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Philosophy of the Two Birds

by Swami Sivananda

WO birds, inseparable companions, dwell in one and the same tree. One of them eats the fruits and the other looks on without eating. The first bird which eats the fruits is the Jiva or the individual soul. The other bird is the Kutastha or the silent Sakshi or witness or the Pratyagatman. The tree is the mysterious tree of Maya or Samsara. The fruits are the fruits of Karmas done by the Jiva, viz., pleasure or pain.

The first bird, Jiva or man, laughs when he eats sweet almonds and drinks tea sweetened with sugar to his taste; but when he eats the biter almonds that are mixed with the sweet ones and when he drinks tea without sugar, he shows a different face altogether. When he gets a lucrative post, when he gets married or when he begets a son, he laughs; but when his son or wife dies, when he is dismissed from his post, he weeps. When he joy-rides in a motor car, he laughs; when he suffers from rheumatism or acute dysentery, he weeps.

He stoops to pick up enjoyments. He is lured by the temptations of the world; he chooses what is pleasure (Preya) for the sake of the body and loses the true end. He lives in the midst of darkness but fancies himself as wise and learned. He goes round and round deluded in many crooked ways. The way of the hereafter is not apparent to him. He is foolish. He is deluded by the delusion of wealth. He thinks, That is the world, There is no other - thus he falls again and again under the sway of death.

Today he eats dainty dishes, sweetmeats and fruits. Tomorrow he starves. Today he travels in a motorcar. Tomorrow he walks bare-footed in thick jungles. Toady he speculates and earns several lakhs of rupees. Tomorrow he becomes a bankrupt and walks in the streets as a beggar.

He is selfish, ignoble, hard-hearted, impatient, discontented and passionate. He speaks ill of others. He earns money by unlawful means and leads an unrighteous life.

He feels he is in want of something, the nature of which he does not exactly comprehend. He strives for the accomplishment of rest, which he feels, he is in need of. But he finds that worldly greatness, when secured, is a delusion and a snare; he doubtless does not find any happiness or peace in it. He gets degrees, diplomas, titles, honours, power, name and fame; he marries, he begets children; in short, he gets all that he imagines would give him happiness. But he finds no rest.

He (Jiva) is entangled in Samsara by the five Kleshas: Avidya (ignorance), Asmita (egoism), Raga-dvesha (like and dislikes) and Abhinivesa (clinging to life). He is tied to his earthly life, by the three knots, Avidya (ignorance), Kama (desire) and Karma (action).

He is endowed with the three bodies, viz., physical, subtle and causal. He is enveloped by the five sheaths viz., Annamaya Kosha (food sheath), Pranamaya Kosha (vital sheath), Manomaya Kosha (mind sheaths), Vijnanamaya Kosha (Buddhi sheath) and Anandamaya Kosha (bliss sheath). He does actions with the five Karma Indriyas or organs of action, viz., Vak (speech), Pani (hands), Pada (feet), Upastha (reproductive organ) and Guda (anus). He gets knowledge of the world through the five Jnana Indriyas as organs of knowledge, viz., Srotra (ears), Tvak (skin), Chakshus (eyes), Jihva (tongue) and Nasika (nose).

He does actions and expects fruits on account of his ignorance. The Samskaras (impressions) are imbedded in the Karana Sarira and subconscious mind. His accumulated Karmas are called Sanchita Karmas; his current actions are called Agami or Kriyamana; this will be added to his Sanchita; he enjoys in this life the fruits of his Prarabdha Karmas, the Karmas which have given birth to this body. Sanchita Karmas rare destroyed by knowledge of the Self. Current actions will not affect when one does actions with Sakshi Bhava or Nishkamya Bhava. One will have to reap the fruits of Prarabdha.

He is bound by the chain of six links. The first link is Avidya (ignorance). The second is Aviveka (non-discrimination) that is born of Avidya. The third link is Abhimana or egoism born of non-discrimination. The forth link of the chain is Raga-Dvesha (attraction, repulsion) born of egoism. The fifth link is Karma (action). He does actions owing to Raga Dvesha. The sixth link is body. He takes bodies to reap the fruits of his Karmas. If he attains knowledge of the Self, the whole chain is destroyed at once.

He will be free from the taking of the physical body if he does not perform actions with expectation of fruits. He can free himself from Karmas, if he destroys Raga Dvesha. He can destroy Raga Dvesha, if he annihilates egoism. He can annihilate egoism, if he destroys non-discriminations. He can destroy non-discrimination, if he annihilates ignorance or Avidya. Avidya is the root cause for his sufferings.

This bird, Jiva, leaves the physical body here, goes to heaven to enjoy the fruits of his virtuous actions with the help of his astral body and comes back to this Mrityuloka when the Karmas are exhausted. He carries the Samskaras and Vasanas along with the astral body. This process called Avagamana (going and coming) lasts till he gets Brahma Jnana.

The other bird Sakshi is self-existent. He is not affected by the pleasure and pain, virtue and vice, likes and dislikes. Pleasure and pain, virtue and vice, likes and dislikes are the Dharmas or the attributes of the Antahkarana or the internal instrument only. They cannot touch the pure, self-luminous, immortal, subtle, all-pervading, attributeless and formless Sakshi. In a football or cricket match the spectator is not affected by the success or failure in the game. It is the players only who are affected by the success or failure.

He, the Brahman, is self-existent and self-luminous. He is the ear of the ear, eye of the eye, tongue of the tongue, mind of the mind, life of the life. All the senses, mind and Prana derive their power from Brahman, the source for everything. You cannot hear without Him. You cannot see without Him. You cannot breath without Him. You cannot think without Him. He is the Inner Ruler (Antaryamin).

By the command of the Brahman, the ocean does not exceed its limits. By His command, the sun shines and rises at the appointed time in the East. By His command, Indra, Vayu, Yama and other Devatas perform their appointed duties. By His commands, fire burns. By His command, mind, Prana and senses function.

Brahman cannot be defined. To define Brahman is to deny Brahman. The only adequate description of Brahman is a series of negatives. That is the only reason why the Upanishads declare 'Neti-Neti - not this, not this.'

What is neither short nor long, neither that much nor this much, neither black nor white, neither stout nor thin, neither good nor bad - that should be understood as Brahman.

That which is neither subtle nor dense, which has neither caste nor name, which is immutable, immortal and bodiless, which is beyond the reach of mind and speech that should be understood as Brahman.

Brahman is distinct from the gross, subtle and causal bodies. He is the soul of all. He is the Inner Ruler of all. He is eternally free. He is without action, without motion.
That Supreme Being which is the Immortal Self of all, which is the beginningless entity, which is immutable and infinite, which is beyond the reach of mind and speech - is Brahman or Sakshi.

When the three knots are cut asunder, when the Kleshas are destroyed by the attainment of the knowledge of the Self, the individual soul becomes identical with the Sakshi and attains Immortality and Eternal Bliss.

Jiva purifies his heart through selfless service, charity and virtuous action. He practises self-restraint, controls the senses and the mind. He cultivates sublime virtuous qualities, develops the four means of salvation - Viveka, Vairagya, Shad Sampat and Mumukshutva - hears of Srutis, reflects and meditates on the significance of the Mahavakyas or great sentences of the Upanishads such as 'Aham Brahma Asmi - I am Brahman', 'Tat Tvam Asi - Thou art That' and eventually attains knowledge of the Self.

Thus he also does not eat the fruits of Karmas. He is freed from the bonds of Karmas. He also looks on like the other bird Sakshi without eating.

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