Māyā

We know that without the background of being, there can be no world…The real is one, yet we have two…As to how the primal reality in which the divine light (Īśwara) shines everlastingly can yet be the source and fount of all empirical being, we can only say it is a mystery, māyā 1….

The most modest course for philosophers would be to admit a mystery at the center of things. Ko ved…kuth iyam visriśtī : who knows whence this creation is born ? It is a mystery we cannot penetrate and a wise agnosticism is the only rational attitude.

  1. māyā2 : as Power of Self – Becoming : As the power of self-becoming māyā2 is that which measures out, molding forms in the formless. Māyā2 is closely related to theories of creation. Whereas māyā1 is an epistemological concept, māyā2 is a cosmogonic concept. It refers to the creative activity which R. identifies as poise two of reality – Īśwara…..”The power of self-becoming” is R’s translation of ātmavibhūti , a compound of ātman andbhū plus vi. Ātman cannot be translated into English adequately, but it is often rendered self. Monier Williams says the prefix vi plus the verbal root bhū in the Rg Veda means “to arise, be developed or manifested, expand, appear.” Therefore, ātmavibhūti means “the arising, developing, manifesting, expanding or appearing of the self “….

Theoretical philosophy, interested in deducing the world of being from the first principle of an Absolute self which has nothing contingent about it, is obliged, whether in East or West , to accept some principle of self-expression (māyā ), of objectivity…. The self limitation of the primal consciousness, or the rise of the obstacle against which the self breaks itself, has to be assumed, however incomprehensible it may be….

It is important to notice that R. thinks this power of self-expression is a sine qua non of the Absolute. There is a well known song which children sing : “My hat, it has three corners; three corners has my hat. And had it not three corners, it would not be my hat.”…

This power of actualization is given the name of māyā in later Vedānta, for the manifestation does not disturb the unity and integrity of the One. The one becomes manifested by its own intrinsic power, by its tapas….The Śvetāśvatara Upanisad describes God as māyin, the divine art or power by which the divinity makes a likeness of the eternal prototypes or ideas inherent in his nature…

  1. māyā3 : as Duality of Consciousness and Matter : Māyā1 as inexplicable mystery is an epistemological concept and māyā2 as power of self-becoming is a cosmogonic concept. Māyā3 as duality of consciousness (purusa) and matter (prakrti) is a “uniting” concept. R. uses māyā3 to unite Sāmkhya and Vedānta darśanas. He incorporates the Sāmkhya categories of consciousness (purusa) and matter (prakrti) into his own system….This calls attention to R.’s view that twoness or duality of consciousness and matter, being and non-being , is inherent in all things. Purusottama is Īśwara, poise two of reality. R. thinks even Īśwara’s nature is dual. He remarks that “All things partake of the duality of being and non-being from Purusottama downwards”. R. holds that the world process is dual : a mixture of self and not-self, spirit and nature, consciousness and matter…sat and asat. In short hirānyagarbh (poise three) and Virāt (poise four) express symbolically this duality which is inherent in all beings and even Īśwara. All things in the Universe are comprised of consciousness and matter to some degree…

            Māyā3 is like an ellipse. An ellipse is the locus of all points the sum of whose distances from two fixed points is equal. Usually oval, an ellipse can be drawn by tying a string loosely between two nails, by pulling the string taut with a pencil point, and by swinging the pencil all the way around the two nails. These two nails in this simile are consciousness and matter. All things in the Universe lie somewhere on the ellipse itself. Māyā3 signifies this duality inherent in all things.

  1. māyā4 : as Primal Matter : māyā4 also unites Sāmkhya and Vedānta philosophies. For R. , the phrase “primal matter” is identical with the phrases “lower prakrti” and “unmanifested prakrti”.

Māyā4 as primal matter, in R.’s view, is that from which all existence arises. He theorizes that “Māyā is also used for prakrti, the objective principle which the personal God uses for creation”….The world is traced to the development of prakrti which is also called māyā in the Advaita Vedānta, bu this prakrti or māyā is not independent of spirit. It is dependent on Brahman….

The Absolute breaks up its wholeness and develops the reality of self and not-self. The self is God, and the not-self the matter of the Universe. All Hindu systems of philosophy posit these two ultimate principles. In the Samkhya it is purusha and prakrti ; in the Vedānta it is Īśwara and māyā ; in Vaishnavism it is Krishna and Radhā ; and in Shaivism it is Shiva and Shaktī. Māyā, Radhā and Shaktī are respectively the intellectual, the emotional and the volitional aspects of the same thing viz. prakrti. Krishna, Shiva and Īśwara too are one in essence.

At this point I would like to introduce the reader to the Vedic concept of Dimensions (Table 1 – Maya_Dimensions). This will be further developed in later chapters, however, the four poises given by R. fit in well with this picture. There does appear to be some confusion in the terminology in various texts and considering the verbal to written changes of this knowledge over the millennia minor distortions are bound to happen. The OBSERVER is shown as “Four Eyes” at four levels of our Consciousness. The higher dimensions unfold in this Consciousness as the “Four Poises” or as the Mind, Id, Ego and Super-ego.(The full size picture can be viewed by clicking on Table 1…..)Dimensions1

  1. māyā5 : as Concealment : Sir R. feels that the phenomenal things conceal “something more” which is behind them. He contends that our logical inquiry into the nature of reality is blocked because the manifested world hides the unity and harmony of the whole.

As the manifested world hides the real from the vision of mortals, it is said to be delusive in character. The world is not an illusion, though by regarding it as a mere mechanical determination of nature unrelated to God, we fail to perceive its Divine essence. It then becomes a source of delusion……God seems to be enveloped in the immense cloak of māyā. R. depicts the world as a source of delusion, not an illusion [8]. The world deludes, he generalizes, when the perceiver fails to perceive it as it really is – related to God. The implication is that the problem of māyā is inherent in the attitude of those who perceive, not in that which is perceived……The term illusion is generic; the term delusion is specific.