ūrdhva-mūlam adhaḥ-śhākham aśhvatthaṁ prāhur avyayam
chhandānsi yasya parṇāni yas taṁ veda sa veda-vit
The upside down tree, with its roots above and branches below, is said to be imperishable. He who knows this, is the knower of Veda. – Bhagavad Gita C15.V1
In a regular tree, the roots are below and in close proximity to our feet. The branches by contrast are much higher and largely out of our reach.
In this metaphorical upside down tree, the reverse occurs. This tree, representing the Cosmos, has roots (the Source) above and difficult to grasp. They are so high above that they are unknown to us in our everyday experience. It’s branches (manifestations) are below, and readily accessible to us as all material and transitory things.
I use the word ‘unknown’ deliberately. It is unknown, not because It doesn’t exist, but because it is beyond words, thoughts and definitions. All definitions would render something measurable and finite. The roots of this tree however are infinite, immeasurable, indefinable.
When we speak of ‘our roots’ we are generally referring to historical or geographical ancestry. This is time and space-bound, and thus can easily be defined or communicated.
When Krishna talks about roots , he refers to metaphysical ancestry. This is timeless and spaceless, and thus cannot be easily defined or communicated.
How can we Know the Unknown?