Samsara-The Cosmic Tree
The story behind the piece. For years, the upside down tree was an image I couldn’t shake off from my head. Although I had a vague idea about the Gita reference, I had little to no understanding of its significance. It took a year to truly get the purport of the three poems behind this visual image.
ūrdhva-mūlam adhaḥ-śākham aśvatthaṁ prāhur avyayam
chandāṁsi yasya parṇāni yas taṁ veda sa veda-vit
With its roots up in the realm of Truth and branches growing below, this Ashwattha, is an allegorical reference to life. The one who understands this, has the wisdom of the Vedas.
(Srimad Bhagavad Gita 15.1)
The inverted tree, Ashwattha (Ficus Religiosa), is a metaphor used in Bhagavad Gita to explain the meaning of life and illustrate the vastness of the Universe.
The verse you see by the branch on the top right, is the inspiration for the painting. If you step a few feet back, you will notice that the tree spans many realms (known as Lokams). Satya Lokam, the realm of absolute Truth, is at the very top, followed by thirteen other planes of existence. They are labeled on the sides of the painting in Sanskrit.
All living beings inhabit this tree on a branch of their own, in an assigned form, for the duration of a life span. The position of the branch on the tree is determined by the laws of Karma. At the end of a life time, the soul/energy moves back into the trunk and is transported up to the roots to Satya Loka where a new body and a new branch to inhabit is created. And the cycle continues.
Bhuloka, the Earth, is the realm in the middle, where the decisions made during a life time of a human being, has the most impact. Branches pointing upward show that the soul has an elevated status, aspiring to reach higher realms. Whereas, the ones that point downward could indicate otherwise. The realms below Bhooloka or the Earth, are portrayed to get progressively worse in quality.
In my mind, when we as human beings (as a collective consciousness) choose to make decisions that affect the planet adversely, the result is a world that may look like the ones shown. A world that is nearing an apocalypse-like state ; fires that burn endlessly; total darkness and chaos are all realms of existence that can soon be a reality.
Also, in the realms of existence above the Earth, there are fewer branches and the quality of life is portrayed to be better.
Verse 2, 3, 4
na rūpam asyeha tathopalabhyatenānto na chādir na cha sampratiṣhṭhā
aśhvattham enaṁ su-virūḍha-mūlam asaṅga-śhastreṇa dṛiḍhena chhittvā
(Srimad Bhagavad Gita 15.3,4)
This tree has no beginning. It has no end. It is not rooted anywhere. It has no form that you can perceive. It is indestructible. Detachment is the only weapon at your disposal to remove your branch and break free.
So, how is one to break free from this eternal existence on the tree?
As long as a soul shows desire at the end of a life time, it is attached to the tree and will return to inhabit another destined branch somewhere.
Tree begins to take shape. While in progress Day 3 shot.