Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 15: The yoga of the Supreme Person: Summarized
The 15th Chapter of Bhagavad Gita starts where Krishna talks about an imperishable banyan tree that has its roots upward and its branches down and whose leaves are the Vedic hymns and one who knows this tree is the knower of the Vedas
The entanglement of this material world is compared here to a banyan tree. The reflection of the trees in the water will be like their branches down and roots up. Same way the tree of this material world is only a reflection of the real tree of the spiritual world. This reflection of the spiritual world is situated on desire, just as a tree’s reflection is situated on water. Desire is the cause of things’ being situated in this reflected material light. One who wants to get out of this material existence must know this tree thoroughly through analytical study. Then he can cut off his relationship with it. Then we will be confused why the reflection of tree representing the material world is considered as imperishable and an illusion. Why are the Vedic hymns included in the material world? Shouldn’t it be spiritual. That contradicts our philosophy because material world is not illusion. Material world is real but temporary. The Vedas talk about the living beings, about the Prakriti, about Bhagavan the Supreme Lord, The analogy of a real tree and the reflection of the tree. Sometimes it is hard to understand these concepts. But Srila Prabhupad clearly explains each component how these analogy works in his purport for our easy understanding.
Srila Prabupada says, for a person who is entangled materially , material world is indestructible because he has so much of facility . The tree is so thick and branches are connected so close to each other so he can go up and down, but if we he stays in such a condition of material entangling, he will never reach the end of the tree and you will be in that tree only so in that way material world is indestructible. So, coming to the illusion part in the analogy is you see the reflection of the tree in the water and if someone comes and says there is no reflection then that is not true. There is reflection. And if someone say that there is a tree in the water and so I jump in the water and pick up some fruits from the tree then that is illusion because he feels there is actual tree in the water. So Srila Prabhupad explains that reflection is there , so the material world is a reflection of the spiritual world , it is real but the fact that you are thinking whatever that you do in the spiritual world you can do in the material world or whatever you can do for a real tree that you can do with the reflection of a tree then that is the illusion.
Then the next question will be why the Vedas are included in this analogy of material tree or reflection tree. For a person who has desire to load it over , the desire to enjoy the material world Vedas provide the facility They provide the Karma Kanda facility, they provide the facility for you to become to a highest position in this material world. So, in that aspect the Vedas are the leaves. It will nourish the desires you will have. In this way Srila Prabhupad eliminates all the contradictions helping us to understand the real meaning of the verse. The real form of this tree cannot be perceived in this world. No one can understand where it ends, where it begins, or where its foundation is. We can go from one branch to another of the reflection tree and be attached to this material world mainly due to weakness of heart or Hrudaya Daurbalya, which makes us to have—Material desires or desires to control the material world. To avoid this condition, one must develop Dhrida cittva— a strong determination and take the axe of detachment and renunciation sharpen it by knowledge and discrimination (of what is to be done and what not to be) and cut down the reflection tree, and go up to the roots and beyond that to the spiritual world which is a real tree. So, our senior devotees and Acharyas explain that when we are learning about the reflection of the tree our focused has to be like a tree cutter not like a Botanist. The Botanist they go very deeply what kind of leaves this tree has , flowers, which season it grows, but the wood cutter looks how thick is the tree, how strong is the tree, what kind of weapon I need to have to cut the tree. Same way when we learn about this material world our knowledge about this material world or anything pertaining material should be focused on how to come out of it, what kind of path we need to take , what kind of tactics or process which we need to take to come out of it. That is when we come to learn:
1)What is Maya?
2)What are the three modes of material nature?
3)How do they affect us?
4)Learn about different kind of temptations?
5)How the mind is diverting us?
If we go deep in trying to study these things it become Jnana, but it is useless if we are like Botanist who studies different aspects of the tree, but does not have the understanding that we should not be entangled in this tree. So, our attitude should be like a wood cutter
So, what should we do once we cut down the reflection tree, the tree that represents material nature by the axe of detachment and have gained sense control and does not associate with things that try to keep you in this material world and had the realization that material world is temporary, a place of misery and dualities and it is not going to give you fruits of joy and happiness, so Krishna talks about the next step, the surrendering process where you will know that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of God head. Otherwise it is of no use ; you are still in the consciousness of “I” focusing on only your goals and your own enjoyment. So, if you really wanted to be happy, get the joy you have to focus your consciousness on Krishna who is the Supreme Personality of God head. This is like going up to the roots and going to the actual tree where you get the real fruit and real enjoyment.
Krishna knows very well that it is difficult to convince us that he is the Supreme Person. So, he then talks about his Supremacy and all aspects of Supremacy, about his abode, his supreme Dham where it is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by fire or electricity. Those who reach there never returns to this material world. Krishna says that material world is different from the spiritual world . The material world is dark due to ignorance, but the spiritual world is illuminated by the effulgence coming from Krishna also eternal, knowledge and bliss, and just the opposite of the darkness of this material world. And Krishna say he is the source of all effulgence and the reason Srila Prabhupad explains this to us is to captivate us and generate desire to extricate ourselves from false reality and transfer us to the eternal world. Because in this material world we have this false understanding that Krishna is keeping everything nice and giving us everything bad and if Krishna has all the wealth then why doesn’t he give to people of this material world who are suffering. In fact, Krishna is saying here in this spiritual world I have all the wealth , and everything please come and enjoy with me. Why are you choosing the lower place where happiness is illusion, and it does not stay forever, always dark, so please come to my abode and see how nice it is so let’s enjoy together and he is trying to eliminate the intimidation by telling us not to worry. You have the right to enjoy because you are a fragmental part of me, like my child with same quality and eternally individual, so you don’t have to feel odd. So, leave the false ego, that the reflection tree is mine and the real tree is yours and come to me and live with me in my abode.
Krishna gives the reason why we get bound in this material world is due to the false ego of our mind because its carry’s all the impressions from previous birth very subtly like the wind carries the fragrance. You don’t see it but It has the fragrance whatever it touches it take the impression ,the fragrance and goes. Same way your mind is carrying all the impressions from previous birth and that is what making you believe that you belong to this reflection tree of this material world and wanted to enjoy. But actually, our consciousness is pure. Srila Prabupada explains that our consciousness is like pure water. If you put color in the water it turns to that color. Same way our consciousness is contaminated by the impressions of the previous births that is why we feel we belong to this material world and finding difficult to go to spiritual world. Depending on these impressions a new body is taken, where the living entity obtains a certain type of ear, eye, tongue, nose and sense of touch which are grouped about the mind and enjoys particular set of sense objects. For example) if you have a strong desire to fly you will be born as a bird in your next birth. You get appropriate organs to satisfy that desire. So, who can understand these differentiations? Fools can never understand this process but only a self- realized person or a person in Bhakti yoga who have taken up this process to come out of material nature can understand the reasons why he is stuck in the reflection tree, and though it is temporary it appears as permanent , appearing indestructible, and that we are part and parcel of Krishna, the fragmental part and we have the same quality and the reason why we don’t feel that quality is due to our mind carrying all the past impressions and making us take all these bodies. Then after explaining this Krishna talks about the different aspects of Purushottama.
Krishna says that the splendor of the sun, which dissipates the darkness of this whole world, comes from Me. And the splendor of the moon and the splendor of fire also comes from Me. How you may see the sun, moon but all that energy is coming from me. Krishna also talks that he is maintaining the planets by his energy so that it stays in its position. Though you are in the material world I am taking care of you, by giving you sun, moon, energy, making the crops grow, taking care of your sufferings and all so why don’t you come to the spiritual world where I will be still taking care of you and we all can be together and happier. As, far as Krishna is concerned, he is taking care of both the world. This is the energy aspect or Brahmand aspect of Krishna.
Then Krishna says that if you are so proud of your body that is also maintained by me. At the gross level the digestion , air everything is coming from Krishna. Even though gross body even though it is material is maintained by me. Also, the subtle body the forgetfulness, remembrance everything is maintained by me. I am responsible for you forgetting all the difficulties you have undergone in the previous lives. And I give you the remembrance just enough to continue your devotional path. You did some devotional service in past birth, you couldn’t complete it , you had lots of material conditioning , you fell down and that now you have to taken different birth so I make you forget all that difficulties and give you everything to remember the good part that is your devotional path so that you can continue that path. And that way Krishna is helping us with forgetfulness, remembrance and he is knower of all the Vedas and compiler of all the Vedas. So, any understanding you have with your subtle body , mind and intelligence through the Vedas also coming from him. So, in this way he is showing that he is controller of the subtle body also.
Krishna again talks about the relationship, the hierarchy of different living beings. This is called as Sambandha jnana. The first step of devotional service is to understand your relationship with Krishna, what is your duty. Our Acharyas and senior devotees says this is the starting way of Krishna telling about your duty , what is your position in the hierarchy. Though you are coming from Krishna why you are here and what is the hierarchy which you have to proceed and what is Krishna’s position. He is showing how though you are coming from me you are in the lowest of the hierarchy . It is not that you climb up and become me. He is showing the difference. He talks about fallible living beings and infallible living being. Fallible living beings are conditioning by the material nature, whereas the infallible living entities are the liberated souls in the spiritual world who are one with Krishna .Their thoughts are completely about Krishna, one with Krishna and they desire what Krishna desires. Examples are Yashoda maiya, Gopas and everyone in the spiritual world. They are completely spiritual and are completely driven to please Krishna only. Whereas the fallible creatures in the material world are under the control of material nature. They cannot be the controllers of the material nature, because they are under the control of material nature. Infallible beings they have nothing to do with material nature. They probably don’t even have an idea of what is material nature is, because of that they cannot be in the controllers of material nature. So, the only one who know both this world is Krishna, who is controlling the fallible beings and also the infallible being and he is different from them but superior to them. Though you are liberated you are inferior to Krishna. .
Krishna does not give elaborate explanation that why we cannot become God , and he is above infallible and fallible. Srila Prabupada gives a beautiful example is we don’t have to know everything in this material world, but what is required for us to know about this material world that we should know. Example, this material world is temporary and we should be detached from it by renunciation and detachment and about the Spiritual world I need to know it is completely effulgent with Krishna’s effulgence , and he is the control of both Material and Spiritual and he is higher than the material beings and spiritual beings. We don’t need to know all the logics. Srila Prabupada gives an example of a Father and his son. The Father says to the son don’t touch the fire. That is enough for the boy to be safe. He does not know have to know the constitution of fire, what gas it gives, all the physical and chemical attributes etc. The main important thing that the boy needs to know is that if he touches the fire his hand will be burned and this knowledge is enough for his survival. That is what the revealed scriptures do to make us understand to come to the point that Krishna is the Supreme and we are his servants. And Srila Prabupada gives another example. In early days of ISKCON the little kids, if we ask them who is Krishna, they will say that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And Srila Prabupada says that they have the best knowledge, and they are Jnanis in the world. They may be understanding or may be not able to give like an argumentative thing but as far as they are concerned, they are saved because they know Krishna is the Supreme and I have to serve him. They don’t need to know anything more. So same way we have to know what is required for us to know that he is in controller of both fallible and infallible and he guides the fallible as the presence of Paramatma in their heart. He is not thinking that fallible being are under the control of material nature, so let them be. No, he still maintains us. As Garbhodakasayi Vishnu He enters each material world and as Ksirodakasayi Vishnu enters in to everyone’s heart, in every atom as Paramatma in that way he maintains us. So, Krishna is reminding us again how he is the most superior person, UTTAMA purusha and how the hierarchy of fallible and infallible works. Krishna is not just there to maintain the material world or give the energy to hold the planets or provide energy to you but he is actually a person and also the original person which is source for all these. That is highest understanding. He is telling about personnel form, there is Brahmand effulgence which is the original illumination coming from Krishna ,that is the energy causing everything to happen, and there is paramatma that is there in everyone’s heart and guiding them to come back to the spiritual world and beyond these two there is Uttama the personnel form none can surpass. I am there in diffused form as Brahman, localized form as paramatma but even though these two are coming from me I am not changed. It is not I get reduced because I am full in person UTTAMA purusha that is the PURUSHOTAM, the Bhagavan form of Krishna. And Krishna says that all this knowledge is coming from the Vedas and I have given the Vedas to explain all these as Veda Vyasa which is also an expansion of Krishna. So, till here He explains the sambanda jnana or the relationship of different beings with Krishna and the relationship as maintainer or the Brahmanda effulgence, as a guide paramatma and as Bhagavan the enjoyer .
Now after the relationship is explained Krishna talks about the Abhdeya and Prayogana, the path which we should take and what is the goal. In Bhakti the path and goal are the same. The path is you have to chant the Hare Krishna Maha mantra with attention and submissiveness and you have to offer everything to Krishna and think about Krishna then you will achieve a stage that you are always chanting , always thinking about Krishna and are doing everything for Krishna. So, the path and the goal need to be the same. But the difference is the consciousness so in the path we are actually training ourselves through these things but whereas in the goal we are spontaneously doing that. In Bhakti Yoga we don’t change anything from beginning to end we are doing the same thing. Only thing we are changing is the consciousness. In other Yogas like Karma Yoga initially you start of Sakama , you do the duties and that makes you a good person, and then you give the results to Krishna that makes Nishkama Karma yoga and slowly you come to Bhakti Yoga but in devotional service in the beginning itself you are starting with all the devotional activities and in the goal also you are doing the devotional activities but in the mean time you are changing your consciousness so that you can do your activities with complete purity that is why it become an easiest path. Krishna says that I told you all the facts, what is material world, what is the spiritual world, what I do with my energy, that I guide you as Paramatma, and I am the Supreme Purushotama, the Bhagavan and if you understand all these things without doubting
and just perform devotional service and that is what is needed. That is the essence of all the Vedas. Know about these things as much it helps you to surrender to me and then continue the path and in the end (prayojana-goal) he give the goal which is you will become wise and will know the perfection and the perfection is to serve Krishna. The reason why the 15th Chapter of Bhagavad Gita is includes as Purushotama Yoga is it gives you direction and guidance what you need to do. For someone who is coming with a very surrendered mind and very humble mind that is enough for them to take the word and do this . This is the reason why we should focus on our chanting and always try to remember Krishna by not getting distracted. If we see in Bhagavad Gita Krishna talks about Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga almost in every chapter it gives you different options but in 15th Chapter of Bhagavad Gita, He says, this is what you need to do and this is the result , a clear-cut approach. With the help of Srila Prabupada’s purport you can actually understand that real mood and understand the hierarchy, what is our duty ,what pleases Krishna and act according to it. We should always use our free will in the service of Krishna so that we don’t go lower in the material world.