The Purpose of Life’s Journey IV: Fear Not Maya, Accept It
After the discourse by Kavi Muni and Hari Muni on Bhagavatha Dharma, Nimi Chakravarthy asked a crucial question. He wanted to know what is Maya.
This question was answered by Yogi Anthareekshan. He told Nimi Chakravarthy that all the physical and non-physical aspects of this world are born out of Maya. Each of these go through three stages – creation, sustenance and destruction. This cycle continues many times. This means that there is a beginning, a middle stage of preservation and destruction.
If you have not understood the above, do not get upset with yourself or think that your understanding is limited. Read ahead.In Hindu philosophy, Maya is either not understood well or misinterpreted. When one cannot explain an aspect of life or religion, the reason is inexplicably at the doorsteps of Maya or cloaked in Maya.
So, we say our life is all Maya; that it is all a dream and we wake up when our physical body ceases to exist. But there is no evidence. Nobody who has died has ever come back and told us: Hey guys, you are all in a long dream. You are all born with an expiry date and till then the dream would continue.
Some compare this with the real dream that you experience at night. In your dream there are characters, you interact with them, there are houses, temples and sometimes even the dead. You are sometimes chased by a thief or you chase a thief; at times you miss a train or a bus and you wake up panting and sweating. But when you wake up, all characters and situations vanish in a jiffy.
Is our real life like the dream that we experience when asleep? If yes, some part of us, a substantial part, must be awake. But what is that substantial part? Is that the Supreme?
The other theory is that all the creations are born out of Maya of the Supreme who is in a playful mood. Why should the Supreme, who is described as Nirguna (roughly: One without feelings or attachment), ever want to play games? Unless, ofcourse, He is extremely bored.
So, Maya is either an illusion, or delusion. Sometimes it is magic. Like, when it is said “Indra through his Maya assumed various forms.” Then there are our Mayajaal movies that weave everything in smoke-filled Maya. But this is not the Maya we are discussing.I admit that the very early meaning of Maya was magic. That is because there were very many loose ends to various aspects of life and death, so Maya became a convenient answer. But the Maya then dropped out of sight altogether, according to Swami Ranganathananda of the Ramakrishna Mutt in one of his many lectures. But in the meantime the idea was developing.
Later on, in one of the latest Upanishads, we find the word Maya reappearing. In Shvetâshvatara Upanishad, it is said: “Know nature to be Maya and the Ruler of this Maya is the Lord Himself.” Frankly, that does not explain much except giving Maya a big halo. So, from here it got manipulated in various forms to suit the convenience of exponents.
The Buddhists too used Maya. But in their hands it became a form of Idealism.
When the Hindu says the world is Maya, the idea is that the world is an illusion. For Buddhists, who did not believe in the external world, Maya was not just illusion but getting out of it was Idealism.
But the Maya of the Vedanta, in its last developed form, is neither Idealism nor Realism, nor is it a theory. It is a simple statement of facts — what we are and what we see around us. That is Maya.
We are all born with a set of genes. In religion, we say fate. Note the similarity: Gene, Fate, Maya – all have four letters.
Gene is a unit of heredity which is transferred from a parent to offspring and determines some characteristic of the offspring. And genes are made up of DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid. DNA is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. The information in DNA is stored as a code made up of four chemical bases: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). Again four!
So, what has all this got to do with Maya?
How the genes express is Maya. How we get out of this is liberation from our genetic expression. People who completely break away from characteristics of genetic expression get liberated from Maya and are able to realise the Supreme.
Will you be able to do so? Well, partly. That is where bhakti and gyana or wisdom play a role. You cannot change your gene. In religious context, you cannot change your fate. But you can modify genetic expression; you can modify fate. Again through bhakti, gyana and samsarga or the company you keep.You can partly get out of the clutches of genetic expression (Maya). If you have inherited genes that express anger, greed, malice and such negative traits, you can get out of the clutches through bhakti, gyana, samsarga. That is liberation from various forms of Maya.
So, when you pray to the Supreme to liberate you from Maya, what you are actually meaning is liberation from the negative expressions of your genetic mix that you have inherited. You cannot change your parents or the genes inherited from them, but you surely change the genetic expression. That is liberation from one limb of Maya.
Finally, when you liberate yourself from all negative expression, you become a yogi or one who realises the Supreme. There is a blissful stillness beyond Maya where you realise the Paramatma.Yogis attain this with years of penance. But you and I should not be disappointed that we cannot reach there. Strive, but do not be disappointed. Accept Maya as a simple statement of facts of your genes and try to liberate from atleast one negative aspect.
Our journey should be towards that goal.