Feed the Birds

by Sharon Gannon |
March, 2019
yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas tat tad evetaro janaḥ sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute lokas tad anuvartate

yat—whatever; yat—and whichever; acarati—does he act; sresthah—best among people; tat—that; tat—and that alone; eva—certainly; itarah—common, other; janah—people; sah—he; yat—whichever; pramanam—evidence; kurute—does perform; lokah—the whole world; tat—that; anuvartate—follows in the footsteps.

A great person leads by example, setting standards that are followed by others all over the world.

Bhagavad Gita 3.21

Audio by Catherine Miranda & Hari Mulukutla

To bring more joy into your life, hang a bird feeder outside your window filled with organic birdseed, or put some seeds or bread crumbs on a windowsill. Carry with you a small bag of seeds and feed the birds on your way to the bus or subway or wherever you are going. 

Why feed birds? When you feed the wild birds, you karmically assure that you will always have enough to eat and that wildness will not die inside of you. Birds as well as all wild animals are having a hard time surviving in a world dominated by self-centered human beings. When you nourish wildness in another you keep it alive within yourself. Most people assume birds, being wild, know how to take care of themselves, and feel that taking care of them should not be our responsibility. But the fact is, we have destroyed or polluted most of the wild forests and fields where they might have been able to find an abundance of nourishing food. Birds require so little to live—a few good organic seeds and a couple of drops of fresh water—it may not be much, but it can mean the difference between life and death for a feathered person.

We may think that compassionate acts of kindness are charitable acts that only benefit others not ourselves, that giving only depletes the giver, infringing upon our time and money. But actually the law of karma assures that whatever we give will come back to us many times over. The secret to wealth is to give generously to others. How you treat others will determine how others treat you; how others treat you will determine how you see yourself; how you see yourself will determine who you are.

When you see yourself as poor, as not having enough to be able to share and be generous to others, you plant seeds for seeing yourself as a victim of poverty with an excuse to be stingy and self-centered, and that will become your reality as you continue to nourish that perception of yourself. You have a choice—If you want to see yourself as an enlightened being or at least a happy person, who is gracious, graceful and generous then that process starts with treating others kindly. If you want to rid the world of greed then you must destroy the seeds in your own mind that cause greed to appear in the world. In other words, you must do your best to be kind to others – to take care of others as if they were your own self.

Other-centeredness is the secret to overcoming the disease of self-centeredness. Put others before your self. Be more concerned for the happiness of others than for your own happiness.  Kindness is the key to happiness.

Taking care of others is a sure way to increase your own happiness. When we do things with the intention to first and foremost make ourselves happy we only increase our identification with our small self—our body, mind and personality. Practices like feeding the birds help you to drop your self-centered concerns and become more other-centered. Being more other-centered expands your sense of self and increases true self-confidence.  If you observe unhappy and depressed people you will usually find that they are always self-obsessed. The key to uplifting yourself is to do what you can to uplift the lives of others.

Teaching Tips

  1. Set out to contemplate this sloka every day for a month. Together, as a Jivamukti community, we could start a world-wide movement where thousands if not millions of hungry birds get nutritious meals. 
  2. Rather than complaining about a situation or wishing that someone else would do something , we are the ones to start expanding our compassion. Let us provide food for others and expand our focus beyond just what “I” have to eat, drink and wear today. 
  3. Encourage students to think of themselves as powerful people who could set an example and become leaders. Ask- “What is one thing that I could initiate this month to facilitate positive change?”  As the late singer Prince said, “Compassion is an action word”
  4. Every day this month, check for 3 things before you leave home: Your keys, your mala beads and your birdseed!  
  5. Make some vegan suet, especially in regions that are colder : see recipe 
  6. Feeding wild beings keeps the wildness in us alive. You can also feed others in everyday ways as follows: Pets (real quality foods such as the recipes in Cats and Dogs are People Too by Sharon Gannon) children and family members , neighbors, or perhaps donate delicious vegan options to a food drive or pantry.