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Two birds in a tree

Discussion in 'Hinduism DIR' started by Meerkat, Dec 14, 2019.

  1. Meerkat

    Meerkat Well-Known Member

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    I'd be interested in your explanation of this passage from the Mundaka Upanishad (3.1.1-4):

    "Two birds of the same kind and inseperable as friends, cling to the same tree. One of them eats the sweet fruit, the other looks on without eating. On the same tree sits a man, immersed in sorrows and grieving for his own impotence. But when he sees the other Lord contented and realises his glory, then the grief melts away."
     
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  2. SalixIncendium

    SalixIncendium Ānanda
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    The "Two Birds on a Tree" is a parable of the Jivatman and Paramatman.

    The bird who sits lower in the tree is eating the fruit of that tree; sometimes he eats a sweet fruit and is gleeful, and sometimes he eats a bitter one and is sorrowful.

    The other bird sits at the top of the tree in the sunlight, looking on without eating.

    At times, the lower bird, after eating the bitter fruit and being in sorrow, glances up at the higher bird and sees him looking on in the sunlight, calm, majestic, basking in his glory, and unattached to the desire to consume the fruit. The lower bird eats a sweet fruit, soon forgets about the higher bird and goes on eating.

    As the lower bird eats, it ascends higher in the tree, closer to the higher bird, repeating the same cycle...sometimes eating a sweet fruit, sometimes eating a bitter fruit, occasionally glancing up at the higher bird, then eating a sweet fruit and forgetting the higher bird.

    Eventually, the lower bird reaches the top of the tree and soaks up the sunlight. He becomes calm and majestic, just like the other bird, and realizes that there was just one bird all along. The lower bird was merely illusory, a manifestation of the one above.


    The upper bird is a representation of Paramatman, the self without attachments.

    The lower bird is a representation of the Jivatman, the self that is bound to earthly desires.

    The parable demonstrates that both are one.
     
    #2 SalixIncendium, Dec 14, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2019
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  3. SalixIncendium

    SalixIncendium Ānanda
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    Here is a talk with Swami Sarvapriyananda that discusses these verses in the Mundaka Upanishad.

     
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  4. Jedster

    Jedster Well-Known Member

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    PMFJI, this reminds of Kabir, when he says


    THERE is a strange tree, which stands without roots and bears fruits without blossoming;
    It has no branches and no leaves, it is lotus all over.
    Two birds sing there; one is the Guru, and the other the disciple:
    The disciple chooses the manifold fruits of life and tastes them, and the Guru beholds him in joy.
    What Kabîr says is hard to understand: “The bird is beyond seeking, yet it is most clearly visible. The Formless is in the midst of all forms. I sing the glory of forms.”

    — The Bijak, Shabda # 24 (The Complete Bijak of Kabir: Guru Kabir’s Mystical Teachings on God-Realization
     
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  5. Meerkat

    Meerkat Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, that's a very informative talk. I was particularly struck by the distinction between reflected consciousness and pure consciousness, and will investigate that further.
     
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  6. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    Thanks for a nice question to you too.
     
  7. shivsomashekhar

    shivsomashekhar Active Member

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    This statement appears in the Mundaka and also the Shvetashvatara (4.6-7). As in most cases, the exact interpretation will depend on who you ask -

    a) Ramanuja interprets the tree as the body (achit) and the birds as chit and Paramatma.

    b) Shankara has his own interpretation, which can be found here -
    Principal Upanishads | Upanishads

    c) Madhva interpets this verse to mean the Jiva eats both sweet and bitter fruit, while Paramatma does not eat the Jiva's fruit, etc...

    This is also one of the verses, which was used to support duality in medieval polemics by dualistic Vedanta doctrines against Advaita.
     
    #7 shivsomashekhar, Dec 16, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2019
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  8. Meerkat

    Meerkat Well-Known Member

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    Initially I read this passage in a dualistic way, but I can see the possibility of a non-dualist interpretation. Perhaps reflected (manifest?) consciousness and pure consciousness are two sides of the same coin?
     
  9. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    Still there are two sides of a coin, and that is dualistic. Real non-dualism should not accept pure and impure consciousness, there is only one. Consciousness, as per my belief, is a property of brain. It dissipates with a persons death. Nothing remains of it. To think that something will survive, is natural, understandable, but not the truth. What remains is atoms and molecules. They go and join billions of living and non-living things. It is chemical recycling, nothing more than that. But this is too harsh a reality for humans, that is why people do not accept it and look for places to hide and escape this reality. True enlightenment is when one realizes this. This is nirvana. Nothing will bother one when he\she accepts this reality.
     
  10. Meerkat

    Meerkat Well-Known Member

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    So how does your view map onto the OP passage? Are you saying there is really only the transient sense-consciousness of the "lower" bird?
     
    #10 Meerkat, Dec 17, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2019
  11. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    I accept two birds also. We Hindus know that individual views will differ. Mine is for me only or for those who may have my kind of views. For you, there may be another, which is equally valid. So, the question is not how I see it, my seeing is irrelevant, it is how YOU see it. :D
    Hinduism provides this freedom. It does not fetter you.
     
  12. Meerkat

    Meerkat Well-Known Member

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    Sure, and in time I will develop my own understanding of these texts, and how they relate to the experiences I've had.

    But I'm still at the stage of exploring texts and interpretations, so I'd be interested in hearing what you think the two birds represent, practically speaking.
     
  13. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    I see it as the experience of one who is not knowledgeable in the first instance and his \ her experience after gaining knowledge. I did not know when I was 25, I understood it better when I was 50. :)
     
  14. Meerkat

    Meerkat Well-Known Member

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    So basically ignorance v. wisdom? That's certainly a strong theme in the Dharmic traditions.
     
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  15. ajay0

    ajay0 Well-Known Member

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    Hinduism emphasizes critical examination in order to distinguish between the genuine teachings and fraudulent teachings.

    Kabir on the need for critical examination to weed out the false and fraudulent...

    The Upanishads cite the example of the pseudoscholar Virochana who misinterpreted the Atman to be the body instead of pure consciousness as mentioned in Vedanta. Virochana is often cited as a classic example of delusion and misinterpretation.

    The Srimad Bhagavatam (12.3.32) have prophesised that the Vedic teachings will be contaminated by speculative interpretations of pseudoscholars in the Kali Yuga.

    This is bound to happen in the present Kali Yuga where truth is reduced to a quarter.

    So do be prudent when discussing Vedanta and it is important to go by the words of reputed scholars and scriptural teachings here.
     
  16. Jainarayan

    Jainarayan ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
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    That's the first explanation that made me understand it. I could never get my head wrapped around it.
     
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