Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Birds

Life, when looking back, offers an interesting view if you take the prism in a different angle. I was sorting through my days by different categorization - say your days in rain, your days of playing soccer, your days in front of computer (no - that would be hard to enumerate). In the same line, I started thinking of the lessons I learnt. Life is a bad teacher, as people say. It gives the lessons after taking the examinations. The lessons I learnt from Birds - for example. Birds offer a very interesting object since early childhood because, they can fly. Not surprisingly, birds offer many lessons, which can be found scattered in Indian scriptures. Let me pick a few favourite ones to compile here together.

The earliest, the first.

In the Mundaka Upanishad a beautiful analogy with two birds is given. Two birds, living together, sit on the same tree. One bird eats the fruits of the tree, which tastes bitter, sweet and all the forms of taste that the tree can offer. The bird, sitting in an upper branch is indifferent to the fruits. The fruits are compared to the lower forms of knowledge and the cycles of happiness and misery. The bird on the upper branch is compared to divine soul whereas the bird on the lower branch is compared to the human existence. Both are inseparable and finally bound to merge. The tree is the human body.


In Bhagabat Puran, there is a discussion between Krishna and Dattatreya (also known as Avadhoot) recorded. In that, Avadhoot refers to a bird of prey as one of his Gurus. And how did he learn from that bird ? He saw one day a bird of prey carrying some meat in its beaks. By seeing the meat, many birds attacked it. It was flying very fast with the meat but, could not rest a moment. Birds were chasing it from all the directions. Finally, the bird dropped the meat and sat on a tree - with peace. Avadhoot found that by only dropping the worldly pleasures and competition with fellow beings, perfect peace can be attained.
Avadhoot had 24 Gurus, with interesting anecdotes referred to each of them.



Few more birdy similar anecdote is found from the stories of Sri Ramakrishna, referred by prominent Bengali authors as the king of allegories, to even surpass the genius of Kalidas.


Sri Ramakrishna tells that one should be doing his earthly duties with utmost care but, keep nothing attached to it. The complete attachment should remain to God. To give an example, he mentions a bird hatching on a egg to the bear the nestling. The bird may see a thousand objects around but, all the attachment is concentrated to the nestling. So, should be our endeavours.

There is a breed of birds named, Chaatak. Chaatak bird is very particular about the water. It only drinks the rainwater that comes from cloud on a particular Tithi (tithi defines a combination of astronomical positions). Even if that bird is dying out of thirst, it never touches other water. Sri Ramakrishna said, so are some people in this world. They are never bothered about the mundane life. They only offer their participation to things of higher order. The rest of people - have mixed choices on topics of life and keep engaging in all. Be like a Chaatak bird - was his suggestion to spiritual seekers.

There was also a story among Sri Ramakrishna's teachings about a bird perched atop a mast in a vessel. The vessel is in deep sea making a long journey across ocean. The bird had strong desire to look for a land. It flew northwards. After hours of flying, when no land was in view, the bird returned to the vessel. It ventured in all the other directions one by one. It returned tired, failing to get a glimpse of the land. Then, it left its fate completely on the vessel and sat still. Similar is the path of spiritual aspirants - he said. You have to work harder and harder, to simply brush your ego off. When you finish your energy, comes perfect devotion and submission (Saranaagati to be the exact word) of will to the almighty. That constitues the last lap to bliss.

Naturally, a bird - the grand swan or Paramhangsa - is used as a honorary title for the illuminated persons in India. It refers to someone, who like the swan, can separate milk from water among the things life offers.

15 comments:

  1. Another interesting article. And thanks for excerpting such priceless texts and quotes. Although all the lessons seem to indicate that detachment from earthly possessions, and attachment to God should bring peace, I cannot but like this article. But then once again I get the impression of a perfect person who is not amused by anything, yet he is dutiful. But then what is his duty? What defines his duty really?

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  2. @Rajdeep,
    It is wrong to think that perfect persons are not amused by anything - you should get hold of a book "Sahaasyo Vivekananda" !
    Also attachment to God is not the thing, rather attachment to anything that is temporary, will bring temporary peace. The permanent thing can be God or can be a mathematical law. I do not know.
    Duties are a byproduct of ego. If you submit to the super-ego then, duties are commanded by it. Being researchers, we are naturally curious to find how does this super-ego function ? Even Swamiji claimed in his youth that he could have built a better world than so-called God. To understand the super-ego, one needs to adopt a path - coming back to Gyan, Karma, Bhakti, Raj yoga methods. It is like, you never know why father scolded me until you become the father. My thoughts..

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  3. One question naturally transpired upon reading this comment- "The permanent thing can be God or can be a mathematical law" - What does it
    mean??? Does it mean that God and any mathematical law of this universe are identical, even if we argue with the bizarre logic that creator lives in his creation. Is it so??? How can it be??? Yes, both are universal truths. But can you think of characterising God with a finite set of physico-mathematical
    principles, or can you ever think of mathematically modelling the Universe and hence, doing the same with God, and in a way approach the mathematical model of God??? These questions do certainly crop up into the minds but are rejected outright by the conscience.

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. The crux of the matter is that we should not dare make the mistake of trying to define God. Is God the mathematical laws, is God science? Not even partially true, I feel. Because as the Great sages have prophesized, God is unthinkable ("achintya"), and hence undefinable. God has all the three categories of attributes and at the same time He is attributeless. To some extent, we can draw parallel with the wave-particle duality of the Universe. God encompasses duality as well as nonduality ("dwaita"/"adwaitya") and is
    present as divine consciousness ("chitshakti") within our soul (the perpetually God-contemplating "purusha" which indeed is the "nitya" or immortal- indeed beyond the logicality of science or mathematics) hidden under the ocean of ephemeral instinctual enticements of flesh and blood called as the body (which is the "prakriti" - the world of the dominance of "Maya", and hence the "anitya" -the mortal body). Just as the fruit of the conjugal union of "prakriti" and "purush" is this Universe we are living in, the same is the case with any living entity - the conjugation of "Purush" (the soul) with the "prakriti" (the
    body) is the living entity himself. In between these two extreme states of our consciousness- abode of perpetual God consciousness in the soul on one side and the temporary desire fulfilment of the body on the other side, lies that entity that we loosely refer to as the mind which acts on the reality principle. The first thing is called the Super-Ego (resides in the soul), the bodily thing as the 'Id' (e.g. desire, lust, anger, hunger, etc), whereas the thing which referred to here as the mind is called the Ego, which acts being guided by the reality under normal circumstances. (This indeed is the Freudian concept of consciousness). Sometimes the 'Id' (our instincts) overpowers the Superego and reigns over the Ego and this is when one resorts to antisocial things. Sorry for the deviation. But my mind cannot digest this statement "The
    permanent thing can be God or can be a mathematical law." and feels nauseating at it. My little brain cannot go beyond the way Ramakrishna, Bama Thakur has envisaged God - that God is in every thing, both perceivable and
    the non-perceivables. God cannot be given a definition. If any way to perceive divinity is there, it is through contemplation, through unswerving devotion in the form of chanting and singing His name in praise (what is called "Shuddh Narada Bhakti") and beyond all the path of 'Shuddh Bhakti'. I cannot call a great devotee of Mathematics as an ardent devotee of God. Because, as is said in the Gita, in this Kali Yuga it is only through chanting and constant remembering and invoking his name that you reach Him or at least get salvation. So I think The permanent thing not just today but always is one and only the name of the Lord with real and sincere Bhakti... AND NOTHING
    ELSE... I dont believe that one can approach Him by the path of Science, even giving due respect to the principles of Karma Yoga. I always see the difference between scientific truths and the truth of eternity called GOD. In
    fact, the former is a very very small subset of the latter. For instance, modern science has no answer to the very very high frequencies like trillions of GHz or as small as pHz ... these are the subtle domains yet unknown to humanity.

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  6. @Anonymous (PsD),

    You are right from your point of view. However, according to level of understanding, definition changes. Swamiji mentioned that the goal of both science and religion is to find unity. Science reaches higher truth from lower truth. So does religion. And, considering only unthinkable God - do you think for Mother Jashodaa Krishna was unthinkable God ? As per Indian scriptures, God appears in a form that the devotee seeks. So, what is wrong with the path of Science then ? For a scientist seeks truth (Gyanayoga not, Karmayoga) and truth only. Your opinion matches that of a Non-dualist Advaita-Vedantist. For a Visishtadwaitovaadi, the current form of creation and the absolute "formless" God - both are true.

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  7. Respected blog-writer Sir, its not just my point of view. Had it been so, the Gita would need to have been rewritten. Yes, science & spirituality have the same end - TRUTH. But the difference- while science seeks RELATIVE truth thru facts established mathematically, spirituality seeks the path of the ABSOLUTE TRUTH by focusing on the supreme infinite ALMIGHTY as the only INFALLIBLE AXIOM which definitely is beyond the realm of science(since no proof). Therefore, how can science lead to the SUPREME personality of Godhead??? It is the highest state of TRUTH, much much higher than the established science of today. There is a caveat however. It all depends on your beliefs and faith. If u reject the scriptures, God is only science and not the Supreme personality of Godhead. My intention is not to decry the power of modern science/mathematics but to remind all scientific truth-seekers of today not to ridicule the SUPREME ALMIGHTY as being irrational, unscientific mythological fabrication and neither to repudiate the powers of Bhakti Yoga as the frenzy of the illiterate God-fanatic plebs.

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  8. Yes, God is unthinkable. To a devotee of the highest order, God becomes his/her own father/mother/son/daughter/friend/lover or even the greatest enemy and, therefore, has a form. About this Universe, which itself is infinite (hence quite logically its creator must also be INFINITE), we know very little. So instead of arguing, its better to accept the vision of the greatest of sages this land has produced - that is the greatness in loving and remembering the name of the Lord ("Naam mahatya"), for only that shall lead to the ABSOLUTE TRUTH. Argument with the vanity of mathematical knowledge shall give nothing, as Thakur Ramkrishna has said. Whatever "...dwaito" you believe in, one cannot deny what the Gita says, "I do not live in others, everything lives lives in Me...".; therefore the creator is bigger than the creation. The creation (this world of ours) is temporary and has a beginning and an end, and, therefore, is nothing more than a Relative Truth, but the creator (may think as the Infinite force) is permanent and therefore the ABSOLUTE TRUTH. Think about what Kali (Maa Kali) stands for. Relative truth means something which has an existence in a certain limited peiod of the time scale,(an example in science is bandpass signal), Absolute truth means something that exists always in the time scale (has no beginning or end- a rough example in science is White noise). may even exist beyond time (time dilation possible in science). Therefore, lets think of this Absolute truth only as the guiding force and master of all our lives and even beyond every life. For according to the Thakur, our beliefs lead to the desired results and arguments to nothing.

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  9. And finally, one may worship science as his God, no problem, he wont be cursed, but if he does so with a sense of inflated pride of knowledge or condescending to submit before the Supreme personality of Godhead, he can never reach the path of divinity. Even if he does not do so but is an atheist, he will be stuck in the eddies of Gyan or Karma Yoga and therefore, never reach the Lord. Because, as the Gita proclaims, in this Kali Yuga only Bhakti Yoga loeads to the Absolute Truth.

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  10. Great discussion going on here. Amazing to see people still discussing such topics in today's world. I wont debate between Science and God but it reminds me of a Katha I listened once. I am not sure if it was Brahmaji or his son Naarad who was ordered to go on an expedition to "know" and "understand" the universe. At the end on his return he had only 3 words to say "neti neti neti". That the universe is so vast and complicated that even after knowing so many things he says not this not that ... nothing. (More later sirji :))
    -Sarvo

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  11. @Sarvo,

    Very true. God cannot be expressed - that is what I "feel". But, to convert that "feeling" to a "knowledge", I have to get rid of the worldly knowledge first. To abandon it, I must see throught my limits of acquiring knowledge. This is what Science allows and captured through the story of the bird who flew in many directions..

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  12. I rather feel there is a path to start "feeling" about God. First, you use your logical brain (intellect) to analytically think over the information that you have absorbed while reading spiritual/philosophical works of great stalwarts of Hindu philosophy of the likes of Swamiji, Thakur Ramkrishna, Pranavanandaji Maharaj, etc. (Gyan Yog, perhaps). In the process, try to correlare them with Physics-Mathematics. Then stop your logical mind and start thinking with a believer's heart keeping in mind only the Divine Mother as the ABSOLUTE TRUTH and everything else as impermanent, hence mundane. Then limits to acquiring knowledge may start diminishing. It's process of self-realisation when brain woks in unison with the soul connected to the divinity.

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  13. "Amazing to see people still discussing such topics in today's world." This statement is rather more amazing... "Oh Selucas, how strange is this world!!!"... We feel ashamed and rather silly in publicly discussing/sharing views about our TRUE FATHER/MOTHER of eternity. We take pride in our scientific knowledge and our superlative intellectual that has led to so many mind-boggling innovations & discoveries. But, alas, we are so deeply engrossed in our artificial self-asserted 'greatness' that we (today's youth at large) do never recognize the REAL GREAT- the 'President of all Presidents', Who is always present, yet absent to our blind eye- its the eye of the soul- SUPEREGO, trapped permanently in our EGO and Id impulses.

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  14. @Anonymous,

    The "amazing" is a pure and true heartfelt sentiment of joy - not being ashamed. I know the commenter and can relate to the feeling. It is not everyday people participate in such discussions. But, I am optimistic that when they discuss - they do not feel ashamed. Thanks to the revival of Indian past by leaders like Swamiji.

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  15. The inquisitive mind is requested to read from this link please: http://www.stephen-knapp.com/sri_krishna.htm

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