Understanding the Reality of the World
ऊर्ध्वमूलमधःशाखमश्वत्थं प्राहुरव्ययम् | छन्दांसि यस्य पर्णानि यस्तं वेद स वेदवित् ॥ BG:15-1
I am not sure how many of you will be able to recollect this sloka from Bhagwat Geeta Chapter 15. This is the first sloka of this chapter and this chapter is called Purushotam Yoga. In our scripture, everything is told in the form of poetry and therefore many times we get dragged into the rhythm, beauty of words, commandments, prayers etc. But seldom we dwell in these words which can shake us vigorously. Simple word to word meaning of this sloka is as below.
There is a tree called Ashwath. Whose branches are downside and roots are upside. Vedas are its leaves and that who knows this tree is knower of Vedas.
ऊर्ध्व= Upside, मूलम्=Root, अधः=Downside, शाखम्=Branch, अश्वत्थं=Ashwath Tree, प्राहुः=Told, अव्ययम्=Eternal |
छन्दांसि=Vedas, यस्य=Of this, पर्णानि=Leaves, यः=That, तम्=Whom, वेद=Known, स=He, वेदवित्=Knower
Although every chapter, every sloka and every word of the Bhagwat Geeta is extremely important but in Hindu tradition many of the traditional people emphasize the importance of learning this whole chapter which contains 20 slokas. Most of the traditional people recite those 20 slokas of this chapter before taking food, so sometime it looks that this chapter reminds us about food. Anyway, this was the lighter side of this sloka. Analysis of the sloka is below.
First, this sloka is talking about a tree. The tree which is not seen in the world by the physical eyes.
Second, this sloka is talking about the importance of “knowing” this tree. It says that person is knower of Vedas.
A tree has leaves, fruits, branches, seeds. So this sloka also encourages us to think about all these aspects of this tree. sloka says leaves are Vedas. But what about fruits? They are Karma fala. What about branches? They are Karma. What about seed? That is desire. Of whom desire? Desire of Brahman (the supreme reality).
So by doing vedic duties & worldly karma you nurture this tree. So you get the karma fala in life which you enjoy. Sometimes the fruits are sweet and other times it has different taste. Sometimes you like the taste and other times you do not. You do not have choice of eating different fruit than the fruit for which you have done karma. If you do not like fruit do not blame fruit but introspect your own karma.
sloka says this tree is eternal. Entire world rest on this tree and enjoy the bad or good fala of the karma. This tree is inverted tree. Have you ever seen inverted tree anywhere? Go on the river bank, and see the shadow of the tree in river, it is inverted tree. So which tree is real the tree in the water of river or on the bank of river. So this sloka is trying tell that the world where we enjoy karma fala is not the real world. It is shadow world. The real world is something else. Where is the real world and how far it is away from the un-real world? Real world and unreal world are at the same distance as shadow of tree and real tree on the river bank. They both exists simultaneous. One which is perceived by the physical eyes is not real, one which is known by inner sense is the real. The shadow of the tree does not have its own existence, it depends upon the real tree. This is called maya. Maya means it exists but its reality depends upon something else. The shape of the shadow tree is same as real tree. In absence of light you cannot see the shadow tree but it does not mean that real tree also has washed away in the river water. But do we have this much time to bother about the reality? We get dragged in the world knowing that everything here is an absolute reality.
Further sloka says that those who know about this tree are the real knower of vedas. It means the purpose of the vedas to reveal this tree to us. Those who know the invertedness of this tree is not a reality, but there is a real tree which cannot be seen by the physical eyes, he knows the vedas. We need to understand the sharpest knowledge senses (eye, skin, ear, nose, tongue) of human can deceive him/her, but sharpest intellect with balanced emotional mind which has strong desire to understand the reality cannot be deceived. So the reality of the vedas cannot be known and enjoyed by physical senses but by pure intellect and pure mind.
In the following sloka Bhagwat Geeta says that only those who know this tree can cut it. And cutting is the only solution if you want to come out endless life-death cycle and enjoying good and bad fruits of this tree. But because this is not about physical reality of the physical sense therefore cutting is also not physical. Here cutting means dropping the sense of reality about unreal. It is only possible by Vairagya (renunciation).
Non-Translatable words from Sanskrit used in this article.