Srimad Bhagavad-gita Study Group
- Chapter 15 -
The Supreme Person
Lord Sri Krishna proceeds to compare Samsara (the world) with the Asvattha or the Peepul tree. This tree is to be uprooted by means of non-attachment and thereafter the realm of no return is to be sought. One should surrender himself to the Parama-Purusha or the supreme Absolute Person fully and unconditionally. Those who are free from mundane opposites can reach that unchangeable and blissful region which is the eternal abode of the Supreme Lord. When a soul departs from the body he takes with him the five subtle senses and the mind, which is the sixth, and together they are transported to another body. He himself is an eternal minute part of the Supreme Lord and that Lord dwells within the hearts of all. From Him comes knowledge, remembrance and forgetfulness. The Supreme Lord is the One to be known by the Vedas and it is He who is both the author and knower of Vedanta. There are two purashas – the ksara or the changeable and the Aksara which is the Brahman and Paramatma progressively superior conceptions of the unchangeable and then a third supreme Purusha who is known as Purusottama or Bhagavan. He is superior to both Brahman and Paramatma and thus He is proclaimed as the Supreme Personality of Godhead by the Vedas. As long as one conceives of Brahman and Paramatma as equal to the conception of Bhagavan—the sole object of worship—pure devotion does not arise. But once the true conception of the Supreme Lord Purusottama awakens in the unalloyed existence of the jiva then pure devotion or Parama Bhakti is irrevocably established there.
Useful Acronym to remember the chapter contents:
Imagine someone checks into their holiday hotel room and then begins painting the walls, buying new furniture, refitting the bathroom and hanging up family pictures. It sounds ludicrous—you don’t make arrangements for long-term comfort in a temporary residence. This world is likened to a hotel room within which people make complicated plans for security and enjoyment. In Chapter Fifteen Krishna uses a wonderful analogy to create detachment within the spiritualist and fuel his desire to re-enter his real home in the spiritual realm.
H Home or Hotel?
O On and On, Over and Over again
M Maintainer of body, mind, soul
E Essence in 3 verses
H – Home or Hotel? (Verses 1-5) – Just as a peepul tree has a reflection in water, the spiritual world also has its reflection—the material world. While they may look similar from a distance, the spiritual world is where reality, substance and true satisfaction is found. On the other hand, the reflected tree of the material world is complicated, intricate and completely topsy-turvy since the roots are upwards and the branches downwards. Bird-like individuals frantically search for juicy fruits on the reflected tree, but the substance which brings satisfaction seems to be lacking. Krishna urges the reader to cut down this illusory tree with the weapon of detachment and end the futile endeavours for permanent fulfilment in the temporary phantasmagoria.
O – On and On, Over and Over again (Verses 6-11) - Krishna then gives a glimpse of the spiritual world, showing how its nature is perfect, complete and fully satisfying to all. Once having gone there, one never returns to this world. Here in the material realm, an individual hops from tree to tree, acquiring various material bodies based on the worldly desires they cultivate throughout life. At the time of death, through the subtle workings of reincarnation, one receives a body which is tailor-made to facilitate such desires. Man proposes, God disposes. Thus, different life situations are meant to teach us a simple lesson - we are looking for the right thing (happiness), but we are looking in the wrong place.
M – Maintainer of body, mind, soul (Verses 12-15) - One who is entangled within the reflected tree of material existence can develop his Krishna consciousness by appreciating Krishna as the maintainer on all levels. Krishna maintains our gross physical body by arranging fundamental resources that provide the energy of life. He also maintains our subtle capacities by facilitating knowledge, remembrance and forgetfulness. And finally, perhaps most importantly, Krishna maintains our spirituality by offering ways and means to achieve self-realisation and escape the dangerous cycle of repeated birth and death.
E – Essence in 3 verses (Verses 16-18) - Previously Krishna summarized the Bhagavad-gita in four verses, and now He again summarises the teachings in three verses. Fallible living entities (ksara) have dropped into the tree of material existence due to an independent desire to enjoy. These are different from infallible living entities (aksara) who never leave the spiritual realm due to their undeviated desire to be with the Lord. Beyond both entities is the Supreme Lord. Thus, in yet another passage, Krishna reinforces that the living entity never becomes God, since even liberated souls have their separate identity in the spiritual world.
Questions on Chapter 15
Chapter 15 slokas to learn:
na tad bhāsayate sūryo na śaśāṅko na pāvakaḥ
yad gatvā na nivartante tad dhāma paramaṁ mama 
tat mama–That is My; paramam–all-illuminating; dhāma–holy abode; gatvā–having reached; yat–which; (prapannāḥ)–the surrendered souls; na nivartante (tataḥ)–never return from there. sūryaḥ–The sun; na bhāsayate–cannot illuminate; tat–that; na śaśāṅkaḥ–nor the moon; na pāvakaḥ–nor fire. 
6 The surrendered souls reach My eternal abode, never to return to this world. Neither sun, nor moon, nor fire—nothing can illuminate that all-illuminating supreme abode.
sarvasya chāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭho
mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanañ cha
vedaiś cha sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva chāham 
aham cha sanniviṣṭaḥ–I am situated as the indwelling monitor, the Supersoul; hṛdi–within the heart; sarvasya–of all beings. (jīvasya)–The living being’s; smṛtiḥ–remembrance; jñānam–knowledge; apohanam cha–and the disappearance of both; mattaḥ–arise from Me; aham eva cha vedyaḥ–and I alone am the object to be known; sarvaiḥ vedaiḥ–by means of all the Vedas. aham eva vedānta-kṛt–In the form of Vedavyās, I am the revealer of the Vedānta; veda-vit cha–and the knower of the meaning of the Vedas. 
15 I am situated (as the Supersoul) within the heart of all souls, and from Me arises the soul’s remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness (according to his actions). I alone am the Sweet Absolute to be known through all the Vedas. I am the revealer of the Vedānta—Vedavyās, and I am the knower of the Vedas.