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

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The Imperishable Absolute and the Coming and Going of Beings – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 11, Vs 2

Mt Meru 8

The Power of God in You

Upon seeing the power of God in everything around you, it is only a short hop to realizing that God is also in you. 

The Imperishable Absolute and the Coming and Going of Beings

In this conversation between Lord Krishna and his devotee and childhood friend, Arjuna confirms his understanding that the knowledge that has been given him by Lord Krishna includes both the relative and the absolute.

From You, O Lotus Eyed, I have heard in detail of the coming and going of the existences of beings, as well as Your exalted state of Imperishable Absolute.

Arjuna is saying that he understands that Lord Krishna is not only present in things that come and go in the relative realm of beings, but that He is also the Imperishable Absolute from which they have come to be.

The “coming and going of existences” is frequently translated as the “origin and dissolution of beings.” It can also easily be read as birth and death, but I opted for the simple expedient of “coming and going.”

The Sanskrit, bhavāpyaya, is a compound word consisting of bhava and apyaya. The meaning of bhava is, ‘coming into existence, birth, origin, turning into,’ and ‘a state of being, and life in this world’. The meaning of apyaya is, ‘juncture, pouring out, entering into, and vanishing’, and is associated with ‘being in or coming from water.’

There is a strong association with water here. Water is the source life by which living beings of all kinds come into existence. Lord Vishnu’s first avatara (of ten) was a fish. In the verse, Arjuna refers to Lord Krishna as “Lotus Eyed”. A lotus is a water flower, its stem reaching down into the soft watery earth as it floats above the water.

All this works very nicely to lead us to the idea of the coming and going of beings, which Arjuna has heard about in earlier chapters. But here, in the context of these verses, the Sanskrit has lured me into taking a deeper dip into this ‘coming and going’.

Vishnu, Brahman, Creation

Chakra means ‘wheel’, yet chakras are referred to as lotuses. The body of adult humans is 60% water, the brain and heart 73%, and the lungs 83%. The surface of the earth is 71% water. Lord Vishnu is seen seated on the eternal Cosmic Ocean, a lotus streaming from His navel. From this lotus Lord Brahmā is born. Brahmā’s first sound, Aum (OM), signals the beginning of Creation.

  • Water – Fluidity: Of no fixed form; takes the form of its vessel; able to move or change; the fluid transmission of power between two people or things, i.e., shaktpat.

From the Absolute to the Relative and Back Again

We have spoken long on Creation as transitory and Relative, even though it has come about from the Absolute. Beings, states of being, and even life itself, ultimately vanish in the way a river vanishes when reaching its confluence with other waters—it is not gone, but becomes a part of a greater water. It is not the Real Self that vanishes, but the Being. The encompassing veil of the Being that hides the Divine Individual is dissolved upon its confluence with the Cosmic Ocean, and vanishes.

When we enter into the equanimity of nirbija samadhi, we vanish in this way. We return to our original situation in the Absolute where we are merged with That, our individuality in tact. When trying to express this paradox, the experience is often spoken of as ‘a sea of bliss’, or the ‘rolling bliss’ of the ‘ocean of the Absolute’.

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

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The Problem with Consciousness

Each of us is a two-part package
Being true to your Real Self can change the world.

The Problem with Consciousness

Being true to your Real Self can change the world, but there is a problem with consciousness that we must address for your Real Self to effectively emerge.

Awareness of the plight of others less fortunate than ourselves requires a willingness to be conscious of it. Because we do not like having to experience discomfort and pain, we deal with this dark side by white-washing it with social beliefs, religious beliefs, political beliefs, etc., and end in denial: “Everything is perfect just as it is.”  That’s the problem with consciousness.Making Life Better for Everyone is Easy

Try telling this to the suffering, hungry, tortured, destitute 95% of our world family and see where it gets you. If you don’t relieve their dilemma by at least feeding them, you will not be considered as enlightened as you may believe yourself to be. You will be found out as insensitive and self-interested.

Most of us simply do not want to know. We circumvent expanding our consciousness in order to avoid knowing, whether we are aware of doing this or not. We hide behind denial, and the suffering continues.

Consciousness is a Responsibility

Mind and Consciousness

With consciousness comes responsibility. Everyone is already up to their ears in responsibilities, so denial is understandable. However, it is precisely because we do not sincerely engage in our spiritual development and do the work it requires, we have no way to experience for ourselves the many blessings this would bring—to ourselves and to others. In this way, we forfeit our contribution to those in need of healing, understanding, food on the table, a roof over their head and bed to sleep on…..and a way to make progress for themselves.

If we take the road of feeding people, or offering medical assistance for instance, this is very helpful, and it may even get us in the door. But if we can’t offer these things on a regular basis, they will fall back into misery. We will have gained little more than the right to pat ourselves on the back.

The Amazing Effect of Expanded Consciousness

Most of us do not want to know that what we do or don’t do, especially in the way of our own improvement, has an effect on everyone else. We don’t want the responsibility. And we don’t want the distress that will come with it—we don’t want to know what most people have to endure on a daily basis. We just want what we want for ourselves.

The more conscious we are, the more conscious we will be of the distress of others. While we would also experience their good fortunes, there is little of this compared to the distress, and a part of us knows this. It is not a pretty picture. So we tell ourselves that we really do care, but there is nothing we can do.

But there is.

The Effect of Expanded Consciousness is Always Positive

We can pursue our own personal and spiritual development. But do we really want this? Do we really want all the changes inherent in progress? Or do we prefer to maintain the status quo, play it ‘safe’, and continue to selfishly seek happiness by trying to get our desires fulfilled over and over again? More than the desired object itself, we enjoy the sense of accomplishment and control we experience when we succeed. But it is this deadly duo that keeps us imprisoned in the very darkness we were attempting to escape. 

What is to be done?

The Solution

There is a simple answer to this problem of consciousness that may surprise you: 

∞⇒  We turn ourselves into sensitive and brave human beings who are willing to risk exposure to the suffering of others that will come with expanded consciousness.

∞⇒  We do this by taking up the project of aligning ourselves with the Divine Ones that we really are, and make some real progress.

∞⇒ We offer practical help however and whenever we can.

Do you not see the validity of this approach? If you study any scripture with a receptive mind and a genuine interest in Truth, you will find it there.
Each of us is a two-part package

Each of us is a two-part package. We are (1) Divine Individuals (2) embodied as human beings. At our core is number one, and in this we are all the same, regardless of appearances.

This sameness unites us all as a family of individuals we already know. We already know everyone because, as Divine Individuals, we are all the same, and it only takes one to know one. But before we can become aware of our knowledge of Others, we must know our Selves.  

If you still don’t understand this, or if you don’t believe it, consider this: Taking this approach may seem like a risk, but there is a huge payoff for you. And it will work, whether you know about it, believe it, or agree with it, or not. The payoff for you is more happiness here and now, and a more fulfilling Life.

You will have come across various ‘causes’ that contend that, “If everyone would just do such-and-such there would be world peace, or a cleaner planet, or no more wars, etc.” But what I am proposing does not require that everyone get on board. It is not necessary because the progress of one person will affect many. These ‘many’ will then come closer to making the same choice to expand their spiritual development and consciousness. And then one day, one does, and many are affected by that one. And so on it goes.

Truth is not dependent on our beliefEven if you just act as if this were true, it will still work. Whether you believe it or not is not important, for Truth is not dependent on belief. It is a win-win proposition that is pleasant and demands very little of you, pays you back in spades, and resolves the problem with consciousness…and makes the world a better place, and everyone in it a little happier.

Just as you cannot live in the same house with other people and not be affected by them, no one can live in this world without affecting everyone. So I propose that we use this to our advantage — ours and everyone else’s. 

As per the previous post (Bhagavad Gita, Ch 10, Vs 8-11), the most effective and enjoyable way to take up this venture is to do it with others. For this reason, I have designed Self Emergence Mandalas and Experiential Meditation Encounters.

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When you resonate, the worlds resonates with you.
Being true to your Real Self can change the world.

The whole world is one family.