Chapter XV: Devotion Through Knowledge Of The Supreme Spirit
“Men say that the Asvattha, the eternal sacred tree 1, grows
with its roots above and its branches below, and the leaves
of which are the Vedas; he who knows this knows the Vedas.
Its branches growing out of the three qualities 2 with the
objects of sense as the lesser shoots, spread forth, some
above and some below; and those roots which ramify below in
the regions of mankind are the connecting bonds of action.
Its form is not thus understood by men; it has no beginning,
nor can its present constitution be understood 3, nor has it
any end. When one hath hewn down with the strong axe of
dispassion this Asvattha tree with its deeply-imbedded
roots, then that place is to be sought after from which
those who there take refuge never more return to rebirth,
for it 4 is the Primeval Spirit from which floweth the
never-ending stream of conditioned existence. Those who are
free from pride of self and whose discrimination is
perfected, who have prevailed over the fault of attachment
to action, who are constantly employed in devotion to
meditation upon the Supreme Spirit, who have renounced
desire and are free from the influence of the opposites
known as pleasure and pain, are undeluded, and proceed to
that place which endureth forever. Neither the sun nor the
moon nor the fire enlighteneth that place; from it there is
no return; it is my supreme abode.
This is a good observation Alex. Although I am not too
familiar with what Plato had said about this divided line of
Being and Becoming, however, I do believe it might be quite
The Asvattha is said to represent samsara, the modified
Reality. It is indeed a metaphysical concept, look here;
speak of the indestructible Asvattha having with roots above
and branches below, whose leaves are the meters."
Indestructible, or eternal, as some translations read,
gives us the nature of this tree of samsara. To me, the
interesting idea is of the leaves being the meters.
The leaves, to me at least, signify a method of
understanding the natures of conditioned reality. In other
words, I suppose the answers of life can be found though
life. A commentary recommends the idea of viewing them as
the four vedas in which can be found the methods of
observance, teachings, dharmic and a-dharmic practices that
might provide aid to the aspirant. However, these are lower
knowledge, as to the knower of all the Vedas, nothing else
is to be known.
who know it knows the Vedas."
Vedas here signifies Wisdom- Absolute Truth. As
who knows the Tree of Samsara, and its Root [as described
above] is a knowe of the Teaching of the Vedas. Indeed
nothing else, not even an iota, remains to be known beyond
this Tree of Samsara and its Root. He who knows It is
The Asvattha (अश्वत्थ) Tree has been mentioned before in the
Gita, prior to this particular chapter. Remember what was
said by Sri Krsna in the 10th discourse 26th sloka;
" Of all trees (I am) the Asvattha..."
So here we have a very interesting topic. Regarding
this, I believe it might be important to note the last sloka
(27th) of the 14th discourse.
Rooted above, downward-branching, they say, is that
immemorial tree, whose leaves are the hymns; who knows it,
knows the Vedas.
Down and upward stretch its branches, grown strong through
the powers, and with things of sense for twigs; downward
stretch its roots which bind to works in the world of men.
The form of it cannot be so perceived in this world, nor its
end, nor beginning, nor its foundation; with the firm sword
of detachment cutting this tree, whose roots grow firm,
Let him then follow the path to that resting-place, whither
going, they come forth no more, saying: “I enter into the
primal Spirit, whence hath flowed forth the ancient stream
They who are free from pride and delusion, who have
conquered the fault of attachment; who dwell ever in the
Oversoul, who have turned back from desire, who are freed
from the opposites called pleasure and pain, go undeluded to
that everlasting rest. (5)
The sun shines not there, nor the moon, nor fire; whither
going, they return not again, that is My supreme home.
“It is even a portion of myself which, having assumed life
in this world of conditioned existence, draweth together the
five senses and the mind in order that it may obtain a body
and may leave it again. And those are carried by the
Sovereign Lord to and from whatever body he enters or quits,
even as the breeze bears the fragrance from the flower.
Presiding over the eye, the ear, the touch, the taste, and
the power of smelling, and also over the mind, he
experienceth the objects of sense. The deluded do not see
the spirit when it quitteth or remains in the body, nor
when, moved by the qualities, it has experience in the
world. But those who have the eye of wisdom perceive it, and
devotees who industriously strive to do so see it dwelling
in their own hearts; whilst those who have not overcome
themselves, who are devoid of discrimination, see it not
even though they strive thereafter. Know that the brilliance
of the sun which illuminateth the whole world, and the light
which is in the moon and in the fire, are the splendor of
myself. I enter the earth supporting all living things by my
power, and I am that property of sap which is taste,
nourishing all the herbs and plants of the field. Becoming
the internal fire of the living, I associate with the upward
and downward breathing, and cause the four kinds of food to
digest. I am in the hearts of all men, and from me come
memory, knowledge, and also the loss of both. I am to be
known by all the Vedas; I am he who is the author of the
Vedanta, and I alone am the interpreter of the Vedas.
ममैवांशो जीवलोके जीवभूतः सनातनः।
मनःषष्ठानीन्द्रियाणि प्रकृतिस्थानि कर्षति
A ray of Myself, the eternal Jiva in the world of Jivas,
attracts the senses,
with manas the sixth, abiding in Prakrti.
This sloka alone is very signifiant. Taking a look at
the SD.i.238 a subject intimately related;
SPARK HANGS FROM THE FLAME BY THE FINEST THREAD OF
FOHAT. IT JOURNEYS THROUGH THE SEVEN WORLDS OF MAYA (a).
What is that "Spark" which "hangs from the flame?" It is
JIVA, the MONAD in conjunction with MANAS,
or rather its aroma—that which remains from each
personality, when worthy, and hangs from Atma-Buddhi, the
Flame, by the thread of life.
Looking at sloka 7 in the light of the SD reference (i.238),
in addition to the 8th sloka;
the Lord acquires a body, and when He leaves it, He takes
these and goes, as the wind takes scents from their seats."
we have a very major topic of genesis regarding the Human
form/individuality and the Cosmos. Much can be said about
these two slokas. Finding no expounder better regarding the
Gitas esotericism, I will pull a commentary from T. Subba
Row on this particular sloka (8);
Here Krishna refers to that human individuality which
resides in the karana sarira. It
is the human monad or karana
is the one connecting link between the various incarnations
it leaves the body for Devachan, it takes with it all the
germs of conscious existence, the essence of the five Tanmatras, the Manas and
the Ahankaram. Strictly
every stage of conscious existence, there are seven elements
which are always present, via., the five senses, the mind
(also recognised as a sense by some of our philosophers),
and the Ego. These are the seven elements that
constantly manifest themselves whenever consciousness
manifests itself, or conscious existence makes its
appearance. They exist in the sthula sarira, further also in
the sukshma sarira, and they are latent in karana sarira. Not
only are they latent in karana sarira, but
even the impulses generated in connection with the seven
elements of conscious existence reside in it, and form that
latent energy which tries to spend itself, as it were, by
bringing about the future incarnations,the
environments being those determined by the past Karma of
the man and the impulses already generated thereby.
These passages here seem to point to the concept of the
pilgrimage of the soul (jiva) through the many levels and
planes of existence, picking up experience, acquiring
self-knowledge, and heading in the direction of reabsorption
into the notion of the One Self.
“There are two kinds of beings in the world, the one
divisible, the other indivisible; the divisible is all
things and the creatures, the indivisible is called
Kutastha, or he who standeth on high unaffected. But there
is another spirit designated as the Supreme Spirit —
Paramatma — which permeates and sustains the three worlds.
As I am above the divisible and also superior to the
indivisible, therefore both in the world and in the Vedas am
I known as the Supreme Spirit. He who being not deluded
knoweth me thus as the Supreme Spirit, knoweth all things
and worships me under every form and condition.
“Thus, O sinless one, have I declared unto thee this most
sacred science; he who understandeth it, O son of Bharata,
will be a wise man and the performer of all that is to be