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Symbolism - Two Birds On Tree In Hinduism

Two birds of golden plumage are sitting on the tree of our personality. One among them is constantly flying here and there eating the fruits, both sweet and bitter, and experiencing pain and happiness alternately. While the other one is simply sitting on the upper branch calmly without eating anything, without any movement, enjoying its own bliss.

These two birds represent two aspects of the human soul. The lower bird represents the embodied soul identifying itself with the body and experiencing both happiness and misery. The upper bird is the epitome of higher self, not one with the body, experiencing nothing, witnessing everything, and not swayed by anything.

 The upper bird is our real nature, and we have to imagine ourselves to be that. If we remain like the lower bird, we get caught in the whirlwind of worldly influences.

If we are like the lower bird, we get alienated from our real being, and we become ‘others’, and, consequently, any rise and fall of other things will have their deep impact on us.

While commenting on the word sneha, attachment, occurring in the fifty-seventh verse of the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Madhusudana Sarasvati makes a striking remark: ‘When this sneha is there, the loss and gain of other things will be attributed to oneself.’ The loss and gain are related to external things other than the self, not to the self at all, who never loses or gains anything.

If wealth is lost, if it could, it is wealth that has to grieve over the loss, not us. Similarly, if power is curtailed or deprived, it is power’s business to despair, not ours. We need not get elated even by their acquisition. This is applicable to all matters.

We feel happy or suffer attributing to ourselves the gain or loss related to external matter. We have to mourn for loss of ourselves in matter. We are lost in the current of different thoughts, emotions, external activities, and events. Loss of self is the real loss. As we observe the current of river standing on its shore, we have to observe with detachment the life-current, constantly flowing in its own way, standing rooted in our inner self.

Source - The Psychological Aspects of Spiritual Life by Swami Nityasthananda – From Prabuddha Bharata Feb 2016