Mahabharata Bhishma Parva Chapter 39

Mahabharata Bhishma Parva (Bhagavat-Gita Parva) Chapter 39
Bhagavad Gita Chapter XV

The Holy One said, 'They say that the Aswattha, having its roots above and branches below, is eternal, its leaves are the Chhandas. He who knoweth it, knoweth the Vedas.[1] Downwards and upwards are stretched its branches which are enlarged by the qualities; its sprouts are the objects of senses. Downwards its roots, leading to action, are extended to this world of men.[2] Its form cannot here (below) be thus known, nor (its) end, nor (its) beginning, nor (its) support. Cutting, with the hard weapon of unconcern, this Aswattha of roots firmly fixed, then should one seek for that place repairing whither one returneth not again (thinking)—"I will seek the protection of that Primeval Sire from whom the ancient course of (worldly) life hath flowed."—Those that are free from pride and delusion, that have subdued the evil of attachment, that are steady in the contemplation of the relation of the Supreme to the individual self, from whom desire hath departed, freed from the pairs of opposites known by the names of pleasure and pain (and the like), repair, undeluded, to that eternal seat. The sun lighteth not that [seat], nor the moon, nor fire. Whither going none returneth, that is my supreme seat. An eternal portion of Me is that which, becoming an individual soul in the world of life, draweth to itself the (five) senses with the mind as the sixth which all depend on nature. When the sovereign (of this bodily frame) assumeth or quitteth (a) body, it departeth taking away these, like the wind (taking away) perfumes from their seats. Presiding over the ear, the eye, (the organs of) touch, taste, and smell, and also over the mind, he enjoyeth all objects of senses. They that are deluded do not see (him) when quitting or abiding in (the body), when enjoying or joined to the qualities. They (however) see that have the eye of knowledge.[3] Devotees exerting (towards that end) behold him dwelling in themselves. They (however) that are senseless and whose minds are not restrained, behold him not, even while exerting (themselves).[4] That splendour dwelling in the sun which illumines the vast universe, that (which is) in the moon, and that (which is) in the fire, know that splendour to be mine. Entering into the earth I uphold creatures by my force; and becoming the juicy moon I nourish all herbs.[5] Myself becoming the vital heat (Vaiswanara) residing in the bodies of creatures that breathe, (and) uniting with the upward and the downward life-breaths, I digest the four kinds of food.[6] I am seated in the hearts of all. From Me are memory and knowledge and the loss of both. I am the objects of knowledge to be known by (the aid of) all the Vedas. I am the author of the Vedantas, and I alone am the knower of the Vedas.[7] There are these two entities in the world, viz., the mutable and the immutable. The mutable is all (these) creatures. The unchangeable one is called the immutable.[8] But there is another, the Supreme Being, called Paramatman, who was the Eternal Lord, pervading the three worlds, sustaineth (them) (and) since I transcend the mutable, and am higher than even the immutable; for this I am celebrated in the world (among men) and in the Veda as Purushottama (the Highest Being). He who, without being deluded, knoweth Me as this Highest Being,—he knowing all, O Bharata, worshippeth Me in every way.[9] Thus, O sinless one, hath this knowledge, forming the greatest of mysteries, been declared by Me (to thee). Knowing this, O Bharata, one will become gifted with intelligence, and will have done all he needs do.



  1. The 'Aswattha' is the sacred Indian fig tree, here emblematical of the course of worldly life. Its roots are above; those roots are the Supreme Being. Its branches are below, these being the inferior deities. Its leaves are the sacred hymns of the Vedas, i.e., as leaves keep the tree alive and even conduce to its fruits, so the Vedas support this tree and lead to salvation.
  2. Upwards and downwards i.e., from the highest to the lowest of created things. Enlarged by the qualities, i.e., the qualities appearing as the body, the senses, etc. The sprouts are the objects of sense, being attached to the senses themselves as sprouts to branches. The roots extending downwards are the desires for diverse enjoyments. Thus Telang, following the commentators.
  3. Joined to the qualities, i.e., perceiving objects of sense or experiencing pleasure and pain.
  4. "Atmani" in the first line is "in the body" as explained by Sreedhara and others: "in the understanding" as explained by Sankara. It seems, however, to be used in the general senses of "themselves", without particular reference to either body or understanding. An Akritatman is one whose soul is not made or formed; generally, "a person of unsubdued passions."
  5. There can be no question that Soma here means the moon and not the Soma juice quaffed in sacrifices, or sap. It is the moon that supports, nourishes all herbs and numerous passages may be quoted from Hindu sacred literature to show this. Mr. Davies, therefore, clearly errs in rendering Soma as "the savoury juice.
  6. The four kinds of food are: that which is masticated, that which is sucked, that which is licked, and that which is drunk.
  7. Apohanam is loss or removal. It is a well-known word and its application here is very natural. I am memory and knowledge (to those that use them for virtuous acts). I am the loss of these faculties (to those that engage in unrighteous acts). Mr. Davies erroneously renders it as "The power of reason.
  8. Kutashtha is rendered by K. T. Telang as "the unconcerned one", by Mr. Davies as "the lord on high." I incline to the scholiasts who explain it as "the uniform or the unchangeable one.
  9. Sarvabhavena is explained by Sankara by Sarvatma-chintaya (thinking Me to be the soul of everything). Sreedhara explains it as Sarvaprakarena. Why may it not mean "with the whole soul" or "with excess of love."