Faith

The peepal tree

The 15th chapter of the Gita opens with a reference to samsara as a peepal tree. But this tree is different from other trees, for its roots are at the top! Because the peepal is a sacred tree, Bhagavan chooses it as an example to explain samsara, said Valayapet Ramachariar in a discourse. And we must go through samsara in order to attain moksha. So, to that extent, samsara is essential. The peepal tree is called asvatta in Sanskrit. The word also means impermanent. So, it is an apt word to use for samsara.

But Bhagavan also uses the word avyayam, which means imperishable. How can samsara be both impermanent and imperishable? Samsara’s indestructibility is not like that of a jivatma. It is like a river. A river keeps flowing, but the water you see now is not the same that you see a few seconds from now, because of the flow. So, samsara continues, for we are reborn until we attain moksha. But samsara is destroyed through the axe of bhakti and prapatti.

The atma, however, is never destroyed. Why does the tree of samsara have its roots at the top? That is because creation begins in Brahma loka. The leaves of this tree are the Vedas. So now we are tempted to ask the question, what is the connection between the Vedas and samsara? The karmas that a person must perform are given in the Vedas. There are three types of karmas — kaamya karma, nitya karma and naimittika karma. Kaamya karma is that which is done with a view to obtaining some fruit. Nitya karmas are those that have to be done every day. One must do these karmas without questioning. Naimittika karmas are those that are done for special reasons. An example would be the observances on upakarma. The Vedas that tell us about the karmas, also tell us about the way to quit the samsaric cycle.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 11:12:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/faith/the-peepal-tree/article31956983.ece

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