We’ve all seen a tree reflected in a pond. The actual tree has its roots downward and its branches up, but the reflection has its roots upwards and branches downwards. The reflection is not the real tree. In the same way, the spiritual world is the reality, and the material world, where we now find ourselves, is the upside down reflection.

Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, Chapter 15, text one, states, “The Blessed Lord said: There is a banyan tree which has its roots upward and its branches down and whose leaves are the Vedic hymns. One who knows this tree is the knower of the Vedas.”

We are presently entangled in this reflection of the real tree, or the upside down banyan tree, and we cannot see or access the real tree. We are living in the illusory reflection of the real thing. Srila Prabhupada explains, “For one who is engaged in fruitive activities, there is no end to the banyan tree. He wanders from one branch to another, to another, to another. The tree of this material world has no end, and for one who is attached to this tree, there is no possibility of liberation. The Vedic hymns, meant for elevating oneself, are called the leaves of this tree.”

Like the way the roots of the real tree and the reflection tree meet at the edge of the reservoir of water, which may be likened to the source of the creation of the reflection tree, the roots of the upside down banyan tree of the material world begin from where Lord Brahma, the source of the creation of the material universe, is located. This is the topmost planet of this universe. From the root, growing down, the entire universe expands, with so many branches growing in all directions that represent various planetary systems. These branches, and the entire upside down tree, actually, are nourished by the modes of material nature. There are also other root systems that are attached to various planets in the material universe, although the main root comes from the planet of Lord Brahma, the creator of the material universe on behalf of the Supreme Lord. The twigs of the upside down tree are the objects of the senses. The fruits of the upside down tree represent the results of the activities of the living being, religion, economic development, sense gratification, and liberation.

Sometimes we see depictions of the life forms of this world, with the humans and animals being at the lowest point and the angels and other more elevated beings higher up. It is like that, the more dense forms at the lower branches of the upside down reflected tree, and the higher beings situated closer to the top, nearer the reflection of the main trunk or the root. But it is still all a reflection. The reality, the real tree, lies even above that.

The upside down tree of the material world is situated on material desire as the reflection of the tree in a pond is situated on water. The reflected tree is a replica of the real tree, the spiritual world. Everything is there in completeness in the spiritual world, but in the spiritual world, it’s in its pure form. In the material world, it’s in a form contaminated by material desire.

The material world is the perverted reflection of the spiritual world. The spiritual world is full with the variagatedness of reality. As the reflection of the tree in the pond is not always visible, maybe due to fog or waves or rain, this material world is not always manifest. It is temporary, but the real tree of the spiritual kingdom, the origin of the temporary reflection, is always there.

Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, Chapter 15, texts 3 and 4, state, “The real form of this tree cannot be perceived in this world. No one can understand where it ends, where it begins, or where its foundation is. But with determination one must cut down this tree with the weapon of detachment. So doing, one must seek that place from which, having once gone, one never returns, and there surrender to that Supreme Personality of Godhead from whom everything has begun and in whom everything is abiding since time immemorial.”

The real form of the upside down banyan tree cannot be perceived or understood in this world. In order to be able to understand it, one has to take association from persons who are in knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and who can differentiate between what is real and what is the reflection. One must study the bonafide Vedic literatures and hear from those who are actually in knowledge.

The real purpose of the Vedas is to cut down the reflected tree and return to the real tree of the spiritual world. However, if one follows the Vedas simply in a ritualistic way, just doing ceremonies without realizing the real purpose of the Vedas, it is said that that person is lost in attraction to the lovely green leaves of the reflection and misses the real import of Vedic study. He simply becomes entangled in ritual and never achieves the true purpose of the Vedic knowledge.

Krsna, the Supreme Lord, is the source of everything, the original root from which everything has come, this extension of this material world. To please Him, to gain access to Him, one must follow the principles of devotional service, which include hearing and chanting His glories.

Srila Prabhupada tells us, “If one can understand this indestructible tree of illusion, then one can get out of it… to get out of the entanglement of this strong banyan tree of material life, one must surrender to Krsna. As soon as one surrenders to Krsna, he becomes detached automatically from this material extension.”

The purpose of Vedic study is to understand Krsna. So, one who is practicing Krsna Consciousness, devotional service, under the guidance of a bonafide spiritual teacher, already knows the Vedas.

Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, as given to us by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, explains many processes to get out of the material entanglement, and concludes that devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the best way.

At PurelyPrabhupada.com, there is a series of 8 videos that provides a functional introduction to the science of applying ourselves to the practice of Krsna Consciousness. These videos should give clarity to any terminology or concepts that you may have found confusing or foreign in this presentation. Bhagavad-Gita As It Is is also available for purchase on that website, or you may click the link on that site to access the transcendental reading material for free online.