The analogy of the world as an inverted tree emerged from the discourse of Krishna to Arjun in the 15th Chapter of Bhagavad Gita while explaining the origin of the universe is more than a figure of speech.There was this intellectual curiosity and fascination to unbox this enigmatic tree puzzle when I was child and forgotten during growing up years.Now the urge perched back on me.
Urdhva-mulam adhah-sakham asvattam prahur avyayam (15.1)
Chhandamsi yasya parnani Yastam veda sa vedavit.
This is in Sanskrit and this just says that there is a Peepal tree which has its roots upward and its branches down and whose leaves are the Vedic hymns. One who knows this tree is the knower of the Vedas.
Let’s make the analogy more visual and brain friendly. Do I complicate it by explaining?Let’s see.
First,Let’s break down the semantics to know what the epistemology here.
Urdhva-mulam adhah-sakham: Roots up and Branches down
Asvattam prahur avyayam: They speak that the Peepal tree is eternal
Chhandamsi yasya parnani: Leaves are Vedic Mantras.
Yastam veda sa vedavit: Whoever has an insight into the mystery
or meaning behind this analogy knows what the Veda really is.
The root contains everything that the tree has, but the tree’s branches may not understand it. Looks like the root is grounded in the air or based somewhere up or a higher dimension (a subtle dimension) and the leaves are under the gravitational pull of the constraints of space and time (a gross dimension).
This tree’s roots grow upward(aerial) because they emerge from the nothingness/subtleness/a quantum field where universe is its manifestation. Just because the branches cannot see the roots ,the whole lifetime of the branch goes in a soul searching mission of finding the roots without realizing that the branches are an expression of the aerial roots.This explains our obsession with this ephemeral world,the only fleeting universe visible to our eyes.
This is just my version of the analogy not the authoritative interpretations of Sri. Sankaracharya and other experts in this domain. This cosmic tree has been mentioned in Rigveda, Kathopanishad and Bhagavad Gita. This tree is also known as ‘ the of samsara ‘,painfully stands for the long cycle of entanglements of birth,death and rebirth due to our emotional attachments with the material world without realizing in spirit the perishable VUCA(volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous )nature of the universe.
On further research, It’s been observed that there have been scattered literature on the mystic mystery tree in Indian Mythology,Biblical studies and Astrological observations.
To my big surprise, the magic root from which the tree grows really exist.
On a moonlit sky, if we can track the Scorpio constellation, at the tail side, there lies the root and its trunk growing through Scorpio, its limbs coming out in Vishakha(In Indian Constellation, Vishakha stands for forked branches) fruit budding on its outlets in Phalguni (the Indian constellation Phalguni means “fruit of the tree”). A young girl stands there (In Indian Constellation, Kanya means Virgin and western constellation, it’s Virgo ) with one hand (In Indian Constellation Hasta, means “hand” and western constellation Corvus) she’s trying to grab the fruit. And there entwined in the tree next to her is a long snake (the Indian constellation Ashlesha means “king of the serpents” and western constellation Hydra).
In Indian mythology, no one is allowed to eat the fruit of this tree except the yogis who can handle it without getting entangled.
Does it resemble the forbidden fruit from the biblical tree in the Garden of Eden?
The inverted tree is a gift from the forefathers of humanity to detach ourselves from the focus we give to the branches, the leaves and the fruits of our actions that wither away and make us bonded to a limited world of our likes and dislikes and belief systems.
There is a popular Tamil (one of the prominent Indian regional language) song saying”Kannodu Kaanmadhellaam Thalaivaa Kangalukku Chonthamillai”.
It means: All that is seen by the eyes, don’t belong to the eyes.This song beautifully simplifies the concept.Whatever we see in this fleeting universe,don’t belong to the universe.Our sense organs and its perceptions are much limited compared to many animals that can perceive the environment beyond human capacities.
If one can bring the awareness of the perishable tree of illusion in our daily activities than discussing philosophy as a past-time hobby, then one can slowly detach attention from entangling actions. The vision of a tree that grew from the complete stillness of the sky can spray some sky dust, stardust or even the root dust on us to have a craving for something beyond mundane to focus on.