Is the Supersoul the observer and permitter or just the observer as is conveyed by the analogy of the two birds in the heart?

by Chaitanya CharanJuly 8, 2013

From Reshma M

Edited By: Murlidhar Prabhu (Murli Thundi)

Question: The super soul is the permitter & overseer.He is the sanctioning authority. Please clarify whether sanction means He permits & rejects our desires or does He, like the passive bird next to the spirit soul, simply observes?

Answer: The Super soul definitely permits & rejects our desires because that is what the meaning of the word permitter is as Krishna uses in BG 13.23 – upadristaanumanta ca. He’s the overseer & the permitter.

Every example or analogy that is told is given to convey something specific, some specific spiritual truth and no analogy can convey the spiritual truth completely. Each analogy conveys one particular aspect of that truth. The Upanishadic analogy of the two birds is found in this verse:






This verse actually essentially talks about two things. One, how the super soul is the observer but the focus of the verse is not on the Super soul. The focus is on how the soul is engaged in material enjoyment and is forgetful of God but when the soul turns to God and takes shelter of God and seeks happiness in service to God, in remembrance of God,then the soul becomes free from all misery. So the thrust of the analogy is not about the role of the Super soul, but on the entanglement & the disentanglement of the soul. While describing that entanglement, it also contrasts the position of the soul and the super soul. Thus in contrast to the soul being entangled, attracted and infatuated by material things, the Supersoul is “udasinavadasina”, meaning the Super soul is detached.

Krishna brings these two roles of the Super soul together in Bhagavad Gita 13.23, “upadraṣṭānumantā ca” which means overseer and permitter, andsimilarly He says, “udāsīnavad āsīnam” in BG 9.9-10, which means, “I am situated as if detached”.

Besides that, He also says “mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ, sūyate sa-carācaram “which means “the material nature is working under My supervision”. This indicates a more active role than just observer. A supervisor observes but doesn’t justobserve; a supervisor also guides and corrects. So to understand these aspects of Krishna’s action we have to consider other analogies for example, the analogy of a judge. Krishna is the ultimate judge, who as the super soul in the heart observesour actions and gives reaction. So in the ‘two bird’ metaphor the observer side is focused because that metaphor is primarily talking about how the soul becomes entangled and disentangled. The judge is also an observer but a detached observer. The judge doesn’t have any personal vendetta against any criminal. However,  the judge doesn’t just observe, the judge also gives the reaction to actions based on the way the person is acting or  has acted in the past. So the  super soul gives reactions to our actions based on our karmic destiny and along with  that based on our karmic destiny a part of the reaction is also the permission to do further action or not. So the past karmic reaction is not just whether we get suffering or happiness, it is also the permission. For example, a prisoner who has been misbehaving consistently even in the jail may not be allowed to even go out of the dungeon in which he is put presently because of past misbehaviour whereas some other prisoner may be allowed because of past good behaviour. So now this allowing or not allowing is also a reaction.  Similarly Krishna sometimes allow us to fulfil our desires and sometimes doesn’t allow us to fulfil our desires. He permits or rejects our desires depending on our past karma.

Thus the Super soul does both, He is the overseer and the sanctioner.

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