Chapter 15 – Puruṣhottama Yoga

To understand any situation fully well, one needs to have two perspectives – being IN the situation, and also being OUT of the situation.
The Lord described the INSIDE view in Chapter 13, where he explains about the existence from the point of view of ‘US’ (perishable beings).
In this chapter, the Lord explains the existence from an OUTSIDE view, detailing about how the divine energy / supreme being – PURUSHOTTAMA, is at the source of all of creation and and also pervades the entire existence.

Life – like an Ashwatha Tree!

The chapter begins with a rather unusual simile, comparing the existence to an inverted Ashwatha tree (banyan). It’s a very intriguing comparison, yet, just apt.

To ask to imagine a tree upside down, is necessarily to shake up our thinking process. To wake us up, to think OUT of the box, in order to grasp a topic that’s larger than life. To compare a tree growing normally on a piece of land, with the entire existence, is to suggest the life sustains on finite means because the land mass is finite. Thus, inverted tree with it’s roots drawing the nutrients necessary for life from ‘higher up’, aptly suggests the ‘real’ source of all nourishment comes from the divine, infinite energies, well beyond the finite land-mass on which we live.

Now the lord compares each part of the tree, with a part of our lives. The branches being below in this inverted representation, serves to remind us, that although growing, we’re growing ‘away’ from the divine. The leaves, represent the ‘Vedas’ he says. Leaves is where the energy for sustaining the tree is drawn from. Similarly, Vedas are the guiding light to lead our lives.

Continuing to elaborate on the example of inverted Ashwatha tree, the branches grows both upward and downwards, nourished by the Gunas. The Gunas, are nourished by the buds, which is the interface to material world, akin to our sense organs. The Ashwatha tree, also has aerial roots that hang down from branches, sprouted from these buds. This aptly indicates how the desires of sense organs (buds in the trees), consumes from the material world, leading to stronger bonding with the material world (sprouting of aerial roots).

This tree is so large that, it is difficult to comprehend the shape of the tree, let alone understanding the beginning or the end, or the source of the tree. The living beings keep taking different forms (as branches, buds, roots etc) within the tree, within and across different lives. To break free from the tree, there’s just one weapon – ‘asanga’ (detachment from sense experiences) – to nip the bud from growing!

How is ‘asanga’ – detachment, a weapon??

Try listening to your own heartbeat now – can you? Using a Stethoscope, you can listen to your heartbeat from many points of your body – it is all pervading. But to experience it without a stethoscope, you need to be in a silent place devoid of distractions. Even better, have your eyes closed and listen closely to your body. You can then feel it – more the silence (external and internal), you can feel it in every part of the body. You are reducing distractions, to be able to listen. Similarly, to experience the subtle, yet all pervading and all powerful divine being, it is necessary to cut off all distractions (attachments).

Thus being dispassionate, when one seeks the divine, he can reach the source of the tree – the divine origin, from where there’s no return to the cycle of birth and death.

From here on, the lord builds the narrative to explain about PURUSHOTTAMA, the infinite, starting from the basic building blocks of existence.

What is this basic building block – Jeevathma?

It is a spark of this same divine source, that resides in all living beings – Jeevāthma. It is this spark, that provides the sense organs its’ ability to perceive, and the mind to experience. These experiences, when good, creates craving for more of it. When bad, creates aversion from such experiences. Thus, repeated such experiences, turn to habitual tendencies (also called Samskārās), which always remain with the Jeevāthma. The samskārās remains with Jeevāthma, even when it moves from one body to another. Like how wind carries fragrance, Jeevāthma carries these experiences, even when it leaves the body, and also when entering a new body. This truth, the Lord says, can only be seen with ‘eyes of knowledge’. Ignorant people cannot understand this.

Let’s look at our mobiles as an example here. To use the mobile these days, you need an ID – gmail ID, or Apple ID or so on. The apps in your mobile are like sense organs. Whatever you do in these apps, it’s all recorded by the “mind” associated with the app. Now, let’s assume you want to change your mobile (the body is being changed). In new mobile you use the same ID that was used in old mobile, you will get all your data, apps restored in your new mobile. For example, the pictures you clicked, the videos you recorded – all are back in your new mobile. To get more subtle, your ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ in Social Media apps, are now replicated back in the app of your new mobile as well! All these are carried via your ID. But ID in itself is unaffected by these data recorded. Moreover, you can either accumulate more of these data on your new phone, or erase all of it, if you will. The ID, carries with it the connection to data. Similarly, Jeevathma, carries with it, the behavioral traits – samskāras.

Now, neither the mobile device, nor the “recording” of app data will ever work, without electric current. That’s like the divine spark, that gets every part of the mobile, every app on the mobile, to work. Technical know-how of mobiles, is the ‘eyes of knowledge’ here. Else, we simply will remain ignorant!

Jeevathma vs Pusushottama

The Lord, goes on to elaborate further, about his divine nature. He gives varied examples, emphasising his supremacy and all pervasiveness. He declares, that he is the one that illumines even the Sun, the moon and even the fire. That is also suggestive that he is the source of everything that shines. Think of it, is there any thing that doesn’t shine? We can ‘see’ only when light reflects from an object – thus shine is inherent in every thing – whether being source of shine or simply reflecting shine. In either case, the brilliance, the illumination in every sense, is from him alone.

It is only through his energy, that this entire existence sustains.

Look at any living being, there are a set of commonalities across all beings. There is birth, there is death. In between, there is life in a body. All these bodies have some basic functions in common – breathing, digestion, excretion, a heart that beats, a mind that experiences and so on. When the functions are the same, the energy required for it to function are also the same. Thus, it is the same energy that functions through every type of living being. This is what we call Jeevāthma.

Let’s scale this to macro level – this planet earth (or similar other planets) where all these living beings exist, wouldn’t have existed if not for the Sun (or the star of which the planets are a part). Who sustains the Sun? Remember, as Physics teaches us, even these stars have a birth and death. So then where did all the stars come into being? Certainly, there is an energy/matter combination that is beyond even the cosmic entities like stars – which is at the source of creation of such entities. It is THIS divine energy and matter, that plays out these divine forms into existence and annihilation. That divine being, the Lord says, is the ‘PURUSHOTTAMA’. This divine energy pervades the entire existence.

Thus, the true quest of life (of Jeevāthma), is to experience that divine being. And for that, we need to cut ourselves off the ‘Ashwatha Tree’, by using the weapon of detachment.

Note – there are certain concepts in this chapter, which is completely experiential knowledge, that is beyond the grasp of the author yet. If this chapter evokes interest in your mind, do learn about this from a Guru!

DISCLAIMER: This our sincere attempt to summarise the Gitōpadesha, via a series of short blogs. This is NOT the whole translation, or commentary of the divine book. We seek forgiveness of reader and the lord, for omissions which is inevitable to keep the blog short. The write-ups include both, writer’s personal opinion and summarised version of many shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita. Intent of blog was never to be a commentary of Bhagavad Gita, but simply inspire the reader to read Bhagavad Gita in it’s entirety. The writer is neither a scholar, nor a bummer, somewhere in between, with a firm belief that the lord gets him to do all the things he does. Being human, he still keeps erring. Forgive him for all such mistakes.

Sarvam Krishnarpanamasthu!