‘Thus, Maya is not an ignorance, a separation from the totality of the truth, but a transcendental power that is the expression of a divine integral knowledge, where each and every force and form that manifest is united in a totality of truth.If I see a beautiful painting, it is not an illusion that separates me from the Infinite, God, the Divine, but is a unique expression of the Godhead rendered in a unique form by the power of Maya’. Sri Aurobindo
The Hindu tradition asserts that nothing is more difficult or more important than waking up to the illusory nature of ordinary appearances, which makes true seem false and false seem true. The name for this distortion of perception is Maya, beautifully illustrated in the following story, in which Krishna, an incarnation of God(s), gives his disciple, Narada, an experience of Maya. The one thing worth noting at the outset is that Narada was already a fully enlightened being; the webs of illusion can even snare a sage.
One day as they were out walking, Narada asked Krishna to explain the nature of Maya. Krisha replied, “Narada, Maya cannot be explained, it can only be experienced. Come with me.” Krishna led them to a desert. Narada asked what a desert had to do with anything, and Krishna said, “Just wait.”
They walked on until Krishna collapsed and said, “Narada, my friend, I can’t go any farther. Will you get me some water?” Narada walked on until he came to a village. At the well, a beautiful young woman drew him some water. Narada was so taken with her, he followed her home, and was welcomed by her father, the headman of the village. Before long, Narada asked for her hand in marriage. Her father agreed, on the condition that Narada stay in the village and live in the family home.
Shortly after the wedding, the girl’s father died, and Narada became headman of the village. He prospered, and in time, four children were born, but just at the height of his success, a devastating cyclone blew through the land. Narada put his family in a boat but it capsized in the flood, and his wife and children were lost.
The poor man crawled onto shore and collapsed in the mud, lamenting. ”My wife is gone, my children are dead! How can I live without them?” Just then he found himself at the feet of Krishna who said, “Narada, did you remember my water.”
Maya is about perception rather than illusion. Maya stays the same but how we see it evolves. The illusion is in the perception of Maya, not the Maya itself. Maya is the play of self knowledge and the vast range of possibilities.
Maya is said to have three characteristics, depending on our predominant energy and resulting perspective. If our energy is sluggish and dark, called tamas, the dream becomes a concealer that covers reality. When the energy is intense and very active, rajas, this is the power of projection that supports the story, illusions, or beliefs we project. This is why people tend to call Maya the illusion.
But when the energy becomes more clear and smooth, sattva, the dream becomes a field of knowledge, the play of God. We can thus see that Maya provides the framework to automatically provide the perceptions required of whatever perspective we carry. One thought, many ways of seeing
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