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Ashvattha Tree Teaching in the Gita Chapter XV

With roots, which upward rise and with branches which descend, the Ashvattha (the eternal banyan tree) is said to be indestructible. Its leaves are Vedic hymns. He who knoweth the tree, he knoweth the Vedas. (Chapter XV – Verse 1)

Sadhu Vaswani Explains the Verse
  • Krishna pictures Prakriti (cosmos, the world) as the Ashvattha tree.
  • The word ‘Ashvattha’ means ‘not stable,’ ‘in a flux.’
The Ashvattha was in popular belief, a tree growing with its roots spread above, its branches below. Is not the world such a tree?

The ashvattha is the banyan tree. Is not the world the eternal banyan? It proceeds from avyakta maya – but above it is God. But only men of vairagya (detachment) will see the world tree in God and know that its root rises upward in the eternal.

Of this cosmic or world-tree, the tree of prakriti, the roots rise upward, i.e., are above the ground or the visible world. The root is high above in the avyakta, the unmanifest the root is maya.

The tree has leaves: they were the Vedic mantras, hymns. The leaves give shade and shelter. So in life’s journey, in this world, men may find shade and shelter in the Vedic hymns, in the great thoughts and mantras of the Rishis and the sages.