Home  »  Harvard Classics, Vol. 45, Part 4  »  Chapter XV

The Bhagavad-Gita.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Chapter XV

MEN call the Aswattha,—the Banyan-tree,—
Which hath its boughs beneath, its roots on high,—
The ever-holy tree. Yea! for its leaves
Are green and waving hymns which whisper Truth!
Who knoweth well the Aswattha, knows all.         5
Its branches shoot to heaven and sink to earth, 1
Even as the deeds of men, which take their birth
  From qualities: its silver sprays and blooms,
And all the eager verdure of its girth,
Leap to quick life at touch of sun and air,         10
As men’s lives quicken to the temptings fair
  Of wooing sense: its hanging rootlets seek
The soil beneath, helping to hold it there,
As actions wrought amid this world of men
Bind them by ever-tightening bonds again.         15
  If ye knew well the teaching of the Tree,
What its shape saith; and whence it springs; and, then
How it must end, and all the ills of it,
The axe of sharp Detachment ye would whet,
  And cleave the clinging snaky roots, and lay         20
This Aswattha of sense-like low,—to set
New growths upspringing to that happier sky,—
Which they who reach shall have no day to die,
  Nor fade away, nor fall—to Him, I mean,
FATHER and FIRST, Who made the mystery         25
Of old Creation; for to Him come they
From passion and from dreams who break away;
  Who part the bonds constraining them to flesh,
And,—Him, the Highest, worshipping alway—
No longer grow at mercy of what breeze         30
Of summer pleasure stirs the sleeping trees,
  What blast of tempest tears them, bough and stem
To the eternal world pass such as these!
  Another Sun gleams there! another Moon!
Another Light,—a Light which none shall lack         35
Whose eyes once see; for those return no more
They have attained My Uttermost Abode!
  When, in this world of manifested life,
The undying Spirit, setting forth from Me,
Taketh on form, it draweth to itself         40
From Being’s storehouse,—which containeth all,—
Senses and intellect. The Sovereign Soul
Thus entering the flesh, or quitting it,
Gathers these up, as the wind gathers scents,
Blowing above the flower-banks. Ear and Eye,         45
And Touch and Taste, and Smelling, these it takes,—
Yea, and a sentient mind;—linking itself
To sense-things so.
        The unenlightened ones
Mark not that Spirit when he goes or comes,         50
Nor when he takes his pleasure in the form,
Conjoined with qualities; but those see plain
Who have the eyes to see. Holy souls see
Which strive thereto. Enlightened, they behold
That Spirit in themselves; but foolish ones,         55
Even though they strive, discern not, having hearts
Unkindled, ill-informed!
        Know, too, from Me
Shineth the gathered glory of the sun
Which lightens all the world: from Me the moon         60
Draws silvery beams, and fire fierce loveliness.
I penetrate the clay, and lend all shapes
Their living force; I glide into the plant—
Its root, leaf, bloom—to make the woodland green
With springing sap. Becoming vital warmth,         65
I glow in glad, respiring frames, and pass
With outward and with inward breath to feed
The body with all meats. 2
        For in this world
Being is twofold: the Divided, one;         70
The Undivided, one. All things that live
Are “the Divided.” That which sits apart,
“The Undivided.”
        Higher still is ONE,
The Highest, holding all whose Name is LORD,         75
The Eternal, Sovereign, First! Who fills all worlds,
Sustaining them. And—dwelling thus beyond
Divided Life and Undivided—I
Am called of men and Vedas, God Supreme,
The PURUSHOTTAMA.         80
        Who knows Me thus,
With mind unclouded, knoweth all, dear Prince!
And with his whole soul ever worshippeth Me.
  Now is the sacred secret Mystery
Declared to thee! Who comprehendeth this         85
Hath wisdom! He is quit of works in bliss!
Here ends Chapter XV. of the Bhagavad-Gîtâ
entitled “Purushottamapraptiyôgô,”
or “The Book of Religion by
attaining the Supreme”
Note 1. I do not consider these verses—which are somewhat freely rendered here—“an attack on the authority of the Vedas,” but a beautiful lyrical episode, a new “Parable of the fig-tree.” [back]
Note 2. I omit a verse here, evidently interpolated. [back]