|Chapter 15||Realization of the Ultimate Truth||Verse 3, 4|
Rudra Vaisnava Sampradaya:
The reality of this asvattha or ancient banyan tree having its roots above and branches below is not perceivable by jivas or embodied beings habitating material existence in samsara or the perpetual cycle of birth and death for 43,200,000 lifetimes that transpire for a human in one day of Brahma. Neither can its end be discerned or its beginning determined. It is unlimited and its continuity and how it exists is unknown. Since this tree is extremely difficult to uproot and surmount and is also the actual cause of all suffering, a spiritually knowledegable living entity should sever all ties from this tree by the weapons of nonattachment and dispassion and strive for attaining atma tattva or realisation of their immortal soul. Enunciated clearly having severed all ties to this deep rooted and all encompassing tree with the powerful discriminative weapon of renunciation which consists of relinquishing all concepts of ego such as I and mine and instead see oneself as belonging fully to the Supreme Lord Krishna in complete communion with Him, who is the ultimate source from where this tree has arisen. Upon realising the Supreme Lord one achieves moksa or liberation from material existence and is no longer subject to samsara the perpetual cycle of birth and death. In conclusion one must wholeheartedly seek communion with the Supreme Lord and take full shelter of Him by bhakti or exclusive loving devotion.
Brahma Vaisnava Sampradaya:
This ancient asvattha or banyan tree represents material existence but it is not perceivable yet it is seen to have been established. The word adi means beginning and anta means the end which refer to the Supreme Lord. The Bhagavad Purana states: The Supreme Lord is the beginning, the end and the middle as well. The Moksa Dharma states: The Supreme Lord has neither beginning nor ending, more the demigods and seers cannot penetrate. The compound word asanga-sastrena means the wisdom of non-attachment arising from association with Vaisnava devotees of the Supreme Lord. With the sword of detachment sharpened by meditation on the wisdom of renunciation. By this method the world does not become a place of bondage. By knowledge of the Vedic scriptures and practice the knowledge of the brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence will be revealed to one. It is confirmed in the Vedic scriptures that: Meditation verily is the way and the means for discrnment and detachment. Such a one will not be bound although others will.
The purport is that with the weapon of detachment one should sever ties with everything except the Supreme Lord Krishna and His authorised avatars or divine incarnations and expansions. The Moksa Dharma states: When on surrenders unto the Supreme Lord one does not suffer or grieve. Neither is one born, nor does one die. Such a one is verily situated in the brahman. Only one who has been graced by the blessing of the Supreme Lord can be elligible to become qualified to attain this. The describibng of the means of severing attachment have been given for the sake of an aspirant receiving the Supreme Lord grace. No other shelter or refuge exists in all creation other than the Supeme Lord Krishna and this fundamental understanding must be realised. Since this material existence is like a horse with an unstable gait it is known as unsteady. That it is immutable is because samsara or the perpetual cycle of birth and death is like a stream and endless until one achieves moksa or liberation from material existence. This liberation is determined by detachment. The firm conviction that the Supreme Lord is transcendental to everything in the physical existence is the knowledge gained from the destruction of this ancien banyan tree. The Vedic aphorism neti neti meaning it is not this, it is not that clarifies what is the unmanifest. Realising that the Supreme Lord Krishna is the seperate and distinct from all else is what makes Him clearly superior and paramount. He is the primal Supreme Lord, the only progenitor. All created beings including Brahma, Shiva, Indra and all the 300 million demigods are nothing but emantions from Him like rays of sunlight from the sun.
Sri Vaisnava Sampradaya:
The jivas or embodied beings immersed in samsara or the perpetual cycle of birth and death are unable to comprehend this asvattha or banyan tree and its symbolism. It is impossible for them to understand that this tree symbolising material existence has its root above in Satyloka with Brahma and its branches descending downwards are all the innumerable jivas or embodied beings throughout all of creation and that humans are its terminals from where there are branches spreading upwards as well determined by karma or reactions to actions based upon following or ignoring the injunctions and prohibitions of the Vedic scriptures which apply when one finally achieves a human form out of the millions of different plants, birds, fish and animal species. As a human one is quickly indoctrinated into samsara with the conceptions of I am. I am a man. I am a king. I am the son of this person. I am the wife of that person. I am beautiful. I am great, etc., etc. Such I am conceptions keeps one locked in samsara and causes one to be fully occupied with mundane concerns and worldly affairs appropriate to such conceptions. Such persons look upon their bodily conceptions as there very self and are completely oblivious that they are factually eternal beings possessing an atma or immortal soul. They perceive not that they can gradually wean themselves from this ancient tree by renuciation of the three gunas or modes of material nature and detachment from the objects of the senses. Neither do they comprehend that the atma is seperate and distinct from the physical body. Nor can they differentiate that the ego is not the physical body and the atma is not the ego. Bewildered by illusion they believe what is unreal to be real and what is real they cannot perceive. The origin and source is unfathomable to them and so deluded they remain in ignorance.
This asvattha tree with roots above and branches below that keeps the jiva enslaved in samsara can only be destroyed by the sword of non-attachment to objects of the senses. This renunciation arises from bhakti or exclusive loving devotion to the Supreme Lord Krishna which is the highest good and apex of all to be attained by every jivas and paramount to every other conceivable activity in existence throughout all of creation. Demolishing this strong and durable asvattha tree by the sharp weapon of detachment from sense objects produces disike and disdain for sense gratification which creates a desire for pure, sublime spiritual experiences which when one attains can no longer be subjected to the influence of the three gunas or modes of material nature. How can such a state of consciousness manifest and detachment from the gunas which causes delusion be guaranteed?
Lord Krishna has already previously confirmed in chapter VII.VII: That there is nothing superior to Him. In chapter VII.XIV: That those who surrender unto Him alone can surmount the three gunas. In chapter IX, X: That material nature is operating under His control. In X.VIII: That He is the origin and source of all material and spiritual worlds. So let glorious propitiation and devotion be given unto the Supreme Lord Krishna as He alone is the sole refuge of all living entities. Inasmuch as all material impressions, instincts and influences arise from contact with the three gunas proceeding from prakriti the material substratum pervading physical existence which is controlled byHim. It is logical to understand that by Him they can also be transcended. The question that naturally comes to mind is how? The word prapadye means surrender. In VII.XIV is stated prapadyante or have surrendered. In this verse a variant is stated as prapadye yatah which by the gramatical rules of Panini can be interpreted as prapadye iyatah meaning by a mere step of surrendering unto Him spiritual impressions, instincts and influences are activated and awaken in such a one. They will manifest as spontaneous impulses arising with frequency in the heart and dispel all nescience. They are ancient because they embody the collective consciousness of all the mumukshas or achievers of moksa or liberation from material existence since time immemorial, who surrendered and took refuge of the Supreme Lord Krishna or His authorised incarnation and expansion as revealed in Vedic scriptures and were released forever from the bondage of samsara.
Kumara Vaisnava Sampradaya:
Lord Krishna is explaining that knowledge of this asvattha or banyan tree which symbolises material nature is very rarely understood and not by many. What its roots and branches represent, described as all the jivas or embodied beings is not perceived but by a few in this world. It has neither a beginning nor an end as its stream of samsara or the perpetual cycle of birth amd death is continuous. It is very difficult to fathom from a human perspectuive on Earth. Does it begin for each jiva at birth? Does it end when a jiva disentangles themselves from material nature by detachment? Is it relative to the individual or is it collective? From what position is it operating: beginning, middle or end? So from all these suppositions it can be understood that this tree is beyond perception of the five mundane senses and the mind. To terminate this firmly rooted and durable asvattha tree in the form of material existence with its ardent desires for name, fame, wealth and family which link to the evils of birth, old age, disease and death for everyone; is a very serious and extremely difficult task to accomplish. Yet it can be overcome by bhakti or exclusive loving devotion unto the Supreme Lord Krishna which insures detachment from the objects of the senses and sensual pleasures. One desirous of their own best interests and highest good will by the sharp intellect of discrimination and the formidable weapon of dispassion abandon all desires for sense gratification which are products of the three gunas or modes of material nature. Succeeding by knowledge and effort one should then diligently strive for the Supreme state of consciousness for once attaining one is no longer subject to samsara and never again returns to the material worlds.
The question in mind is how can this be accomplished? Lord Krishna has already confirmed previously in chaper VII.XIV: That although His maya or illusory potency in the material existence is almost impossible to overcome, those who prapadye or surrender unto Him are able to transcend it. This means by completely making Him their sole refuge they activate the inherent divine potency abiding within the atma or immortal soul of all jivas. This divine potency is eternally on standby waiting for the jiva to turn away from the external mundane world and look internally for the atma within one's heart. The Supreme Lord Krishna has made all provisions for this activation to immeadiately come into effect the very moment one fully surrenders unto Him or any of His authorised incarnations and expansions. How wonderful! How merciful is the Supreme Lord Krishna. Without His mercy, without His grace through His bonafide representative, the spiritual master in authorised disiplic succession as revealed in the Vedic scriptures, it is totally impossible to be released from samsara and achieve moksa or liberation from material existence. Those blessed spiritual beings who take complete shelter in the Supreme Lord transcend this world and go to the eternal spiritual worlds never to return again. As for all the others they are recycled byck into the material existence incessantly and subject to the Supreme Lords eight-fold potencies of earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intellect and false ego which comprises prakriti or the physical substratum pervading physical existence as the Supreme Lord Himself has stated in VII.IV.