Shrimad Bhagavad-gita

by Narayana Gosvami | 2013 | 327,105 words

The Bhagavad-gita Verse 15.1, English translation, including the Vaishnava commentaries Sarartha-varsini-tika, Prakashika-vritti and Rasika-ranjana (excerpts). This is verse Verse 15.1 from the chapter 15 called “Purushottama-toga (Yoga through understanding the Supreme Person)”

Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration, Word-for-word and English translation of verse 15.1:

श्री भगवान् उवाच–
ऊर्द्ध्व-मूलम् अधः-शाखम् अश्वत्थं प्राहुर् अव्ययम् ।
छन्दांसि यस्य पर्णानि यस् तं वेद स वेद-वित् ॥ १ ॥

śrī bhagavān uvāca
ūrddhva-mūlam adhaḥ-śākham aśvatthaṃ prāhur avyayam |
chandāṃsi yasya parṇāni yas taṃ veda sa veda-vit || 1 ||

śrī bhagavān uvāca–the all-opulent Supreme Lord said; ūrddhva-mūlam–whose roots grow upwards; adhaḥ-śākham–whose branches grow downwards; aśvattham–the sacred fig tree; prāhuḥ–they said; avyayam–imperishable; chandāṃsi–the Vedic hymns (that establish the glories of fruitive activities); yasya–whose; parṇāni–leaves; yaḥ–who; tam–that tree; veda–knows; saḥ–he; veda-vit–the knower of the Vedas.

Śrī Bhagavān said: The scriptures describe this material world as a special type of imperishable aśvattha tree, with roots that grow upwards and branches that grow down, the leaves of which are the Vedic hymns that eulogize the path of fruitive action (karma-kaṇḍa). He who knows this tree knows the essence of the Vedas.

Commentary: Sārārtha-Varṣiṇī Ṭīkā

(By Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura; the innermost intention of the commentary named ‘the shower of essential meanings’)

This Fifteenth Chapter describes how Śrī Kṛṣṇa cuts one’s bondage to material existence. He is completely detached from it. It describes how the living entity is a part (aṃśa) of Īśvara and that Kṛṣṇa alone is the puruṣa who is beyond both fallible and infallible entities.

The previous chapter stated, “Those who worship Me with one-pointed bhakti transcend the modes of material nature and become qualified to experience brahma, or transcendence” (Gītā 14.26). One may ask, “But You have a human form, so how will one attain a spiritual nature by worshipping You through bhakti-yoga?” In response Śrī Bhagavān said, “In reality, I am indeed a human being, but I am also the supreme shelter and support of that brahma.” This Fifteenth Chapter begins with an explanation of this point. Gītā 14.26 stated that after transcending the modes of material nature, one-pointed devotees become qualified to realize brahma.

What, then, is the nature of this material world consisting of the modes of nature? Where is it generated? Who are the living entities who cross beyond this material world by their performance of bhakti? What is the specific meaning of brahma in the statement ‘they become qualified to realize brahma’? And who are You, the shelter and basis of brahma? Expecting these questions, Śrī Bhagavān uses an ornamental metaphor to describe this material world as a wonderful aśvattha tree. The first shoot of this tree–namely, four-headed Lord Brahmā, the root of the mahat-tattva–sprouted from the seed of material nature in Satya-loka, the topmost region of the material universe.

Adhaḥ means that the branches of this tree extend downwards to such planets as the heavens and Earth, as unlimited demigods, Gandharvas, Kinnaras, demoniac species–such as Asuras, Rākṣasas, Pretas (ghosts)–human beings, and animals, such as cows, horses, birds, insects and non-moving living entities. For the fruitive workers, this tree bestows the fourfold results of religiosity (dharma), wealth (artha), sense-enjoyment (kāma) and liberation (mokṣa) as its fruits. For this reason, it is called uttama, the best.

Adhaḥ also means that according to the perception of devotees, this material world will not exist in the future. In other words, it is temporary and subject to destruction. For non-devotees, however, it is avyayam, eternal.

Statements that establish fruitive activities are given in the Vedas. Chandāṃsi means that those desiring opulence will perform sacrifice to the wind-god Vāyu by offering Him a white goat, and those who desire progeny will perform a sacrifice to the eleven Indras. Since fruitive activities make the material world expand, they are like the leaves on the tree of the Vedas. The tree only appears beautiful due to its leaves. Those who know this are called the knowers of the Vedas. It is said in the Kaṭha Upaniṣad (2.3.1), “This material world is an eternal aśvattha tree. Its roots extend upwards and its branches downwards.”

Commentary: Sārārtha-Varṣiṇī Prakāśikā-vṛtti

(By Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja; the explanation that illuminates the commentary named Sārārtha-varṣiṇī)

In the previous chapter, it was explained that a jīva becomes qualified to experience the impersonal brahma only by bhakti to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. This is because Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself is the sole shelter of brahma, or transcendence. In the present chapter, puruṣottama-yoga, yoga through understanding the Supreme Person, is being explained to clearly convey information about Kṛṣṇa’s trans-cendental form. Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the origin of the material world, is the Supreme Truth. But His separated parts (vibhinnāṃśa), the jīvas, do not recognize Him and have thus neglected to serve Him. Consequently, from time immemorial, they are bound in the cycle of birth and death within this material existence, wandering throughout various species of life and suffering the threefold miseries. They are completely unable to get out of this cycle because they repeatedly become attached to the fruits of their actions.

In this chapter, Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa, by His causeless mercy, is giving instructions about the nature of this material world. He does so in an interesting way. His purpose is to bring helpless jīvas out of the cycle of karma and create in them a feeling of renunciation towards the material world. He gives the example of an aśvattha tree to present this subject in a simple manner. Just as an aśvattha tree expands to an enormous size, with endless branches, twigs, leaves, flowers and fruits, in the same way, this material world also expands. Its various branches are the Ṛg, Sāma, Yajuḥ and Atharva Vedas and its leaves are the Vedic hymns, which establish the means for attaining one’s desires for immediate material enjoyment by performing fruitive activities. In this way, this tree of material existence appears to bestow the fruits of dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa to the conditioned living entities, who are in bondage as a result of their actions.

The sight of this tree is so instantly pleasing that a conditioned soul cannot possibly know that its fruits are poisonous, and he becomes enchanted. But devotees realize the poisonous nature of its fruits and say that it can only be cut down with the weapon of renunciation. The name of this tree, aśvattha, means na śvaḥ sthāsyāti–not existing in the future.

Those who understand that the material world is temporary know the Vedas. Bhagavān has clearly refuted the conception of the māyāvādīs who claim that this material world is false, or a dream. In fact, this material world is a reality and eternal, but it undergoes changes and is periodically annihilated. This is lucidly established in all the statements of scripture and of Śrī Bhagavān.

Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura quotes Śrī Bhagavān as saying, “O Arjuna, if you think that it is better to follow the statements of the Vedas and thus take shelter of material life, then listen. This material world, which is generated by karma (fruitive acts), is a specific type of aśvattha tree. For those who take shelter of karma, this tree is imperishable and its roots spread upwards. The statements of the Vedas that establish fruitive action are its leaves, and its branches spread downwards. This means that this tree gives the results of the living entity’s actions through Me, the Supreme Absolute Reality. Those who know the temporary nature of this tree indeed know its reality.”

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