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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Trees, Devotion, Music and Perfection – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 10, Vs 26

Ma Durga, the Ultimate Power
Durga Ma

The image of Durga Ma is a map of successful yoga.
From left to right:

Her right hand gives blessings and initiation. Mace – scepter of sovereignty. Sword – Khechari mudra, cuts away attachments. Discus – chakra. Conch – cochlea of the inner ear suggesting yawning, the call to meditation, and divine sound. Trident – prana, apana and kundalini (and their channels, pingala, ida and sushumna), and the trinity of Brahma & Saraswati (Brahma’s shakti, or power), Vishnu & Lakshmi (Vishnu’s power), and Shiva & Parvati (Shiva’s power). Bow and arrow – the instrument of union (yoga). Lotus – the flower of heaven that floats above the water with its stem reaching down into the earth suggesting the sushumna nadi (the central channel in the body) and soma, or ‘moon juice’.

Durga Ma is the ultimate power and one’s greatest ally for reaching the fulfillment of yoga sadhana, for she demolishes the most difficult of obstacles to this end. She rides a tiger, the most dangerous of predatory creatures, suggesting that She has mastered the most dangerous of creatures, the body. We humans are servants to our bodies; they run things, they run us, and they run our lives. We are mistakenly identified with our bodies as ourselves. Durga Ma is not. For Durga Ma, She is the master, not the mastered.

The Power of God & You

The manifestations of God in the world, in you, and in the entire universe.

The eighteen chapters of the Bhagavad Gita is a conversation between Arjuna and his childhood friend and Guru, Lord Krishna. Arjuna has asked Him to explain how He, as Absolute God, exists within Creation (beginning with verses 19-20, “God in You”):

Trees, Devotion, Music and Perfection

Of trees, I am the Tree of Life. Of divine Seers, I am Narada. Of the Gandharvas, I am Chitraratha. Of siddhas, I am Kapila Muni.

Of trees, I am the Tree of Life
‘Where horses stand’, I am ‘the bringer of fruit’.
In the body, I am the channels of Life Energy, Prana, the bringer of good results (fruits).

The Sanskrit word for ‘tree’ means ‘where horses stand’.

  • Horses – the senses
  • Tree – where the senses are situated
  • Fruit-bearing – bringing results

This tree with all its branches represents the channels for the flow of fluids and energy in the body. The main trunk of the tree represents the spine, the central nervous system, and the sushumna nadi, the ‘kind and gracious’ central energy channel. But there is also another concept concerning this tree… 

Tree of Life
Yogeshwar used to say that to understand Yoga, you have to stand on your head.

This Eternal tree, called Ashvattha (‘where horses stand’), has its roots above and its branches below. Only yogis are allowed to eat the fruit of this tree, for only yogis can handle its power.

Because of this exclusivity, we may conclude that these ‘fruits’ are obtained not by the senses, but by their faculties. These faculties are powers of perception, powers of knowing, that are inherent in the Real Divine You, by which you are able to experience God/Truth and Divine manifestations directly (without any means) in meditation. 

According to discoveries made in Mohenjo-Daro (an archeological site), the Ashvattha tree was revered in India more than a thousand years before the oldest parts of the Bible were written.

Of the divine Seers, I am Narada
Narada MuniOf divine sages, I am Narada, the great devotee. From nara, man, or nari, woman, specifically a yogi or yogini who has reached a stage of yoga sadhana in which he or she can commune in meditation with others in or beyond that stage.  

Narada is the enraptured bard and devotee who sings to God constantly, even though everyone thinks he is only a crazy man. Narada is the ultimate musician and devotee.

Of the Gandharvas, I am Chitraratha
Of celestial musicians, I am Chitraratha, ‘of unusual and wondrous form’. 

Chitraratha means, ‘having a bright chariot’. The ‘chariot’ refers to a body, or form, used for getting around.  A gandharva’s form is bright and extraordinary in appearance. Gandharvas can be seen in meditation. They have beautiful bodies (chariots), are extremely attractive, and herald a new stage of yoga sadhana

Of the siddhas, I am Kapila Muni
Of the ‘the perfected’, I am Kapila Muni. 

Kapila Muni

Muni means, saint, sage, seer, ascetic, devotee, or hermit, from mu, ‘final emancipation’. Kapila was a perfected yogi, and is an Immortal Master. He is considered to be the greatest of psychologists and philosophers, and the founder of Sankhya (chapter two). 

The word kapila is also said to be derived from kamp, meaning a tremor, or a trembling or shaking motion. This is an effect experienced in advanced stages of yoga sadhana when the energy is established at the sixth chakra. This may present as a certain kind of pranayama (‘life energy restraint’), and may spontaneously manifest as a dynamic form of breathing that increases and stabilizes the powerful concentration of the energy at the sixth chakra. This occurs when Prana tries to keep the energy in place (restrained) when outside influences are different than what Prana in trying to achieve. 

This verse then, tells us about a very special tree, and the close relationship of music and devotion as a means of reaching perfection.

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

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