"Purushottam" is a combination of two words - Purusha and Uttama. Purusha is Atma and Uttama means the best.

            This chapter contains 20 verses. God is also called Purushottama. In this chapter Krishna talks about a tree planted upside down, and traces its origin into Him.

The upside down tree - universe

            He says, "There is a tree called "Ashwattha". It has its roots on the top and branches growing downward. Its leaves are the Vedas. He who knows this tree knows Vedas. Some people say it is "imperishable". The real form of this tree cannot be seen in this world. Its branches are spread downwards and upwards, and are nourished by three gunas. Its twigs are the objects of senses. This tree also has roots going down and inhabitants of this world (the earth) are bound by their Karmas to them. No one can understand its origin or end. None can comprehend its foundation. Cut down this Ashwattha tree by the weapon of non attachment and then seek that place from which, having reached there, no one returns. Then surrender to this Purushottam from whom this very old tree originated and spread downwards."

            Ashwattha is a word composed of three syllables "A" means (absence) or "No"; Shwa in sanskrit means tomorrow; and ttha (sttha) means to stay. The total meaning is "there is no guarantee that it will stay tomorrow; which means it is perishable. Thus the tree referred to here is the Universe which is here today but may not be there tomorrow. This may be hard to believe but the message is, that anything that is not permanent can vanish anytime. Also, when we talk of tomorrow, we limit our knowledge to the day of 24 hours duration. But if we think of one day of the creator, it amounts to one thousand times of the four Yugas which aggregate to 4.320.000 years. Multiply this by 1000 and we get 4.320.000.000 years on earth. When this one day of the Creator is over, this Universe disappears. The new one is created by him after he spends equal number of years as his night. So when the creator sees the next day, the universe, he created the previous day, is not there. Hence the name "Ashwattha" meaning (of that which is here now) there is no guarantee it will be there tomorrow. So the tree is the universe or creation.

            It has got its roots up. The creation has come out from God. He planted the seed into His Prakruti and it started germinating. The roots came out from Him and started descending. As it grew, it became bigger and bigger. The entire universe including the three worlds and their planets are its branches, which grow downwards. The four Vedas, which have given expression to the creation of the time, have decorated it. So the Vedas are leaves of this tree. They cover all branches, meaning they tell us everything about the universe. It is said, by some, to be permanent. It is obvious that we on earth think of this universe as a permanent body. We believe that the sun, the moon, and the stars will always be there. But it is not so. He, who understands and grasps this, understands the knowledge of Vedas truthfully.

            The branches of this tree are fed by the three gunas. We have seen that these gunas are responsible for all action. They need sense objects for their food and they work through sense organs. All these entities influence and compel a human being to perform Karma. When Karma is done it rebounds, and the human being is born again and again. They are like fruits growing on the twigs of the tree. They come to life, grow and fall down. New fruits come and follow the path. The water required for the entire tree is the energy or God in whom the roots are hidden.

            In the world, all trees spring from earth. Roots are hidden in the soil. Branches grow upwards and fruits are borne on them. All these trees on earth are but an imitation of the original tree, the difference being that the original one is upside down. We have to climb this tree to go to its roots. We may all call it a game. We who grow on the branches as fruits have to start cutting the twigs (sense objects), branches (senses) and stop their food by controlling the flow of the three gunas. That is the way to go up to its roots. It must be remembered that the twigs and branches will grow if their nourishment is not stopped. Hence it is essential to control the gunas. Our aim is to trace the roots and reach their origin. That is the abode of God.

The upside down tree - the body

            In your own body, the root of the tree is up in the head. In meditation, when you concentrate in between the two eyebrows, you are tracing your roots. That part, is called Agni Chakra in the Kundalini Yoga. The place above it, at the top of the skull is called Sahasrar chakra. That is God's abode. All other organs develop downwards and the three gunas nourish the senses. In reaching Him in your own body, start from down below and go up to the root. Aspirants of Kundalini Yoga start the path upwards from the Muladhara Chakra near the anus and work their way upwards. This is the "Ashwattha" of your body. Those who are interested in knowing about Kundalini science may read other books on the subject. However, a word of caution. Do not try on your own to climb up to your roots by that way without expert guidance. You will surely fall down and get seriously injured.

Who can climb the tree

            Those who have conquered illusion, false prestige; who have won all attachments to material objects; who are constantly in Adhyatma (spiritual path); who have conquered lust; who are free of the dualitys like happiness and sorrow; and who are unbewildered, know how to surrender to the unmanifested God, go to Him

            Worshipping His form is a different thing. It is the beginning. Worship and other aspects of idol devotion train the senses and the mind to be non attached. Idol worship is the most suitable and ideal way to develop love for God. But in the end this love must transcend and go beyond His manifested form. When you follow any of the paths described in preceding chapters, you reach a stage when your mind is fixed on the imperishable Brahma. It is only then that you can really and truly surrender yourself to Him. When you surrender in this way, you reach Him. Surrendering to His manifested form paves the way for that. The ultimate goal to be achieved is to trace the roots of the human tree and make way to His abode. He is there in your body sitting at the Top. But that is your beginning. Your top is downwards towards arms, legs, hands and feet, the main portion of the body being supported on the hip joint. You make a beginning and reach upwards towards your beginning. On the way, you will start cutting down the branches and thus get rid of illusions, dualitys, false prestige etc.

God's abode

            He says in verse no. 6, "That which does not need the sun, the moon or fire for getting illuminated, is My abode. Those who reach it, never return to this material world."

            He is light. Hundreds of thousands of suns dazzling at the same time in the sky will not match even a fraction of His effulgence. The light that illuminates the universe comes from Him. His abode is always illuminated. That is the last stage you reach in your search for God. But once you are there, you cannot come back and tell about your experience. Each of us has to find his own way.

Journey of Atma

            All living beings are parts of His existence. The Paramatma pervades each of them by His tiny fraction. In the Purush-Prakruti combination of the body, the latter rules over the five senses of knowledge and the mind. But He exercises a pull over them. And when Atma enters a body He holds the senses and the mind. When He leaves the body, He takes them away with Him. How does He do that? The way a breeze carries away the fragrance from one place to another, does Atma carry the mind and the senses of knowledge.

            We have seen in pervious chapters that every Karma is etched on the mind, which also has all unfulfilled Vasanas. All this bundle forms the basis for next life. All intellectual achievements are preserved. The human being is given another chance in next human life to start from where he left and start going upwards to trace his own roots in God. Hence He ensures that Atma holds the mind and the five senses of knowledge all the time. The other five senses of Karma (hands, legs, voice, anus, genitals) are with the body. Atma does not need to take them away.

            This Atma is the actual enjoyer of all feelings. When He goes to another body, he obtains a certain type of ear, eye, tongue, nose and sense of touch. These are all then attached to the mind which He carries with Him. He enjoys what all these sense including speech do in the other body. Thus, your Karma is always with you. Whatever you do, will remain with you and you have to bear its fruit. If you hate anybody in this life, the hatred will be with you in the next life. Can it give you peace or happiness? Have you ever analysed your own mind to see, if at any time you were envious, jealous or hated anybody, how did you feel at that time? Well you certainly felt bad. You remained upset. You could not enjoy the super joy that is within you all the time. Now imagine that you will carry this hate with you, wherever you go, in this world or another, after you die here.

            The rule applies to everything. You may have been greedy sometime, angry many times. Did you have lust? Did you succumb to false prestige, abusing others, cheating, stealing, etc.? If you have, even once, you have that company for long time. The only way to get rid of all these unwanted feelings is to be free in this life. How? You know what you should do.

Who can see Atma travelling?

            We do not see the journey of Atma when He leaves one body and goes to another. We do not see Him even when He is stable in a living body. Due to our ignorance we cannot even think how He lives or travels. It is only he who has "Dnyana" can see Atma. We can only believe what the scriptures say. But it is true that the physical body is like a house of mud. However well you may decorate it, it will collapse one day. We know it. But what we do not really know is that the one who lives in it, does not collapse. He cannot be burnt, because He is the energy on which fire burns. He cannot be cut. He lives and moves about from one body to another, taking with Him the mind and five senses, wherever He goes. And that one is You, my dear friend. It is you in your body. Think over it, meditate and know who you really are.

            Only Yogis can see Him, with great difficulty, in a body. But those who have not reached the stage of self realisation and whose minds are not developed, cannot see Him, however they may try.

The light inside the body

            A Yogi is one who has successfully renounced all His Karma fruits, which means He is not attached to His Karmas. He can see the light inside Him and in other bodies. His eyes can penetrate deep into human mind and see further. He can at once know your stage in your path of self realization. He can see beyond your mind and intellect into your Atma. But it is also not easy for Him. A great deal of effort is required. But others who aspire to be Yogis or Dnyanis, have no chance of seeing Him. Of course, those who are totally lost in materialism can never see Him. What Krishna tells us in this verse no. 11 is, that Atma exists as an invisible power. He is the light in which the subtle elements like senses, mind, intellect, ego work. When He goes, it is all dark inside. These elements also go with Him because they cannot stay in darkness.

            Just as Atma, a part of God, spreads light in the body for its functioning, Parmatma, the God who holds the universe in Him, gives His splendour to the sun, the moon and the fire so that the living being in the universe may live. He illumines the world outside us through bodies like sun, moon, fire etc. and lights the inner world within the body through Atma.

            Just as He pervades and sustains all beings in the form of light, He pervades the earth and sustains all beings. He becomes the juice of life to the plants. He becomes the fire in the bodies of living beings and digests food. He joins the air in the outgoing and incoming breath which circulates in the body and with it helps the digestion of all four kinds of food stuff (food that is swallowed, chewed, licked and sucked).

God is everything

            He is seated in everybody's heart. He is source of remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. He is the one to be known by means of Vedas. He is the compiler of Vedas and He is also the knower of them.

            In above verses 12 to 15, Krishna has made it clear that nothing can move, nothing can live without Him. The statement made in scriptures that He is everything, is thus true. There is a difference in saying, "God is everywhere", and "God is everything." We normally say and believe that He is everywhere. We can think and accept that He is by our side watching us. But it is very difficult for you to grasp it if I say, the cup of coffee you have on your desk is God Himself. But not only the cup, but the coffee in it is also God. The chair, the cushion on which you are sitting is God. God is everything.

            He dissipates His energy in all forms. Sometimes it is unseen. Sometimes it is not seen but felt, sometimes it is in crude gross form. A small piece of stone is energy in stone form. If somebody throws the stone at you and hurts you, it is the energy in that stone coupled with the energy of speed with which the stone is hurled at you, that you feel. In the path of spiritual enlightenment, the last stage is to see God thus, in everything; not only in living bodies as a flicker of light but as an energy in every living and non living body.

Origin of Vedas

            Vedas were not written. They are called "Apourusheya" means without the touch of man. They were inspired. Sages who were on the path to seek Him, got the knowledge of the universe. They could see, inside them, this upside down tree with the root at the top of the head. They concentrated the life's energy (all the five vayus) coming in the body through the breath. They held the breathed Vayu at the base of spine and from there carried it upwards to the top of the head where they found the roots of the tree. That was the end. That was the place of the energy which was part of God. They were able to successfully bring down the captured breath, down the spine and out through the nostrils. They had seen the light. They were enlightened. They proclaimed Mantras in which they described their experience. They were inspired by God to know the truth and then proclaim it to the world for mankind to understand. Vedas came into existence. Hence Krishna says in this verse no. 15, that He is the compiler and the knower of Vedas.

Inability of Vedas to know God

            A point to be understood here is that even these sages came to know God through His smaller fraction the Atma. Parmatma was still far away. Sages were spiritually enlightened. But they were yet not with Parmatma. Hence, even the Vedas, after going over the minutest details, about Brahman and the Universe, said "Neti, Neti" means "not this", "not this", when it came to describing God. Vedas did not know God. Nobody knows Him. Only He knows Himself. When you want to know Him, you can reach the stage when you can know yourself, that you are the spirit, the light in your body. You may even see it and actually reach His abode. But once you reach Him, you become one with Him. You do not come back to narrate that experience.

Two types of Purusha

            "There are two types of Purusha in this world. One is perishable, the other is not. All beings are perishable in their material visible form. The real being who is in those forms is imperishable," Krishna says in verse no. 16.

            He calls both the body as well as the Atma as Purusha, meaning both have their origin in Him. As to the material form, He transformed His Prakruti into that form and made it perishable. He called it Apara, or lower form of Prakruti. Why lower? Because it does not stand on its own and cannot last for long. It has limited existence. Then He transformed a part of His energy into this material form so that the form could live and move into action. This He called "Para" or higher energy because it never dies. It is permanent and can only merge in Him. Since both are His parts, He says there are two kinds of Purusha, one perishable and the other imperishable. Up till now He has been talking about Purusha and Prakruti. Now He has gone one step ahead and declared that Both are Purusha. This declaration is made to emphasise the fact that He is everywhere. He is all in all. When we use the term Prakruti, we understand that it is separate from Him. By Purusha we mean He Himself in part. So there remains subtle difference between the two. It is the same thing like saying God is everywhere. But when both are called Purusha, we understand that God is everything.

            Now we get a clearer meaning of the terms Kshara and Akshara or perishable and imperishable. Kshara or perishable is the material form of God (Purusha) while Akshara or imperishable is the spirit in the material form. He is also Purush. One is a Kshara Purusha (the body), the other is the Akshara Purusha (the Atma)


            Then in verse no. 17 He declares, "Besides these two, there is one more being the best of them (Uttama). He is the imperishable, supreme God Himself, who has entered all the three worlds and is maintaining them."

            This third being is the Uttama Purusha or Purushottama. So God exists as living and non living entities by fractions of His being, yet still remains whole as a Supreme being and is called "Purushottama". He is called "Purushottama" because He is beyond both the perishable and imperishable, and also the greatest. Hence He is thus known in the world as well as in the Vedas. In the last two verses, Krishna says.

            "He who is not under delusion and knows Me, without a doubt, as the Supreme Purusha (Purushottama) becomes the knower of everything. Then He engages himself in full devotional service to Me. This is the most secret part of all the known scriptures that I have spoken to you. Whoever understands this will become wise and his life as a human being will be well deserved."

            The essence of Dnyana is to know God. But God is not just an entity sitting in Heaven. He is not also confined to his incarnations. He is unknowable by senses and mind. The first step in trying to know Him, is to realise that He exists in unmanifested form as some unknown energy which can transform itself into any form. Second step is to understand that the entire universe came out of Him and He, the energy transformed Himself in male form Purusha and female form as Prakruti. These two combined to create universe. All the creatures in the universe can be divided into two parts, one that is alive and the other that appears alive. The first one is the God's energy in superior form or Purusha. The second one is His energy in lower form, or Prakruti. The body of a living being, though also formed out of His energy, has a fixed life. It perishes. The superior energy within the body is immortal. It is imperishable. This one is the Atma or a part of Parmatma the Great God Himself.

To reach God's abode know yourself first

            In searching God, you have to clearly understand the difference between the body and the Atma. Then you must pay greater attention to Atma than to the body, because unless you know Atma, the part, you will not know Parmatma, the whole. The study of understanding Atma is called self realisation. Self is Atma, i.e. you yourself. Once you know who you are, you search for your own origin. In the beginning you traced the origin of your body to Him, as His lower energy. Now you trace the roots of Atma. You can do so by various means, discussed before.

            If you ever reach the stage when you know who you (the Atma) are, you concentrate on Him. To reach Him is not easy. He does not need anything from you, except one thing. All he wants is your undiluted love. Once you realise that He is next to you in your own body, you go one step forward. You start seeing Him in all beings. You are marching ahead. A day will dawn when you will realise He is so very near, so very near that He is you and you are Him. At that instant you may shout with joy "Aham Brahmasmi" (I am Brahman). That is the stage when you will not see but experience God.

            Good luck to you because once you reach there, to the abode of Purushottama, you will not return to us to tell us how He is.

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