atmanam anyam ca sa veda vidvan
apippalado na tu pippaladah
yo ’vidyaya yuk sa tu nitya-baddho
vidya-mayo yah sa tu nitya-muktah
The bird who does not eat the fruits of the tree is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who by His omniscience perfectly understands His own position and that of the conditioned living entity, represented by the eating bird. That living entity, on the other hand, does not understand himself or the Lord. He is covered by ignorance and is thus called eternally conditioned, whereas the Personality of Godhead, being full of perfect knowledge, is eternally liberated.
The word vidya-maya in this verse indicates the internal potency of the Lord and not the external potency, maha-maya. Within the material world there is vidya, or material science, and avidya, or material ignorance, but in this verse vidya means the internal spiritual knowledge by which the Personality of Godhead is fixed in omniscience. The example of two birds in a tree, which is given in many Vedic literatures, demonstrates the statement nityo nityanam: there are two categories of eternal living entities, namely the Supreme Lord and the minute jiva soul. The conditioned jiva soul, forgetting his identity as an eternal servant of the Lord, tries to enjoy the fruits of his own activities and thus comes under the spell of ignorance. This bondage of ignorance has existed since time immemorial and can be rectified only by one’s taking to the loving devotional service of the Lord, which is full of spiritual knowledge. In conditioned life the living entity is forced by the laws of nature to engage in pious and impious fruitive activities, but the liberated position of every living entity is to offer the fruits of his work to the Lord, the supreme enjoyer. It should be understood that even when the living entity is in a liberated condition, his knowledge is never equal in quantity to that of the Personality of Godhead. Even Lord Brahma, the supreme living entity within this universe, acquires only partial knowledge of the Personality of Godhead and His potencies. In Bhagavad-gita (4.5), the Lord explains His superior knowledge to Arjuna:
bahuni me vyatitani
janmani tava carjuna
tany aham veda sarvani
na tvam vettha parantapa
“The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!”
The term baddha, or “bound,” is also understood to refer to the living entity’s eternal dependence upon the Lord, either in the conditioned or liberated state. In the kingdom of maya the living entity is bound to the cruel laws of birth and death, whereas in the spiritual sky the living entity is fixed in a bond of love to the Lord. Liberation means freedom from the miseries of life, but never freedom from one’s loving relationship with Lord Krsna, which is the essence of one’s eternal existence. According to Srila Madhvacarya, the Lord is the only eternally free living entity, and all other living entities are eternally dependent and bound to the Lord, either through blissful loving service or through the bondage of maya. The conditioned soul should give up tasting the bitter fruits of the tree of material existence and turn to his dearmost friend, Lord Krsna, who is sitting within his heart. There is no pleasure equal to or greater than the pleasure of pure devotional service to Lord Krsna, and by tasting the fruit of love of Krsna, the liberated living entity enters the ocean of happiness.