15.1 ūrdhva-mūlam adhaḥ-śākham (Original)

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Chapter 15

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

The Blessed Lord continued :—

‘With root above and branches below, they speak of an Aśvattha Tree[1. For yogic interpretation of this Symbol consult Uttara-Gīta: ch: II-15, 17. Also see Simon Magus, p: 78.] indestructible, of which the leaves are the Vedas. Whoso knows this knows the Vedas.’

Samsāra is emblematized as the Tree Aśvattha, with root above and branches below. Its indestructible or everlasting nature is declared in the Śrutis thus:

‘Having root above, and branches below, this Aśvattha is primeval.'[2. Kath: Up: VI-1. ‘Urdhvamūlo &c.’]

‘Whoso, now, knows this Tree, of root above and branches below,'[3. Tait: Āran-I-11 (52). do.] etc., etc.,

The Tree is said to have the root above, since the four-faced Brahmā (the Demiurge of the Brahmāṇḍa, or a mundane egg) is seated above the seven[4. Bhūr, Bhuvaḥ, Svaḥ, Mahaḥ, Janaḥ, Tapaḥ, Satya.] worlds. It is said to have branches below since on earth below, are all its denizens, man, animals, beasts, worms, insects, moths, plants etc.

It is said to be indestructible, (avyayam) or never-ending like a stream flowing for ever, or a Tree which cannot be felled, till the dawning of spiritual illumination which would wean one from (material) clingings.

Chhandāmsi= the Śrutis=the Vedas, which are said to be the Tree’s leaves, since the Tree of Samsara flourishes in proportion to the performance of Śruti-enjoined kāmya-karmas (or works performed with a view to obtain material pleasures). Such as are declared in:

‘The desirer of riches (prosperity) shall sacrifice a white (victim) for Vāyu(-deva).'[5. Tait: Sam: II-1-1: “Vāyavyam &c.”]

‘The desirer of offspring shall oblate to Indra-Agni in eleven cups (or dishes=kapāla)[6. Tait: Sam: II-2-1. “Aindrāgnam &c.”] etc.

Leaves are supposed to be instrumental in preserving trees.

Whoso has the knowledge of this aforesaid Tree is the knower of the Vedas, since the Vedas teach the way how to fell the Tree. He is called the knower of the Vedas, since a knowledge of the nature of this destruction-worthy Tree, is essential as giving the knowledge necessary for felling the same.

>> Chapter 15 Verse 1.5

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