Origin of "two wings: wisdom and compassion" teaching?

Hi all. Does anyone know the origin of the “two wings of the bird” teaching on wisdom and compassion?

There are suttas that talk about serenity and insight in this way. I usually understand “compassion” as a stand-in for the whole of serenity practice. Curious to hear what others unearth

I imagine it’s partly a “stand in for serenity”, and partly comes from Mahayana ideas. It’s a popular among lay teachers here, and they tend to be quite synchretic.

Could you say more about this? I think of compassion in uses like this (that as @mikenz66 says seem Mahāyāna in origin) as representing brahmavihāra practice, but haven’t thought about it as pointing to serenity.

Hi Sean,

I think in the context of typical “insight meditation” retreats, which generally emphasise examining details of experience, the brahmavihāra practices that are taught alongside are much more oriented towards serenity than the breath-meditation practices.

Commonly thought as Mahayanist idea, concept of compassion and wisdom (which is related to emptiness/sunyata in Mahayana) as well as its practice in meditation is rooted in early Buddhist teaching. In his book “Compassion and Emptiness in Early Buddhist Meditation”, Bhikkhu Analayo explores the “two wings of enlightenment” from the perspective that emerges through a comparative study of the versions that parallel the Pāli discourses (Nikayas), which are extant mainly in Chinese as well as at times in Sanskrit and Tibetan. I haven’t read it yet, but I think this book will help answer your question.

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There is a serie of sutta’s in AN (AN1.495-574) which instruct that one should develop the faculty of wisdom, amongst many things, together with compassion (and other Brahma vihara’s). That way one…"follows the Teacher’s instructions, who responds to advice… How much more so those who make much of it!”

It does not speak about the wings of a bird but it illustrates that all those practices or developments are not meant as isolated practices, i think. It is all strongly connected and should be developed that way too, according these serie of sutta’s.

In mahayana i belief this two wings of a bird approach is mainly given because one can rely to much on wisdom alone. One must also rely on method which means just in an ordinairy sense developing patience, ethical behaviour, giving, concentration, in short, the paramita’s. One must, as it were, not think lowly about conditioning (like Krishnamurti did).

Gampopa strongly warns against only relying on wisdom in chapter 18 of the Jewel Ornament of Liberation. One gets stuck in peace. This is called an abiding Nibbana, abiding in a fixed way in peace.
One has not developed the mind, and has made of problem of applying the mind and use it. That way one might still arrive at peace but one becomes inflexible. (If krishnamurti applied his mind in teachings he got problems, like intense pain and regressive like states).

This constrast the non-abiding Nibbana in which on does not abide in samsara nor in a fixed way in the peace of nibbana. It is beyond both. One must be very careful with peace, because one can be stuck in it and in a subtle way be attached to it.

Gampopa says we need the eye of wisdom and the feet of method. Practicing wisdom seperate from method is according mahayana texst Mara’s way.

Like mahayana EBT also emphasize we must learn, train the mind, use the minds abilities, make use also of will. A pure and developed mind is also very capable, free, wieldy, easy to apply, flexible.

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