To Understand Yoga, Stand on Your Head – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 15, Vs 1-2

Ashvattha Tree

The Blessed Lord spoke:
It is said that the Ashvattha tree has its roots above and its branches below, and that its leaves are the Vedic aphorisms. He who knows this tree, is a knower of the Vedas.

  • Vedic aphorisms, or sutras, are similar to what we would call ‘sayings’, that teach something specific.
  • Vedic, concerning the Vedas. The word veda means ‘sacred knowledge, knowledge of Truth’. The Vedas are a large body of knowledge texts originating in ancient India around 1500 BCE, constituting the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature, and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism.

Yogeshwar was fond of saying, “To understand Yoga, you have to stand on your head.” And here we have an upside down tree! So let’s run with it.

Ashvattha Tree 1The Ashvattha tree represents the upside-down purpose of chasing desires. This action is contrary (upside-down) to Truth, hence its roots are above and its branches are below, signifying moving away from God/Truth and down into the earth, the mundane world. Facing endlessly downwards it represents those persons who misuse their lives by acting solely for the purpose of fulfilling desires. In this respect it appears to be indestructible, and yet, as far as the yogi is concerned, this is not maintained for even a day.

Trying to satisfy desires is upside-down because there is nothing you can desire that you don’t already have. You have but to call it to you.

If we think of this tree as the Tree of Life, the message is that we’re seeing Life upside down. We’ve got our roots in the wind and our branches buried in the ground, the earth, the mundane world.

Every time you use your will to get what you want, you move yourself farther away from God/Truth. Yet realizing God and your Real Self is why you are here!

Below and above it spreads, fully developed by the gunas, with the objects of the senses as new branches. Below, the roots keep growing downward, engendering binding action in the world of man.

  • Gunas – The three modes of Nature.
  • Sense objects – Anything perceptible by the senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell).  
  • Binding action – ‘Binding’ (anubandhana) is ‘the state of being a slave’. ‘Action’ (karma) refers to action that binds — acting for self motivated purposes.  

Sense objects are all the things we are made aware of by means of our senses, and which we either like or dislike to varying degrees. We act in order to have the ones we like, and avoid the ones we don’t like. In this way we live in bondage to our senses and our desires, and are constantly collecting more karma that keeps us bound to die and return over and over again, like a merry-go-round that just keeps going around in circles and never gets anywhere.

Acting for the purpose of fulfilling desires is not ‘bad’, it just stops your progress.  

Isn’t happiness what you really want? Isn’t that why you try to fulfill your desires? But your efforts to get desires fulfilled are upside-down — the result is the very opposite of what you want. This is what this verse is trying to tell us.

Remember that what you want or need is already yours. You have but to call it to you.

We are slaves to our desires and the price is bondage. This is upside down from how we really are — it is contrary to our Real Selves, who should properly be situated Above.

  • Aśhvattha – ‘where the horses are’.  Aśhva means ‘horse’, and represents the senses. Tha means ‘stay, stand or dwell’. ‘Where the horses dwell’. The Ashvattha tree is the body and the horses are the physical senses. Submitting to their influence keeps us where we are — we don’t move forward. Why? Because we are acting in opposition to our Real Selves. 

The Real You knows everything.
The Real You has everything.

Thus the Aśhvattha tree is cast in the role of samsara, the bondage of recurring deaths and births, and samskara, the continual resurfacing of previous tendencies. We must cut this tree in order to be free. How do we do this? The remainder of this chapter will tell us how.

What you want or need is already yours. You have but to call it to you.

Namaste (I bow to the divine one that you really are),
Durga Ma

Surrender Meditation

Shaktipat Kundalini Yoga
Spontaneous Experiential Meditation

Slip into a natural state of meditation with ease. Experience the relief of reaching a true meditative state without any effort and without using your will.

Receive shaktipat and become initiated into the original meditation of ancient masters from which meditation techniques were eventually derived.

Increase your knowledge base and begin Shaktipat Kundalini Yoga, Surrender Meditation. Though correct knowledge you will increase your progress by a thousand times, and bring about even deeper meditation and amazing experiences.

Shaktipat Intensives with Durga Ma are held in Phoenix, Arizona

“Every step you take pulls every one of us with you.”

The Whole World Is One Family

6 thoughts on “To Understand Yoga, Stand on Your Head – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 15, Vs 1-2

  1. katritam

    Dear Durga Ma,

    To wait until next week’s elucidation is nearly an impossible task for me. How to cut the tree…in a lasting way, and also to reach and remain in Trigunatitta!

    All of your writings have had and continue to have deep, meaningful significance in my life and sadhana. Thank you.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. The best answer to this is to just keep meditating and surrender more of yourself to more of God, and it will take care of itself. I think one of the most delightful things about the Gita is that it keeps saying this over and over and over again in different ways. Then near the end it gives this answer again in the Diamond Shloka (vs 66). In the verses surrounding it, God seems to be saying, “That’s all I really want from you. Then I’m all yours.” Then one day, you are reading scripture and you realize you’ve already achieved it and just didn’t know it because it didn’t look like you thought it would.


      1. katritam

        All that can be said is, “Oh, how lovely!”
        Your reply brought a smile to my lips and a gentle wave of peace, calmness and joy.
        You are my peace, love and joy!
        Thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. razielswisdom



    “The Real You has everything,”

    1. Does this apply to the physical world as well? Such as need for housing, money, food, health care, etc? or only the non physical self?

    2. Do the self realized also have to deal with anxiety when there is scarcity in any of the above? Or is there an abiding inner confidence that the Divine will provide even all of the physical needs (as per Jesus’ statement, “seek ye first the kingdom and all these things will be added unto thee.”)?



    Liked by 1 person

    1. 1. Yes, theoretically. An upcoming verse will tell you though, that “In this world, the Ashvattha tree’s form is not perceptible — not now, not in the past nor will it become so in the future.”

      2. There is an inner confidence that the Divine will provide. However, we all have bodies that exist in this material world, and bodies won’t always be agreeable with this. The body is designed to survive, and depending on the nature of one’s history, there may be programs involving fear and anxiety stored in the body that will arise when we start listening to this inner confidence. So a Self-realized, God-realized, person may run into this while, at the same time, experiencing the confidence of God’s promise.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s