In the 15th Chapter of Srimad Bhagavad Gita- Lord Krishna compares the material world with a Banyan tree. Lord Krishna starts the Chapter 15 with this Verse,
ऊर्ध्वमूलमध:शाखमश्वत्थं प्राहुरव्ययम् |
छन्दांसि यस्य पर्णानि यस्तं वेद स वेदवित् ||
asvattham prahur avyayam
chandāmsi yasya parnani
yas tam veda sa veda-vit
The Supreme Personality of Godhead said:
It is said that there is an imperishable banyan tree that has its roots upward and its branches down and whose leaves are the Vedic hymns. One who knows this tree is the knower of the Vedas.”
In this section of Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna is talking about material world, how a living entity gets entangled in the material world, the spiritual world which is the actual source of the material world and the need for developing detachment. The Analogy of a Banyan tree is used to show how the material world is a perverted reflection of the spiritual world.
There are a number of lessons that can be learnt from this Analogy as below,
• Material World:
Lord Krishna compares the material world to an inverted Banyan tree, with its roots upward and branches downward because it is being reflected on the water. The tree of material world is only a reflection of the spiritual world. The living entity’s desires are compared to water, as the reflection of the tree is situated on water. Thus, desire is the cause of where a living being situated. A living being performing fruitive activities is like a bird, jumping from the branch to branch, enjoying the fruits of the tree which are Dharma, Artha, Kama and moksha.
•The temporality of the material world:
The banyan tree analogy signifies that this material world is not only unreal and perverted reflection of spiritual world, but it is temporary. A tree is not going to live forever. Similarly, all the living entities wandering in the material world are not going to be permanently situated at one place. Based on their activities and two possibilities are possible.
Some living entities might get liberated from the clutches of material energy and go back to the spiritual world. Other living beings are either promoted or thrown down into lower planetary system or lower species of life. These are no living entity right from Lord Brahma to an insignificant ant that will live forever. Both have duration of life span, after which they have to take birth in a different body. That’s why, Lord Krishna, elsewhere in Bhagavad Gita calls this material world as “Dukhalayam, Ashaswatham” place of misery and temporary.
•Perverted reflection of Spiritual world :
The material world as explained above is temporary and just like the reflection of the tree in the water is inverted, what we see in the material world is a reflection of an original form the spiritual world. Thus, everything that we see here actually exists in spiritual world, but in a form and quality completely different made up of Sat, Chit and Ananda, Eternality, Knowledge and Bliss. Therefore, we can understand that everything in spiritual world not formless without any qualities, existing as an impersonal light, but it is very much personal.
•Vedas and knowing their purpose:
The Banyan tree leaves are compared to Vedic hymns.
The living entity is hopping from branch to branch, trying to taste the fruits called Dharma, artha, Kaama etc. One should not become bewildered by the leaves and fruits of enjoyment. One needs to understand the purpose of Vedas, as explained by the Lord himself that the purpose of vedas is to know him and he is the compiler of the Vedanta.
•Cutting down the tree of material life:
The living entities are enjoying the twigs of sense enjoyment and depending on the branch they are, they have a different body and different senses. The tree is so huge that, it is impossible to get away from it. One must cut down the tree with an axe of detachment and renunciation. The sharpening of the axe needs to be done by knowledge and discrimination.
•Search out the origin of the tree:
It is said that the root of material existence grows upward beginning from the topmost planet Brahmaloka with the secondary roots in the human planetary systems. The origin of the tree is the Supreme personality of Godhead and to search for the supreme person involves hearing the knowledge from a realised person, and surrender to the Lord by surrendering to a bonafied spiritual master, giving up false prestige, illusion, free from dualities etc.
•Surrender to the Lord to return to the Spiritual World:
Lord Krishna explains that the spiritual world is a blissful place, without any miseries and is self-illuminating, does not need any electricity, Sun or Moon.
One who comes there will never think of returning to this miserable material world, unless ordered by the Lord himself.
Thus from this analogy of Banyan tree, we can learn many important lessons and points for practical application in life. As explained above, one can learn about the world that we are currently living, how one gets implicated and entangled in the workings of material modes of nature, vedas and their purpose, how to cut down this tree of material world, process of surrendering to the supreme Lord and getting back to the spiritual world.
Sounds reasonable. :)