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Bhagvad Gita says:

Bg 15.1 — The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: It is said that there is an imperishable banyan tree that 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.

My question:

  1. Is this a real or virtual banyan tree?
  2. If real where exactly is it located?
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Kṛṣṇa is referring to a virtual upside-down tree to explain the concept of saṃsāra (cycle of worldly existence).

English Commentary By Swami Sivananda

15.1 ऊर्ध्वमूलम् rooted above? अधःशाखम् branches below? अश्वत्थम् the Asvattha? प्राहुः they speak of? अव्ययम् indestructible? छन्दांसि metres or hymns? यस्य of which? पर्णानि leaves? यः who? तम् that? वेद knows? सः he? वेदवित् is the knower of the Vedas.

Commentary:

The description of the universe as a peepul tree is only metaphorical. This peepul is said to be eternal because it cannot be cut except by the axe of knowledge. All persons depend upon the Lord for the fruits of their actions? because He alone knows the right relation between the actions and their fruits. He alone is the dispenser of the fruits of actions of human beings. The wise persons also depend upon the Lord for the fruit of their knowledge. The Lord alone removes the veil of ignorance through His grace and mercy. The inclination for Advaita Vedantic Sadhana arises through the Lords grace. The desire for the realization of the Oneness is produced in the minds of wise men by the grace of the Lord? which is the antidote to all fears. (Avadhuta Gita? I.1) Those who serve the Lord with unswerving or single-minded devotion go beyond the three qualities of Nature through His grace. They attain knowledge of the Self through the grace of the Lord and get release from the round of birth and death. Those who have a right understanding of the real nature of Brahman or the Supreme Being also get emancipation easily. The Lord teaches Arjuna in this discourse about the real nature of Brahman or the Supreme Self and the path that leads the soul to union with Him. The Lord describes the nature of Samsara or worldly life as a peepul tree in order to create non-attachment or dispassion? because he who is endowed with true and lasting dispassion alone is fit for attaining the knowledge of the Self. Samsara is compared to a tree because it can be cut off like a tree. All the other trees have their roots below? but this peculiar? strange and most wonderful tree of Samsara (Maya) has its root above? in Brahman. This peepul tree is different from all other trees. Brahman is the resting place or support of everything.

...

The human body is the water for this tree of Samsara. The body itself is the peepul tree. The root is the cerrospinal nervous system (brain). The various nerves are the branches that ramify downwards to the various organs distributed over the body. Avyaya Eternal? because this tree rests on an unbroken series of births without beginning and end it is thus eternal. It can be cut down by the sword of knowledge of Brahman. Just as the leaves of a tree protect it? so also the Vedas protect this tree of Samsara? treating of virtue and vice? with their causes and fruits. He who knows this tree of Samsara and its roots as described above is a knower of the Vedas. He is a knower of the teachings of the Vedas. Not even an iota remains to be known beyond this tree of Samsara and its root. He who knows it is omniscient. The Lord has eulogized the knowledge of the tree of Samsara and its root in order to encourage aspirants to acquire this knowledge.

From the summary of chapter 15:

This is a very mysterious "Tree" which is very difficult to understand, being a product of His inscrutable power of Maya; and hence a marvelous, apparent appearance without having actual reality. One who fully understands the nature of this Samsara-Tree goes beyond Maya. To be attached to it is to be caught in it. The surest way of transcending this Samsara or worldly life is by wielding the excellent weapon of dispassion and non-attachment.

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The Upside Down Banyan Tree or inverter Banyan Tree is also described in Katha Upanishd. Adhyaya 2 -Valli 3-Mantra 1

ऊर्ध्वमूलोऽवाक्शाख एषोऽश्वत्थः सनातनः । 
तदेव शुक्रं तद्ब्रह्म तदेवामृतमुच्यते । 
तस्मिंल्लोकाः श्रिताः सर्वे तदु नात्येति कश्चन । एतद्वैतत् ॥ Katha UP. 2.3.1

ūrdhvamūlo'vākśākha eṣo'śvatthaḥ sanātanaḥ | 
tadeva śukraṃ tadbrahma tadevāmṛtamucyate | 
tasmiṃllokāḥ śritāḥ sarve tadu nātyeti kaścana | etadvaitat || 1 ||

Root up and branches down is this ancient asvattha tree, that (its source) is pure. That is Brahman and that alone is called immortal. On that, do all worlds depend and none passes beyond that. This verily is that.


The Upside Down Banyan Tree or inverter Banyan Tree is actually a metaphor of "Tree of Samsara" Shankara’s Commentary:

this tree consisting in manifold miseries of birth, decay, death and grief, etc.,


The location of this tree's roots is said to be Param Pada of Lord Vishnu.

Shankara’s Commentary:

the source (of the samsâra tree,) by ascertaining the nature of the effect, the tree of samsâra. Root up, having its root up, i.e., ‘that highest place of Vishnu’is its root, this tree of samsâra, extending from the avyakta to the immoveable, has its root up, i.e., in Brahman. It is vriksha (tree), so called, because it is felled (cut down).

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