maayaa is illusion -
both at the individual and cosmic level.
maa means No
and yaa means That.
That which is not self-existent yet appears to exist, like a mirage, is called maayaa.
When we devote our mind, energy and resources to believing in that which is not existent,
then it appears to exist
and that is maayaa.
Maya or illusion is deeply rooted in attachment.
When we are attached to or have a desire for something,
it becomes a source of illusion for us.
The less attachment, the more inner strength;
the more inner strength, the nearer the goal.
Vairagya and abhyasa - non-attachment and constant awareness of absolute reality--
are like two wings of a bird
which can fly from the plane of mortality to the height of immortality.
Those who do not allow their wings to be clipped by the illusion of maya,
can attain perfection.
When yogis speak of non-attachment, they are not teaching indifference,
but are teaching how to love others genuinely and selflessly.
Non-attachment, properly understood, is love.
Ramakrishna Quotes on mAyA
"To love only members of the BrAmho SamAj
or of one's own family is mAyA;
to love one's own countrymen is mAyA.
But to love the people of all countries,
to love the members of all religions, is dayA.
Such love comes from love of God, from dayA."
"mAyA is nothing but 'woman and gold'.
A man living in its midst gradually loses his spiritual alertness.
He thinks all is well with him,
like the scavenger who carries a tub of night-soil on his head,
and, in course of time, loses his repulsion to it.
One gradually acquires love of God through
the practice of chanting God's name and glories."
"Remember that dayA - compassion, and mAyA - attachment,
are two different things.
Attachment means the feeling of
'my-ness' towards one's relatives.
Compassion is the love one feels
for all beings of the world.
It is an attitude of equality.
MAyA also comes from God.
Through mAyA, God makes one serve one's relatives.
But one thing should be remembered:
mAyA keeps us in ignorance and
us in the world,
makes our hearts pure
and gradually unties our bonds."
"How is it ever possible for one man to liberate another
from the bondage of the world?
the Creator of this world-bewitching mAyA,
can save men from mAyA.
There is no other refuge but that great teacher,
How is it ever possible for men who have not
or who have not received His command,
and who are not strengthened with divine strength,
to save others from the prison-house of the world?"
What is the nature of maya?
Is maya real or imaginary?
me first attempt to state the questioner's viewpoint. Unless mAyA is
already present, neither concealment nor projection can take place. Is
mAyA then coeval with brahman? Do they exist side by side? Does this not
contradict the non-dual status of brahman? Where does mAyA operate? What
is its base of operation? These questions raise very profound
base of activity of mAyA cannot be brahman because the latter is
Absolute luminosity and there is no place in it for ignorance or
darkness. Nor can the jIva be the base of operations of mAyA. For jIva
itself cannot come into existence until mAyA has operated. There seems
to be an irresolvable logical difficulty here.
the difficulty will vanish once we realize that we are here making an
implicit assumption that is not valid. We are actually assuming the
prior reality of time and space before the appearance of mAyA. Otherwise
we could not have asked the question: Where does mAyA operate? When does
it come into existence? These questions are valid only if you have a
frame of reference in time and space independent of mAyA. But time and
space, says Shankara, are themselves creations of mAyA. (cf. `mAyA-kalpita-desha-kAla-
kalanAt' in his dakshiNAmUrti-stotra, sloka no.4).
fact, this is also the answer to the physicist's question: When did time
originate? Time did not originate in a timeless frame because we would
then be begging the question. The very fact that we are conscious of the
passage of time is a consequence of mAyA. So questions such as, `Where
does mAyA operate?' and `When did it start operating?' are not properly
posed. Time and space cannot claim prior existence. It is therefore
wrong to ask whether mAyA is prior to jIva or later than jIva. Ultimate
Reality is beyond space and time. In the words of Swami Vivekananda,
time, space and causation are like the glass through which the Absolute
is seen. In the Absolute itself, there is neither space, nor time nor
in the field of modern physics, so in the field of vedanta, time and
space are modes incidental to sense perception and should not be applied
to what is trans-empirical. jIva and mAyA are both given a priori in our
experience and we have to take them as such. They are anAdi (beginningless).
The only relevant question that you can ask about them is about their
nature and final destiny. Examination will show that mAyA is neither
real nor unreal.
am ignorant' is a common expression, within anybody's experience. Hence
mAyA is not completely unreal. But it disappears with the onset of
knowledge. So it is not real either. Thus it is different from both the
real and the unreal. In Sanskrit it is therefore called `sad-asad-
vilakshaNa', meaning that it is different from both the real and the
unreal. And for the same reason it is said to be `anirvachanIya',
meaning, that which is undecidable or that which cannot be defined one
way or the other. It is in this sense we say that the world of
perception, the common world of experience, cannot be rejected out of
hand as totally false, like the hare's horn or the lotus in the sky; nor
can it be taken to be totally real because it suffers contradiction at a
higher level of experience. It is real in the empirical sense and unreal
in the absolute sense.
is also the case with a dream. For the dreamer, the dream is real. The
acceptance of the reality of the dream to the dreamer is the king-pin of
Shankara's explanation of Advaita. He bases many of his arguments on
this phenomenal reality of the dream. This reality, called `vyAvahArika-satyaM'
is in between the total unreality - `asat' - of the barren mother, and
the total reality - `sat' - of brahman. The dream and similarly the
perceptible universe is neither `sat' nor `asat'. It is `mithyA'. The
meaning of the word `mithyA' is not falsehood but comparative unreality.
It is not total non-existence like hare's horn but it is midway between
the absolute truth of brahman and the absolute falsehood of hare's horn.
are actually different analogies to explain the peculiar relationship
between brahman and the universe. The analogy that Shankara very often
uses is the relationless relationship of the rope that is mistaken for
the snake, because of poor lighting. The rope appears as a snake no
doubt, but actually there is no snake there, ever. Even when it appeared
to be there, it was not there. But the one who saw it did really get
scared on `seeing' the snake and only when help came in the form of
better lighting did the person realize that what `was there' all the
time was only a rope.
second analogy that is used in the literature is the appearance of water
in a mirage. And the third one is that of the dreamer and his dream.
Each of these three analogies has its own limitation in explaining the
relationship between brahman, which is invisible, and the universe,
which is visible. Brahman is the rope; the visible universe is the
snake. What appears as the universe is not really the universe. When
spiritual illumination takes place we will know that what was there all
the time was only brahman. Similarly in the example of the mirage and
water, the water appearance is only an illusion. What is there in
reality is only sand, no water. The dream of course is totally a mental
aberration, fully subjective and it vanishes the moment the person wakes
three analogies are not however just three analogies in place of one.
There is a gradation, says Ramana Maharshi. First it may be questioned,
with reference to the analogy of the rope and the snake that when the
lighting situation improves the appearance of the snake is no more
there, whereas, in the case of brahman versus universe, even after
learning that brahman is the substratum of truth, and the universe is
only a superimposition like the snake on the rope, we still continue to
see the universe; it has not disappeared!
this the Maharishi wants you to go to the analogy of the mirage. Once
you understand it is the mirage and no watershed, the appearance of
water is no more there. But now there is another objection: 'Even after knowing that there is only brahman and the
universe is only an appearance, one gets certain wants fulfilled from
this appearance of a universe: one gets one's hunger satisfied, thirst
quenched and so on. But the water in the mirage does not quench one's
thirst; so to that extent the analogy is inappropriate'.
analogy of the dream meets this objection, says the Maharishi. The
dreamer has his thirst quenched in the dream. The thirst itself is a
dream thirst and it is quenched by drinking (dream) water in the dream;
so also the wants that one feels in this universe like hunger and thirst
are also quenched by corresponding objects in this universe. Thus in
this sense the analogy of the dream is reasonably perfect. Maybe that is
why Shankara uses the analogy of the dream so emphatically to describe
the reality or unreality of the universe.
Advaita the concept of reality is always comparative. Relative to
materials, things made out of the materials are unreal. In other words
if a bucket is made out of plastic, the bucket is unreal relative to the
plastic. It is the cause that is `more real' than the effect. The cause
of the world versus the world itself gives us a comparison about their
relative reality. When we say that the universe is unreal, we mean that
it is unreal as the universe, but it is surely real as brahman, its
order to explain this relative unreality the theory of superimposition
is meticulously worked out by Shankara. While the snake is superimposed
on the rope, the rope undergoes no aberration or modification in the
process. It is the same rope all the time. What appears to you is only
in your mind. The visible universe is just a perishable (kShara)
superimposition on brahman. Brahman does not undergo any change in the
process. All the time brahman remains as brahman, the imperishable (akShara)
substratum. This is where the nirguNa (attributeless) character of
brahman is effectively applied by Shankara to his explanation of this
phenomenon of brahman not being visible but something else, the
universe, being visible, is exactly what the term `mAyA' means. It does
two things. It hides brahman from you. Simultaneously it projects the
universe to you.
declaration that this is what is happening comes forth from the Lord
Himself in Gita IX - 5, 6. 'Everything
that is perceptible is pervaded and permeated by Me, who is unmanifested.
All the beings are established in Me but not I in them; they are not in
Me either, this is my divine yoga.'. He remains unmanifested while what is visible
is basically a permeation by him. While he remains unchanged, and
imperceptible, the universe is what is perceptible. Everything visible
is supported by Him as the only substratum, whereas He Himself is not
supported by anything. He is His own support.
snake appears on the rope, the rope does not undergo any change, but the
snake is supported by the rope, (meaning, without the rope there is no
snake). But in reality the snake was never there and so it is also true
to say that the snake is not in the rope. To the question: Where is the
snake?, the answer is: it is in the rope. To the question, Is the snake
there?, the answer is, there is no snake, the snake was never in the
rope. It is in this strain that the Lord gives out, almost in the same
breath, what appears to be two contradictory statements. Everything is
in Me; and nothing is in Me. This is the cosmic mystery of the existence
of the Universe.
It is and is not - sad-asad-vilakshaNa, mAyA!