Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Canto XV : the Highest Purusha

From Prakriti to Purusha -- in fact, as the title of Canto XV says, to 'Purushottama', the 'Highest Purusha'.

One of Hinduism's most beautiful, memorable and meaningful religious symbols is presented in the four opening shlokas of this Canto. It is the symbol of the Kalpa-Taru, the Imagination Tree or the Wish-Fulfilling Tree.

Why does Krishna introduce the cosmic fig-tree Ashvattha with roots above, shoots mid-space, and fruits below ? 'Cut down this tree, Arjuna,' he says, 'with the sword of detachment. And stand up !' The suggestion, of course, is that the network of ruthless Karma, produced by Prakriti, embraces sky, earth, and underworld; affects gods, men and anti-gods (as Prajapati explains in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad); involves pre-life, this life, and after life (Kala in Sanskrit is Time for yesterday, today and tomorrow).

But there is another triad presented in this Canto which is of profound significance : the Purusha Trinity. One Purusha is embedded in the body -- embodied. This is the perishable Spirit. The second Purusha is the imperishable atman which enters the body but leaves it, taking with it the subtle impressions of the senses, like a breeze carrying the fragrance of flowers. But there is a third, the Paramatma Purusha, the 'deathless Lord', who is honoured in the key shloka 19 of Canto XV : 'I am above the perishable and the imperishable; therefore the world and the Vedas call me the Highest Purusha, Purushottama'. When the tree of Karma is sliced with non-detachment, Purushottama is attained.

Krishna continued :

Mention is made of a cosmic fig-tree rooted above, whose leaves ares said to be the Vedas; the knower of this fig-tree is the knower of the Vedas.

Its branches reach out below and above, and the gunas nourish them; its flowers are the objects of the senses; below the ground flourish more roots, giving birth to action.

You may not see its real shape, nor its end, birth and existence. Slice this fig-tree with non-detachment.

And hope for the end of karma, saying : I shelter in the Purusha that causes the birth of the eternal cycle.

Free from vanity, delusion, and attachment, passions under control, and unmoved by opposites, the clear-thinking man finds the supreme goal.

The sun does not illuminate this goal, nor the moon, nor fire; this goal is my abode, and to achieve it means the end of karma.

An eternal fragment of myself becomes an atman in the worldly cycle, and pulls the Prakriti-bound mind and senses of itself.

So Brahman enters the body or discards it, like a breeze receiving the fragrance of flowers.

Supervising the ear, the eye, touch, taste and smell, and also the mind, he enjoys the objects of the senses.

The foolish do not see him transmigrating, or living in the gunas or enjoying them, but the wise do.

Struggling yogis see him in themselves, but the less subtle and wise, inspite of their devotion, fail to do so.

The light living in the sun which illumines the world, the light in the moon and in fire, are mine.

Nourishing the earth with energy, I sustain life; become the fluid moon, I feed plants.

And living in life as the vital fire, I digest the four kinds of food.

I live in all hearts; memory and feeling, lack of memory and lack of feeling proceed from me; I am what the Vedas want to know, I am the knowledge of the Vedas, and the knower of the Vedas.

Two kinds of Purushas exist in the world -- the perishable and the imperishable, the Self is the imperishable.

Another, the Supreme Purusha, is the Highest Soul, the deathless Lord, whose energy sustains the three worlds.

I am above the perishable and the imperishable; therefore the world and the Vedas call me the Highest Purusha -- Purushottama.

The man who sees me as the Highest Purusha, Purushottama, is the man who adores me with his whole heart.

I give you this profound teaching in the hope that you will reach supreme wisdom.

No comments: