THE TWO BIRDS
Some time ago, I saw a picture depicting a parable from the Bhagavad Gita. It showed two birds in a tree, and one of them was building a nest. This one is flying off collecting things, arranging the twigs—it’s active, doing many things.
Above this bird, on another branch, is a second bird. It looks identical to the first bird, but it’s not building anything. It is just observing. It’s not building a self-image out of its perceiving, and it’s not deeply interested in any aspect of what it sees. Its perceiving is happening quite spontaneously without effort or judgment. There’s a silence there, that feeling of Being without thought. Just looking.
This is a beautiful portrait of who we are.
These two birds are connected. The first bird represents our dynamic being, the self that is engaged in the world, in future and past, in growing. It is the aspect that is living life with the sense of my family, my children, my work, and so on. The second bird represents that conscious witnessing within us. It is the ability to observe life taking place and activities unfolding, but it is not actually doing anything. It is still within the same body, but it is not manipulating. It is not saying, “I hope this, and I fear that.” No, it is very still. It is simply there, and its seeing is panoramic. It sees not only the first bird, but also the wind in the trees, the sky—everything is observed with a kind of neutrality.
Initially the first bird is very identified with building the nest. It may not even be aware of the second bird. But as soon as it is able to be quiet, it becomes aware of the second bird, which is actually itself at a deeper inner level. When the first bird’s mind is synchronized with the second bird, the activities become much more gracious. There is a sense of a unity, a oneness. In that harmony, the work may still happen but without obsession, without fear, without the sense of needing to control things. It is simply happening because life compels this activity to happen. It is as though another power is helping the actions to take place.
The second bird represents the change of perspective from the mode of the person to the state of presence. When we are involved in the activities of life so deeply that it seems that the daily routine is all there is, then we are like this first bird, the nest builder, oblivious to our second bird position.
Come to the second bird position, to the one who is observing, and you will discover that the one who is busy building a life will slowly become more transparent, leaving only the functioning itself. The activities are happening anyway, beautifully, but the sense of doer-ship—which is the ego sense—will fade away. Activities are just happening; our self-image as a person is just happening, but our true Self is not a happening. In fact, the true Self is a third position, which is not a bird, but the space within which both birds are arising and seen.