quicker than thinking


New Delhi: Sitting under the thatched shelter built on the roof terrace here, watching a small bird about the size of a large bee, so tiny! Is it a relative of the humming bird? Wikipedia says it’s a Purple Sunbird, less than 10 cms, the male is a kind of black-purple. This one, I see from the photo, must be the female, a more sedate olive green. Yep, this is the lady Sunbird, so small, it’s like it’s almost not there at all; takes my breath away. How can such a thing exist? A delicate speck of life, fragile and light; there’s birth and there’s death and there’s the bit in between. That’s where the Sunbird is, so brief… I suppose these tiny birds have just evolved like that because predators can’t catch them – always one step ahead of everything. Its movements are immediate, now here, now there; the quality of sunlight – elusive, a flicker of pure reality. Not like a bird, more like the shifting of my line of vision as I try to follow where its gone, then my conscious seeing of it in another place happens at the same time as the actual presence of the small creature itself, perched on a twig and ready to dart off somewhere….

olive-backed-sunbird-878cd193cd11f74dfc50b102c567baa7The alertness of the Sunbird is having an effect on me, how to identify this? It’s as if there’s a space between the things we take for granted and ponder over; a small gap, there in the absence of the object that has not yet arrived. The Sunbird gets to that place before we can even think of it being there. Faster than thought. I’ve noticed a few references to this space before something happens and after it’s finished; recently found it in the context of the short emptiness just before giving way to an emotion [Kadampa Life calls it ‘an inch of space’. Follow this link: Being realistic]. There’s room to move before giving way to an automatic thought response. There’s a moment before cognition locks in; a gap in time, quicker than thinking that allows the mind to see it all as it is – a small window opens and we see the whole thing passing by, sorry, can’t stay, got to rush, bye! Off it goes in a continuation of its itinerary, if it comes around here again, everything will be completely different; we may not remember it was this…

My eye follows the little brown bird as it flits and hovers from flower to flower and doesn’t seem to mind me being here quietly watching. Then it flies over the parapet of the roof terrace, hesitates there in the air, buzzing wings, makes a decision to go left and down, veers off in that direction and it’s gone…


‘This awakened consciousness, as pointed out by the Buddha, is not conditioned as with the six kinds of consciousness (the six sense-doors: eyes, ears, nose, mouth, body or mind), neither being part of the natural world (earth, water, fire, and wind), nor having size, being neither long nor short; it is without texture, being neither fine nor coarse; it is without moral quality either, being neither pure nor impure; neither is it psychological in nature (nama) nor physical (rupa). It is invisible, limitless, and radiant.’ [Ajahn Sumedho, ‘Awakened Consciousness’]

12 thoughts on “quicker than thinking

      • Nice observation. I’d say it’s remained with you far more than if it had just stayed there. Also, it’s interesting that it’s a purple sunbird, yet it’s actually yellow (since the birds are named after the color of the males). The males could just as easily be yellow sunbirds that happen to be purple.

      • In Wiki they say that the young males start off with the yellow colouring. I saw a black-purple male recently, exotic creature, like something from another universe. The female is more recognizably ‘bird’, as we know it, like a miniature wren, same colouring. It’s symbolic too, like a messenger, and there’s a curious reality about that… and this thing about birds being territorial? It’ll be resident in the neighbourhood, so no doubt I’ll see it again.

  1. Pingback: the bird is the messenger | dhamma footsteps

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