Witness(Sakshi) – Jiva and Ishwara Story of Two Birds

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Q). Please provide reference to two birds story given in Mundaka Upanishad and meaning based on Commentary of Shri Shankara ?

The Story of Two Birds :
Two birds living together, each the friend of the other, perch upon the same tree
Of these two, one eats the fruits of the tree, but the other simply looks on without eating. Although the two birds are on the same tree, the eating bird is fully engrossed with anxiety and sadness. If in some way or other he turns his face to his friend who is the Lord, at once the suffering bird becomes free of all anxieties
One who sees the golden colored bird, the Lord, the actor, who is the source of the Supreme Brahman, is liberated. Such a person becomes wise. He becomes free of both pious and sinful karmic reactions. He becomes pure. He attains a spiritual form like that of the Lord Himself.
Shri Shankara’s Commentary :
Para Vidya or supreme knowledge of Brahman is described in above sloka. Knowing the immortal SELF ( purusha), ignorance in the form of knot of the heart is totally destroyed. One who knows the immortal SELF (Atman – Brahman) becomes free from the suffering of Samsara. In the above story, analogy given is described below
– Tree represents the field of action (kshetra) is the worls because like a tree being uprooted or destroyed, world is perishable. Tree has roots above ( Brahman) and branches ( prana etc) downwards. The source of tree is unmanifest – avyakta (maya). The fruits of tree represents the karma of all beings.
– The first bird eating the fruit is Jiva ( individual soul) enjoying the fruits of good and bad karma represented as fruits of tree. The jiva is nothing but the SELF (atman) conditioned by the subtle body (sukshma sharira). .Due to ignorance of the SELF nature, the jiva has desire, past impressions (vasanas). Jiva is the knower of the field ( kshetrajna).
– Second bird is the Lord ( Ishwara). Ishwara is supreme reality Brahman+ unmanifest maya ( avyakta). Ishwara is the witness. Ishwara is the creator of tree and its fruits. He watches disinterestedly the jiva eating fruits of action (karma phala) like a king witnessing the crowd. Ishwara is the sakshi (witness).

– Due to ignorance jiva is convinced that body is the SELF (atman) . i.e.., “I am body”. Due to ignorance, jiva thinks he is son/daughter of so and so, doing such and such karma etc. Jiva suffers due to repeated birth-death-birth cycle because of transmigration as effect of karma.
– After many life times, jiva following the path of yoga and jnana realizes that ” I am the other bird – Atman, free from hunger and thirst, birth and death. I am not the other bird (jiva) bound by ignorance. I am seated in heart of all beings. I am the master of universe”.
Thus the story of two birds in Mundaka Upanishad teaches Brahma Vidya (para vidya) which alone can free one from bondage of samsara.
Q2). What is the relationship between two birds ?
The bird which is eating the fruits of karma is the empirical Self (jiva). The bird watching (witness – sakshi) is Ishwara – Lord. The relationship between two birds is given by the mahavakya “Tatwamasi – That Thou Art”. The essence of myself (jiva) and the Lord (Ishvara) is pure consciousness – Brahman.
The story of two birds – jiva and Ishwara is at a transactional level only in the domain of Maya. In reality there are no two birds. It is Brahman alone – Absolute reality.
– Prabhuji –


द्वा सुपर्णा सयुजा सखाया समानं वृक्षं परिषस्वजाते।
तयोरन्य: पिप्पलं स्वाद्वत्त्यनश्नन्नन्यो अभिचाकशीति॥
समाने वृक्षे पुरुषों निमग्नोऽनाशया शोचति मुह्यमान:।
जुष्टं यदा पश्यत्यन्यमीशमस्य महिमानमिति वीतशोक:॥
यदा पश्य: पश्यते रुक्मवर्णं कर्तारमीशं पुरुषं ब्रह्मयोनिम्।
तदा विद्वान्पुण्यपापे विधूय निरंजन: परमं साम्यमुपैति॥ – Mundaka Upanishad
Dwa Suparna Sayuja Sakhaya Samanam Vriksam Pariswajate
Tayor anyah pippalam swadu atti, anashnan anyo abhijakashiti. – Mundaka Upanishad 3.1:1
Samane vrikshe purusho nimagno ‘nishaya shocati muhyamanah
Jushtam yada pashyati anyam isham asya mahimanam iti vita-shokah – Mundaka Upanishad 3.1:2
Yada pashyah pashyate rukma-varnam kartaram isham purusham brahma-yonim
Tada vidvan punya-pape vidhuya niranjanah paramam samyam upaiti – Mundaka Upanishad 3.1:3

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