Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
romansh

Two Birds

Recommended Posts

I must admit I like the Upanishads two bird poem.

 

Like the two golden birds perched in the same tree as friends, the ego and the Self exist in the same body. The former eats both the bad and good fruits of the tree of life while the latter does not discriminate.

 

Mundaka Upanishad

 

I was intrigued, when I read Joseph Campbell's
Power of Myth
, by the Vedic metaphor of the two birds that Campbell alluded to. Here's the the original translated prose/poem:

Two birds of beautiful plumage, comrades,

Inseparable, live on the selfsame tree.

One bird eats the fruit of pleasure and pain;

The other looks on without eating.

 

According to my absolute minimal reading, Vedic interpretations hold the bird that partakes in life in greater esteem. Whereas later Upanishads interpretations puts the observing bird on a higher branch and suggest it is something to aspire to.

 

I can't help thinking both of these interpretations miss the point slightly. Surely we need both? We need to be a part of life and we should try to be aware.

 

I think Campbell's interpretation of the Garden of Eden story also points to this (from the PoM).

"That is to say, put yourself back in the position of paradise before you thought in terms of good and evil. You don’t hear that much from the pulpits.”

The aware bird.

“Why was the knowledge of good and evil forbidden to Adam and Eve? Without that knowledge we would still be a bunch of babies in Eden, without any participation in life.”

The partaking of life bird.

 

 

Any thoughts?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The bird on the higher branch I feel is the soul. It sees unity for example, you can't have good without evil or evil without good. They are two sides of the same page. The Hindus would say the atman instead of the soul that winesses. The bird on the lower branch is the mind that sees duality and good and bad.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If the birds are "inseparable" then perhaps the notion of the "two birds" is human illusion? Other translations substitute "identical" for "inseparable". Is this really a denial of mind-body dualism? Perhaps. The idea seems worth some thought. Or is it that the two aspects need each other as they live on the "selfsame tree"?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I did not know this. While looking into the background of the "Two Birds" .... this came up.

 

The tree is important, but ...

 

 

"The ancient Hindu scriptures speak of the Universe as an inverted Banyan/Ashwattha tree with its roots in the Higher Worlds of Sat-Chit-Ananda (Existence-Consciousness-Bliss) and its branches in the many lower worlds that have been created. This is a comprehensive list of references to this tree in the ancient scriptures and the works of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. The world tree motif is present in many other religions and mythologies (See World-Tree)" (emphasis added)

 

http://auromere.word...ed-banyan-tree/

 

Now it makes more sense, to me at least.

Edited by minsocal

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The bird on the higher branch the soul just witnesses and is in bliss enjoying the movie on the lower branch and yes the bird on the lower branch eats good and bad food and learns I hope from the indigestion and heartburn.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So if one were to take the "tree" symbol in the Genesis Story and turn the symbol upside down, how would the story be changed? I'm thinking on it ... no idea where it wlll go!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for your interpretations:

 

The bird on the higher branch I feel is the soul. It sees unity for example, you can't have good without evil or evil without good.

For me the this bird is the silent mind - once we enter fruit eating bird's world do we shape our world whether it be unity or otherwise.

 

The bird on the higher branch the soul just witnesses and is in bliss enjoying the movie on the lower branch and yes the bird on the lower branch eats good and bad food and learns I hope from the indigestion and heartburn

I sort of agree but I would not use the word soul - as this, for me, implies a separateness from my body and everything else.

 

If the birds are "inseparable" then perhaps the notion of the "two birds" is human illusion? Other translations substitute "identical" for "inseparable". Is this really a denial of mind-body dualism?

My interpretation would be that it is a denial of dualism. The two birds a comrades, inseparable: they are one. I think Campbell described them as firm friends.

 

And yes the motif of the tree is important, GoE, Buddha - but I don't have an interpretation formyself as yet.

 

Again thanks for your points of view.

rom

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Instead of one tree and two birds, Genesis focuses on the human relationship to two trees, the tree of Knowledge and the tree of Life. I'm thinking the imagry is perhaps interchangeable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Instead of one tree and two birds, Genesis focuses on the human relationship to two trees, the tree of Knowledge and the tree of Life. I'm thinking the imagry is perhaps interchangeable.

The main focus is on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (not knowledge as such). Adam and Eve were not forbidden the fruit from the tree of life (at least not until they gained knowledge of good and evil).

Edited by romansh

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought I'd give this thread a bump in the light of Bill's understanding of my position. This may give a more accurate view of where I am trying to come from.

 

I thought one had judgments - good food and bad food - about what it was eating and the other did not.

 

Sure we cannot help but have judgements.

 

Now I happen to enjoy bacon. Is this a judgement? I would say no ... it is an observation of my condition. If someone won't eat bacon, because say on religious grounds, is this a judgement? I would say no. If that same person would say eating bacon is wrong/evil/breaking a covenant with god .etc ... then I would say yes, they are passing a judgement.

 

if someone thought eating bacon was ethically/morally wrong because we are eating another sentient being they too are passing judgement. If that same non bacon-eating person were to say they won't eat bacon because they don't want to eat sentient beings ... that in my book is not passing judgement.

 

While in all this have I exercised judgement? Nowhere did I say judgement is wrong (or right). It is an unavoidable fact of human life. But at times we can try and still our minds and try to see things without our mind chatter. Look at a tree and not think tree.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I tend to prefer prose to poetry. Always have. To me, poetry tends toward ambiguous images that have no meaning other than what we infuse them with, both as writer and reader. Like a painting, poetry can be beautiful but not have any more meaning than the particular emotions it evokes, the "beauty in the eye of the beholder" that varies from person to person. Some people, obviously, relish in these kinds of languages and images, where all thinking stops and one simply observes or feels.

 

I suspect, in the fifth decade of my life, that I probably have Asberger's. I tend to be a literalist and prefer more concrete ways of communicating. I prefer clear, fairly precise language, especially where religion and philosophy are concerned, which is frustrating for me because I think religion and philosophy want to communicate in poetry and myth, in abstractions. This is one of my problems with the Bible; I can't figure out what is poetry, what is myth, and what is more concrete truth.

 

To me, much of the Eastern religions and New Age approaches to spirituality value non-thinking, some kind of "look at a tree and not think tree" approach. Look, but don't think. Just look. This doesn't work well for me because, IMO, we have made the progress that we have made as humans, not from passive observance of our world, but from thinking about how things work and how we can use that knowledge to make things better. This doesn't mean there is no beauty in my world or times when I do "just look" and feel. I am reminded of Jodie Foster's scientist character in the movie, "Contact", who, upon seeing the beauty of the universe, says, with tears in her eyes, "They should have sent a poet." But, generally speaking, my own approach to religion and spirituality comes from my experiences (subjective) that are considered (thought about) in dualistic ways i.e. what I believe makes sense or is moral. Granted, there is much subjectivity involved. I admit that. But I am not one to take a non-thinking approach to anything in my life. To me, our ability for rational thought is a gift of God and distinguishes us from most of the animal kingdom that seems to, for the most part, operate according to blind instinct.

 

But that is me. I realize that we are all wired differently.

Edited by BillM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is how I treat the concept of rational Bill.

 

Everything is rational.

When two billiard balls collide the go off in predictable directions and speeds. if they don't there is a cause, eg spin on a ball that was not accounted for, perhaps a dead fly on the table in a ball's path, They behave rationally. Similarly if I experience demons in my mind then it is rational for me me to be fearful of those demons. If god gave humans rationality it gave everything rationality. (In my opinion).

 

Irrationality is akin to magic.

 

While I agree the the danger of a metaphor or poetry is that its interpretation is shaped by a persons experiences, genetics, body chemistry ... you name it. Nevertheless our forbearers try to express their truths in these formats. Take a look at physics and the sciences in general ... here we try to as objective as possible and yet we have widely differing interpretations of what it all means.

 

Regarding Eastern/Western modes of thought ... tell me rationally what is a tree.

Edited by romansh

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Eastern thought, it seems to me, is a contradiction in terms as it seems to value non-thinking. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bill,

It seems to me that Jesus was for some part ....a non-thinker. The words he spoke "were not his own" , His "teaching was not his own" and by himself, "he could do nothing". He is recorded saying his words were "spirit and "truth" and from the Father who sent him. Of course this all is mostly from the Gospel of John but in the flesh we have thinking, in the Spirit a thing is known. It is recorded Jesus said "That which is flesh is flesh and that which is Spirit is Spirit.". I would not discount the benefit or value in non-thinking. Perhaps one will find from practice inspiration comes mostly from non-thinking or better said as that which surfaces when the mind is still. Perhaps it provides an even greater insight than thinking and is more than instinct in humans. Just my personal opinion.

 

Joseph

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Eastern thought, it seems to me, is a contradiction in terms as it seems to value non-thinking. :)

 

This is a misrepresentation of how our brains work, I think.

 

I would argue our brains are thinking whether or not we are aware.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a misrepresentation of how our brains work, I think.

 

I would argue our brains are thinking whether or not we are aware.

As would I, Rom. I suspect the only times are brains aren't thinking is when we are dead. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Joseph,

 

As you know, I don't value the gospel of John very much because it is so full of the dualism between flesh and Spirit. Progressive Christian scholars (Jesus Seminar) say that there is likely nothing in John that comes from Jesus himself. And most contemporary Jesus-scholars think that if Jesus was anything, he was a wisdom teacher. Wisdom, IMO, does not come from non-thinking, nor is it simply intuitive. Wisdom concerns understanding reality and how to live aligned with reality in a way that gives us and others the best benefit. This is way, again IMO, much of Jesus' teaching in the synoptics is not focused on himself, but on how compassion is at the heart of relationships. Therefore, the hungry should be fed, the homeless sheltered, the sick helped, prisoners visited, etc. In these ways, to me, Jesus' teaching is very practical, even if not original.

 

But the dichotomy between spirit and flesh is, IMO, unhelpful. Yes, it presents those who "know" (gnosis) as on a higher plane than those who are "fleshly." And this kind of dualistic thinking has, for years, been behind the notions that the physical is evil and that life in the real world is to be avoided for (ha ha) sitting on a mountain top in a lotus position, contemplating oneness. I just don't find that practical, at least for me.

 

To me, all of life is sacred. So I don't see the dichotomy between what is spirit and what is flesh. It is all "of God." In this context, feeding someone is spiritual. Clothing someone is spiritual. Having sex is spiritual. Enjoying the pleasures of the senses, of the flesh, is spiritual, for our Creator has given them all to us. Everything is "spiritual" for God has created all flesh.

 

But I no longer mind if others see this differently. I speak only for myself.

 

Bill

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To me, the purpose of religion or being spiritual is to experience and live out of being connected - connected to God, connected to self, connected to others, connected to our world. So when a religion thinks that being spiritual means to disconnect (from self, others, the world), I question what its purpose is.

 

IMO, many of the Eastern religions have a purpose of seeking "inner bliss" and see disconnection as a way to achieve this. To me, and to put it somewhat crudely, this is akin to thinking that the sole purpose of sex is to achieve one's personal orgasm with no regard to connection to the other or to their needs and wants. :) Even Judaism had this approach to religion with the Essenes, and I suspect John's community was the "Christian" form of this approach.

 

I think being spiritual is moving deeper into reality, not escaping from it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bill,

 

Connectivness is in my view not realized through thinking. Thinking reveals a separation as if we are a separate thinker with a brain that thinks. It seems to me it is during moments of non-thinking.or the gap between thoughts that we realize this connectiveness to all. All the Gospels, and even Pauls writings, not just John speaks of sacrificing ones life or dying to self. This is in a sense a kind of disconnect of sorts from self and a oneness with All that IS. This in my view does not disconnect one from feeding the poor and helping others but on the contrary moves one to service. I think your point "that life in the real world is to be avoided" is a not a tenant of that which i speak of but rather a result of your own reasoning and your own interpretation of others on such matters.

 

You said, ".I think being spiritual is moving deeper into reality, not escaping from it." That is very profound and true in my experience. The question that brings to mind is ... Is reality that which is seen with the eyes or that which is the substrate of that which is seen but is not seen with the eyes.?

 

Joseph

Edited by JosephM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Joseph,

 

To me, I don't see thinking as the enemy. Thinking, IMO, combined with empathy/compassion helps us to find ways to connect. And I see dying to self not as denial of the self, but as learning to not live a selfish life with only the self at the center.

 

Whatever I may think of Eastern religion, it does have the caricature of the religious sitting on a mountaintop in a lotus position, meditating. While caricatures are often hyperbole, there is still often underlying truth there. And, to me, when religion calls us to be separate (either for the sake of being "holy" or for finding nirvanna or bless, etc.), I think it is a distortion of the purpose of religion, the word itself referring to "ligament" i.e. to connect.

 

We (you and I) have had this discussion before on reality. I think it entails BOTH what our senses and sciences tell us as well as the more intuitive, aesthetic experiences. But I don't think, as the Gnostics did, that the material world (what can be known through the senses) is evil while only the unseen is perfect. And I think there is much subjectivity involved, both in what we can observe and what we can't. Such is the human predicament. Knowledge is never perfect. We do the best we can, don't we? :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bill,

 

If you look, you will see i never said thinking was an enemy. Thinking is a useful tool we use to solve Newtonian type problems. You are correct that dying to the self does not deny that there is such a thing as self, howbeit it is not what it appears which can be verified now through a study of quantum physics. True reality it will tell you is not out there. Experience showed me this prior to any hearing of such a field of science as quantum physics.

 

Religion to me also has indeed distorted the purpose of its original teachers. It seems to me that organized Religion has its purpose but its focus is not to get you to the truth.

 

The world is not at all evil. Evil is a concept of the thinking mind. This Video , "What the Bleep Do we know" while less than perfect will give you some scientific insight into what is reality and perhaps provide some fruit for your thoughts.

Enjoy,

Joseph

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It so happens my undergraduate degree was in physics, almost 40 years ago but with an A+ in quantum mechanics. Then I went into neuroscience.

 

Quantum physics in no way denies a boundary around self nor denies a reality beyond that self. The Uncertainty Principle just means that the smallest details of reality are fuzzy, not reality as a whole.

 

People leave out important words when they correctly say that our brain creates a mind that is its own reality. Our brain is a mirror. Our mind is the image in that mirror. The image in that mirror is a virtual reality of the material world plus whatever spiritual parts there may be beyond that. It has no mystical power such as the Law of attraction. It is a virtual reality, one that distorts reality easily, but doesn't erase the true reality out there that was its template, as well as template to billions of other minds.

 

I like to believe there are non-physical aspects to that, but they are far from proven.

 

Meanwhile I notice that the Wikipedia article on "What the Bleep do we Know" has a large section of academics calling it pseudoscience. That works for me.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Joseph,

 

I wasn't try to say that you, personally, see thinking as an enemy. Sorry if it came across that way. I meant that, IMO, Eastern meditative religions seem to devalue thinking for the sake of (insert what?)...clearing the mind...not thinking...emptying the self, etc. All I'm saying is that I have tried this, and the more I try not to think, the more thinking I do about why I cannot not-think. :)

 

I appreciate much of what David has said above. I am certainly not in his league of education or understanding, but, to me, I believe what we perceive as reality is really there (whatever it is made of), but that we can't help but experience it as subjective creatures.

 

This applies to my understanding/experiences of God also. I believe, based upon my subjective experiences and knowledge, that God is really there. But my theology gets really fuzzy if I try to nail everything down. I think God's works, so-to-speak, can be fairly accurately described through science and rationality. But I find that I have to often resort to metaphors in my religious language because, as wonderful as science is, to use Newtonian or quantum physics to describe our God-experiences is like be told to describe a visit to the Taj Mahal with only 4 words. One can attempt to do so, but the description will fall way short of the reality of the actual experience.

 

I'll check out the "What the Bleep Do We Know" in a bit. Thanks for the fruit for thought.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×