which the Vedas are the leaves, is imperishable. He who realizes it is knower of the Vedas.
15.1 The Blessed Lord said They (the wise) speak of the indestructible peepul tree having its root above and branches below, whose leaves are the metres or hymns: he who knows it is a knower of the Vedas.
15.1 ऊर्ध्वमूलम् rooted above? अधःशाखम् branches below? अश्वत्थम् the Asvattha? प्राहुः they speak of? अव्ययम् indestructible? छन्दांसि metres or hymns? यस्य of which? पर्णानि leaves? यः who? तम् that? वेद knows? सः he? वेदवित् is the knower of the Vedas.Commentary The description of the universe as a peepul tree is only metaphorical. This peepul is said to be eternal because it cannot be cut except by the axe of knowledge.All persons depend upon the Lord for the fruits of their actions? because He alone knows the right relation between the actions and their fruits. He alone is the dispenser of the fruits of actions of human beings. The wise persons also depend upon the Lord for the fruit of their knowledge. The Lord alone removes the veil of ignorance through His grace and mercy. The inclination for Advaita Vedantic Sadhana arises through the Lords grace. The desire for the realisation of the Oneness is produced in the minds of wise men by the grace of the Lord? which is the antidote to all fears. (Avadhuta Gita? I.1)Those who serve the Lord with unswerving or singleminded devotion go beyond the three alities of Nature through His grace. They attain knowledge of the Self through the grace of the Lord and get release from the round of birth and death. Those who have a right understanding of the real nature of Brahman or the Supreme Being also get emancipation easily.The Lord teaches Arjuna in this discourse about the real nature of Brahman or the Supreme Self and the path that leads the soul to union with Him. The Lord describes the nature of Samsara or worldly life as a peepul tree in order to create nonattachment or dispassion? because he who is endowed with true and lasting dispassion alone is fit for attaining the knowledge of the Self. Samsara is compared to a tree. because it can be cut off like a tree.All the other trees have their roots below? but this peculiar? strange and most wonderful tree of Samsara (Maya) has its root above? in Brahman. This peepul tree is different from all other trees. Brahman is the resting place or support of everything. It is eternal. It is great. It is the most high. It is the Supreme Being. It is supreme over all things. It is the source of everything. Therefore it is said that It is the One above. This One above is the root of this tree of Samsara. Brahan Who is superior to all is Urdhva. That which has Brahman as its cause is Urdhvamulam.In the Puranas it is said The tree of the Unmanifest has sprung from Brahman. Buddhi is its trunk? the senseopenings are its hollows? the great elements its boughs? the senseobjects its leaves and branches? Dharma and Adhrama (virtue and vice) its beautiful flowers? pleasure and pain its fruits. Having cut asunder this tree with the powerful sword of the knowledge of the Self? and then having attained to the eternal bliss of Brahman? no one comes back from there again.Brahman is the root of this tree. It is the upper part of this tree and so It is called Urdhva. In reality there are no distinctions such as upward? downward or middle in the One Which is the indivisible unity.The name Asvattha is usually derived from Asvattha which means not standing or enduring or remaining till tomorrow. A means not Sva means tomorrow Ttha means remaining. This is ite an appropriate word for this worldtree which is ever changing and passing away.In the Katha Upanishad also there is a mention about this Asvattha tree (II.6.1). The Gita is an essence of the Upanishads only.Samsara is generally understood by the common people as meaning remaining surrounded by ones wife and children and doing ones daily duties. This is a restricted or narrow meaning. Samsara means the whole worldprocess or the cosmic manifestation or the everchanging phenomenal world. Hiranyagarbha? the individual souls? the cosmic intelligence? egoism? the rootelements? etc.? represent the brancehs of this tree of Samsara. They extend downwards. They evolve into grosser and grosser states. Therefore it is said that the tree has its branches below. Egoism is the sprout which goes downwards in three directions? viz.? the three alities of Nature.Mind is the offshoot. Then come the five elements? viz.? earth? water? fire? air and ether? and the five organs of knowledge. Then comes sound which stimulates the ears to hear sweet music. Then comes touch which stimulates the skin to enjoy soft things. Then comes form which stimultaes the eye to behold beautiful objects. Then comes taste which stimulates the tongue to enjoy palatable things. Then comes smell which stimulates the nose to enjoy fragrant and scented objects.From the roots of actions with expectation of fruits a new branch of rirth comes up. The mineral kingdom? the vegetable kingdom? the animal kingdom and the human kingdom are all branches of this tree of Samsara. Man does good and evil actions with the help of the body and takes births to experience the fruits thereof. The human body is the water for this tree of Samsara.The body itself is the peepul tree. The root is the cerrospinal nervous system (brain). The various nerves are the branches that ramify downwards to the various organs distributed over the body.Avyaya Eternal? because this tree rests on an unbroken seires of births without beginning and end it is thus eternal. It can be cut down by the sword of knowledge of Brahman. Just as the leaves of a tree protect it? so also the Vedas protect this tree of Samsara? treating of virtue and vice? with their causes and fruits.He who knows this tree of Samsara and its roots as described above is a knower of the Vedas. He is a knower of the teachings of the Vedas. Not even an iota remains to be known beyond this tree of Samsara and its root. He who knows it is omniscient. The Lord has eulogised the knowledge of the tree of Samsara and its root in order to encourage aspirants to acire this knowledge.