THE TREE HAVING ITS ROOTS ABOVE & BRANCHES
....This tree (of Maya..) has its Root (Mool) above, and its branches below;
the four Vedas keep mentioning it. He alone realizes this tree with
Sahaj (Natural state of Bing, ਗਿਆਨ ਅਵਸਤਾ...), O Nanak, who remains
Awake (from the spell of Maya) and attuned to the Supreme Lord ||2||.
This elysian tree is in my Courtyard (Heart); in it are the flowers, leaves,
and branches - the Divine Essence (ਸਾਰੇ ਜਗਤ ਦਾ ਮੂਲ). (Reflect) on the
self-existent Lord, who is beyond Maya's influence, whose Light pervades all;
(Reflecting on Him in the Heart, we will also be able to)
renounce all your worldly entanglements ||3|| (sggs 503).
The Gurbani (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS) talks of the Supreme Principle that pervades all, and enlivens as the soul, the body, the sense organs, the mind, the planets, and the elements. Yet He is above the perishable and the imperishable. The Gurbani systematically explains us that the Substratum (Adhaar) of the ever-changing, finite world of plurality is this Infinite Unconditioned Factor. It also explains us that the Jeeva's (unenlightened individual being) endless experiences of pain and delusion are all caused by his own misapprehension of this Reality. Baabaa Nanak says:
As evident in the foregoing stanza, the very style of Baabaa Nanak's Instructions are couched in mystical representations, allegories, metaphors and similes explaining subtle truths expressed in various themes mentioned in the Gurbani. Unless a seeker is familiar with such poetic style it will be hard for him to properly perceive or appreciate what is being said and correctly judge its spiritual beauty.
When the subtler philosophical truth that has not been personally experienced, one cannot grasp it directly. However, with the help of allegories, metaphors and similes, the real nature of the Supreme Self and this material world becomes relatively easier to grasp, provided their definite purpose and intention are kept in the mind. They have extensively been used in the Gurbani with a definite purpose and intention. Hence such mystical presentations, allegories, metaphors and similes should neither be taken literally, nor their significance should be stretched beyond the Gurbani's intention and purpose. With this in mind, let us try to reflect on the figurative representations of the above stanza.
"This tree (of Maya..) has its Root (Mool) above, and its branches below": The picture of the mystical tree painted in words and unveiled in the stanza here serves as a beautiful allegory of the spiritual concept of Maya, egocentric life (Jeeva's enlightened existence), or Sansaar (material world: the place of repeated birth and death...). Baabaa Nanak describes the nature of material existence by a figurative representation of this Tree in order to produce wisdom and dispassion in us, so that we may uproot this illusory Tree along with our bondage to it.
This Tree-of-Sansaar-or-life has its roots up means it has sprung forth from the Highest Divine Consciousness (Mool, Source, Origin, Jot...). The reason the word "Uradh" (above or extending up) has been used is that, psychologically, it's natural for us to concede for the Divine Lord a high place of reverence, and consider the grosser and the devilish as belonging to lower status. This Highest Consciousness is One-in-All and All-in-One. Thus this One Infinite alone illumines and enlivens the body-mind-intellect apparatus by which it experiences its world of perception-emotion-thought. Naturally, therefore, the world of phenomenal existence is allegorically pictured in this stanza as the tree having it roots up - arising from and sustained by the Highest Reality.
If we stand on the bank of a pool of water, we can see the trees on the bank reflected upon the water with their roots up and the branches down. Similarly, the inverted Tree-of-Sansaar-or-life mentioned in the stanza is only a reflection of the real Tree of the Divine Reality. Maya's deception (ignorance, ego-sense, delusion, etc.) makes this illusion possible. This reflected Tree-of-Sansaar-or-life is situated on desires, just as a tree's reflection in the pond is situated on water. In short, this verse of the stanza compares the manifold universe and the egocentric life to the reflected Tree with its roots above and the branches below signifying this world of bondage - subjection of the egocentric life to pleasure and pain - which is the field for man's actions.
In figurative representation of the members of this Tree-of-Sansaar-or-life, Baabaa Nanak further paints this tree as having its branches extending downwards. All Jeevas (egocentric beings) are under the influence of Maya's three qualities. As defined in the Gurbani, Maya is that Cosmic illusion which makes us (1) forget the Self ("Hari Visrai"), (2) gives rise to emotional attachment ("Moh Upjai"), and (3) creates duality ("Bhaau Doojaa"). By coming in contact with Maya, our consciousness becomes conditioned. It then behaves as "limited", "mortal" and "miserable". In such deluded state, the mind free to escape through the defiled senses become easy victim of evil passions or desires which go out looting our spiritual heritage from within. Consequently, the flow of life in us (the unenlightened beings), as well as in the world, is more often downwards, catering to our lower animal-nature. This material tendency is indicated here when this Tree of extrovert pursuits and egoism is said to have "its branches below" - growing downward.
"the four Vedas keep mentioning it. He alone realizes this tree with
Sahaj (Natural state of Bing, ਗਿਆਨ ਅਵਸਤਾ...), O Nanak, who remains
Awake (from the spell of Maya) and attuned to the Supreme Lord ||2||.": Everything including all Knowledge is within the tree of the body. More the knowledge is realized or Awakened within, the clearer becomes our vision, and we find a greater manifestation of life. More the ignorance, less will be the dynamism of life. The purpose of spiritual knowledge (Aatam Giaan) contained in the Gurbani is to help mortals cut down this Tree-of-Sansaar-or-life (Maya, ignorance, ego, duality, doubts...) and realize the Unconditioned Reality (Mool) behind it. In other words, the person who has realized not only this Tree but also the One Supreme Lord, from which it derives its existence and sustenance, is the one who knows both Spirit and matter. Knowledge is perfect only when we know of both the Spirit and the matter, of the Eternal and ephemeral, of the created and the Creator...
Thus, he who has Awakened to his True Nature (ਗਿਆਨ ਅਵਸਤਾ...) within has realized this Tree and all "knowledge" attached to it. He is the man of perfect wisdom (the Gurmukh) - the knower of both the perishable and the Imperishable.
Everything that is seen is temporary. To have the Divine Knowledge (Aatam-Giaan), or to know and understand the temporary nature of the Tree-of-Sansaar-or-life, which has its roots in the Lord's eternal existence, is metaphor for knowing the Vedas; for that person who possesses such intuitive understanding is a knower of all Wisdom (Giaan). Hence, when we say that a person has the "knowledge", it is assumed that he knows how to cut off emotional attachment to material world (Sansaar) or egocentric life.
Thus, the real purpose of "knowledge" (Aatam Giaan) is to cut down the reflected Tree-of-Sansaar-or-life and attain the real Tree of the Spiritual Realization while living in this human body. Therefore, if we want to get out of this material existence, we must know this Tree-of-Sansaar-or-life thoroughly through spiritual inquiry (Vichaar). Only then we can cut off our emotional attachment with it. It's a man of Self-knowledge (Aatam-Giaan) who understands and takes this body or material world as only a reflection of the Reality, while the most of us take this body and material world real (permanent), and live our life cycle only to find death and agony at the end! A man of true wisdom, however, takes the life cycle backwards - he first thoroughly understands Maya, life, Sansaar and death; and then he goes on living amidst the so-called impurities of the world as Jeevanmukta (living dead).
"This elysian tree is in my Courtyard (Heart); in
it are the flowers, leaves,
and branches - the Divine Essence (ਸਾਰੇ ਜਗਤ ਦਾ ਮੂਲ).": Continuing
to paint the picture of the Tree-of-Sansaar-or-life, Baabaa Nanak provides
us here with more details thrown on to it. Manifest and the Unmanifest are the
two aspects of the same One Divine Principle. To put it in our relative language,
deep in the core of the Jeeva (unenlightened individual) is the manifest
consciousness, and deep in the nucleus of that is the Transcendent Reality.
Hence, both of these aspects of the Supreme Reality are within human body, which is indicated
in the stanza as: "This elysian tree is in my Courtyard (Heart)". In other words, this tree seems to describe one's inside (roots being in the head and branches below!).
However, overtaken by Maya, one only sees his body as well as the mirage-like world-appearance. In any tree there are flowers, leaves and branches. In the inverted Tree-of-Sansaar-or-life, the objects of the senses are allegorically pictured here as flowers, and sensations as leaves. We all know that in the presence of their respective objects, our senses and their wicked tendencies (Vaasnaas and Sanskaaraas) revolt against all our higher concepts and ideals and run frenzy to gain their gratification by partaking the "flowers" of touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste; and binding us fast to material consciousness of "likes" and "dislikes" (attractions and repulsions).
Human actions, good or bad, originate primarily from the "flowers" of the sense-objects. We experience repeated pain and delusion in the world because of Karma and we enjoy the result of our Karma in the form of joy and sorrow. The desire-filled and the sense-identified mortal indulges in the fleeting pleasures of the body-mind-intellect personality, thereby exposing himself to countless resulting pain and sorrows.
The gross material body is manifestation of the five subtle vibratory creative elements namely earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Anything made of these elements is temporary. Like other material objects, our body is also ephemeral, hence ever changing. The changes of the perishable body go through several stages: the body is born, it grows, it produces byproducts, then it begins to decay, and finally it vanishes.
Flowers, leaves, elements and branches of the Tree-of-Sansaar-or-life are constantly nourished by Maya's three qualities (Saatav, Raajas, and Taamas), according to the ego's response to their influence. Always present together in varying mix and degrees, these three qualities bind the soul to the body and to the earth plane. Consequently, we become conditioned and forget that our True Nature is Unconditioned Consciousness. With Saatav predominant, the flow of life in the individual is towards the higher evolutionary purposes. On the other hand, if Raajas and Taamas are predominant, the flow of life is towards the instinctive weaknesses. Thus, these urges for living the higher and lower value in one's life are maintained and nourished by the predominant mode of material nature or psychological tendency available in the individual.
" (Reflect) on the self-existent Lord, who is beyond Maya's influence, whose Light pervades all; (Reflecting on Him in the Heart, we will also be able to) renounce all your worldly entanglements ||3||": The purpose of human life is to live nobly, to grow out of the Mayaic mind, and to realize its Higher Source (Mool) from which the seemingly unending Tree-of-Sansaar-or-life itself draws its sustenance and nourishment. And this is accomplished when the following advice of the stanza is one hundred percent followed: "renounce all your worldly entanglements".
This enduring Tree-of-Sansaar-or-life is mentioned in many scriptures of the world, including the Vedic scriptures and the Bible. The question is: why the analogy of a tree has been used here to allegorically picture the Sansaar or the egocentric life?
The Sanskrit term for a tree is "Vriksha". Etymological meaning of this term "Vriksha" is: "that which can be cut down". It implies that the repeated pain and delusion which the world of plurality (duality or Doojaa Bhaav, Maya) gives us can be totally cut asunder and ended with the ax of wisdom born detachment. All we need to do is shift our attention from the Tree of multiple experiences to the Divine Essence within. But How?
The nature of the mind is to contemplate on something. Therefore, detachment from the worldly entanglements is never possible without attaching the mind with something nobler and diviner. Hence Baabaa Nanak advises us in the stanza as follows: "Center your mind on the all-pervading Divine. Let your rosary be the chanting of the Divine Name in your heart". As repeatedly indicated in the Gurbani, Reflections (Shabad-Vichaar, Jap...) strikes a mortal blow to our Mayaic tendencies (Vaasnaa...).
In order to fulfill the statement "renounce all your worldly entanglements", the consciousness must be withdrawn from the matter equipment of the body-mind-intellect through the Shabad-Vichaar. Which, in turn, stops the play of the body to perceive gross objects; stops the play of the mind to feel emotions; and stops the play of the intellect to think thought-forms. This is detachment by which we can cut asunder the firmly rooted tree of Maya, Sansaar, or egocentric life. When the worldly entanglements (desires and fear) have ended, the mind becomes still. In other words, the same consciousness gathered from the body-mind-intellect personality and experience as such, is Self-realization - the perception of the Unconditioned Consciousness as the origin, continuity and the end of the Tree-of-Sansaar or the Tree-of-life of the body and of the manifold universe. By the realization that the Mool in me is the Mool in all, and by liberation from all desires and fear, one becomes Jeevanmukta (living-liberated, the Gurmukh) who is able to retain this even in the bodily vehicle. But never again he will be forced by the Eternal Law to return to this false reflected Tree - repeated pain and delusion.
— T. Singh
Updated on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 8:04 PM (PST)
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