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16-The Magic of Maayaa

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Kathopanishad-Page 16
p 189-199

The Magic of Maayaa

[189] This school through which we all go through, is a dream school, but it always changes. It gives plenty of scope  for play and creation. When we arrange billions of sense impressions in our mind into a personal picture, we call it the real world; but our shadow world (the picture we assemble), it may resemble, but is not the same. A crow is crow and a nightingale is a nightingale, both may look same, but are not the same. Thus the shadow picture may be a fine work of art, but it is not the scientific fact. The idea that pleasure brings security (we forget everything while we enjoy pleasures) is hundred percent a cruel illusion.

Interestingly enough a vast majority of people live in such shadow world. Perhaps, it is very comfortable place to live because we ourselves have furnished it. Very few desire to know the reality - the rest are happy with their unreal world (Maayaa, or in English magic).

When we stand in the land of Unity, we see only the Self; but when we stand in the land of Duality we see the Self as Maayaa - the whole pageant of the Universe through Time and Space. Personified Maayaa is a magician - the creative power of of Godhead. Maayaa is the most resourceful sorceress. [What is magic? To divert the attention of the audience to what you want to show them and hiding what you don't to show them. A magician does it by concentrating your attention on his right hand so that he can do whatever he likes to do with his left hand.] So Maayaa comes on the stage with a huge full bowl of Chitta, then she gets up to look somewhere else, and while our attention is diverted she takes a kind of Sanskaar cookie cutter and starts creating, what Hindu philosophy calls Naam Roop - name and form, or mind and matter. You and I are the result of the same process. And we all are amazed, "Where did all that come from?" We are so caught up in the grandness that we forget all about bowl - that we all creatures from the same matter from that bowl.

This is the very best magic - although it is an illusion, still it is not. We cannot say that we were not in that bowl, otherwise how could we come out of it? But we saw that there was nothing in that bowl but a nameless stuff. When an inventor invents something, what does he invent? Not an assembly of materials, but an idea. In the same way, this whole vast Universe was drawn in the consciousness of the Lord, four billion years ago and sometime in future she will dissolve into herself.

According to Aadi Shankaraachaarya, the magic of Maayaa has two functions to accomplish - one is concealment, covering the bowl, where the reality is covered from us - where our senses, mind and intellect cannot go, simultaneously diverting our attention to somewhere else, and says, "look there in the sense world away from the Self within]; and two, the Self, who is always present, effectively hidden for eons (ages). It is like getting you to sit in a window and to look out all day, so that he can do whatever she likes right behind you, in your very room and you will never know.

Maayaa holds our head tight, so that we never look back, with her wand of desires and creating a beautiful and attractive scene outside the window so that we continuously desire to see it. We are so lost in that scene that we forget that we are sitting in our own room andare looking out of the window only. We derive so much pleasure out of that scene that we do not like to look away from that scene (like the mystery movie) and we do not want to move our eyes from there. She massages our neck with her soft fingers (Time) but at the same time, cutting it too. After a long time when we wake up (ourTime is up) our neck is stiff and we cannot turn it away.

Plato has given a similar expression - all of us are sitting in a cave looking at shadows cast on the wall, very few turn around to the light of reality. In fact it is like watching a film in which, while watching it, we cry, we weep, we get angry, we are bereaved, but at the end it is all over. Nobody is hurt, nobody is happy, nobody has died, nobody has harmed anybody else - it has also perfect illusion, even though we enjoy or suffer with its characters.

Life is like that. We see the shadows the mind lasts on the screen and we get so absorbed that we forget that there can be no shadow without light. Without the radiance of the Self, none of this could exist. Swami Rama cites PB Shelley here -

The One remains, the many change and pass,
Heaven's light forever shines, Earth's shadow fly,
Life, like a dome of many colored glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity.

Aadi Shankaraachaarya uses a different image - suppose there is a large clay pot full of water reflecting the Sun on a sunny day. Now imagine four billion Jeev, four billion pots, each reflecting the image of the Sun. A child sees four billion little Suns. Suppose one pot breaks, the child cries for he has lost one Sun. Aadi Shankaraachaarya says - "Look up, don't keep your eyes on these pots, look at the Sun, there is only One Sun and He is still there - the Self, and pots or no pots, He is still shinning - unharmed, unaffected, uninfluenced from anything."

Once Naarad asked Krishn - "Could you explain the secret of this magic, called Maayaa?" Krishn first hesitated for a while because understanding Maayaa could take whole of a life, still He said - "Of course, let us sit down here in the shade of this tree and I will explain it to you; But Naarad, it is very hot, would you get me a glass of cool water first?"  Naarad said "Why not?" and set out to bring water.

Naarad immediately proceeded in one direction. He saw a line of thatched huts along the horizons. So he continued towards those huts, but they were not near as they seemed. The Sun was too hot, he also got very thirsty. He thought he would ask for two glasses of water instead of one, one for Krishn and one for himself. Finally he arrived in the village, he knocked the nearest door, the door opened and there stood a most beautiful girl he had ever seen. She smiled at Naarad and Naarad felt something in his heart and body that had never happened before to him. First he stammered then he could only utter - "Will you marry me?" The girl agreed, they got married and started living together a blissful life.

After a while children started coming. All this made Naarad a staunch householder. Naarad and his wife became engrossed in their new life, private little world, quietly building their dreams. Years passed, children grew up, went to school, got married, and in time Naarad got grandchildren too. Naarad became the father of the whole village respected by everybody. He and his wife would look at each other and say - "Don't you think that being grandparents is the greatest bliss of our life?"

Then came a great flood. The whole village was filled with water. Just everything he loved and lived for - his land, cattle, house, even his wife, children, grandchildren all were swept away in that flood. Only he alone remained alive in that village. Unable to watch this destruction, he cried for help - "Krishn, Krishn". At once the flood disappeared and there was standing Krishn, as Naarad left Him before coming to this village. Krishn asked - "Naarad, Where is my glass of water? Have you brought it?"

So this is the form of Maayaa in which we live.

Death and Immortality

[196] On the stage of Maayaa, reincarnation is the backdrop; the shadow of Jeev, identified with the body, is a long lifeline of consciousness running through Time. There are some breaks in this line in the form of death which severs consciousness from the body, but the person who has learned to withdraw consciousness at will from his body and mind, is not affected by this cosmic event. His consciousness is not individual, but universal. His consciousness is not affected by death as our body is not affected when we take off our jacket at night.

In meditation, if our senses and passions are under our control, our Ego dies a little everyday. Whenever we forget ourselves, our shadowy Self is gone. Those are the moments of immortality right on Earth. Still the mind and that false Self is no more there. In the situation of death, we may ask, "Where does that Jeev go? Where is that man who made mistakes? Or where is that child who played games I played? Or where is that woman who suffered and enjoyed?" Yam would reply to these questions - "What is there to go anywhere? You had been dreaming, now you are awake, dream is gone, so Jeev is also gone." Buddhists would say - "Death is the contemporary end of a temporary phenomenon - no less, no more."

When we wake up into Unity, Self-will dies forever. No one mourns that moment. It is a time to rejoice, because on that day all agitation, all turmoil, all sorrow -  everything is gone. Aadi Shankaraacharya says - "The joy of this state is unending. It is almost irresistible."

People often ask - "If the Ego is gone, how can you feel anything at all?" The answer is that for many a kind of Ego does remain." Shree Ramakrishna calls it the "ripe Ego". It remains solely to enable you to go on giving to life. Like a burned rope, it looks like the real thing, but as soon as you touch it, you find that it looked only like rope, it is not real rope. Similarly the ripe Ego is incapable of anger, hatred, or any negative feeling. The motivation of an illuminated man or woman is love. When Self-will disappears, love plays in within your heart like a continuous fountain.




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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/05
Updated on 06/09/11