Māyā

Two important distinctions emerge from Radhakrishnan’s extensive writings extracted above. Firstly māyā is not the illusionary world around us as is commonly interpreted. This world is an illusion per se because our consciousness cannot simply penetrate the veil cloaking Brahman. To be able to do so our minds need to overcome their ignorance (avidyā). The process of collecting this knowledge (vidyā) painstakingly is the path to be taken by the souls seeking enlightenment and the final goal of nirvāna. The delusion that strays us from this process of seeking life’s truth, its natural rhythm, its harmony is māyā. The rising sun, the moving earth and planets, the changing seasons, the blue sky, the swaying trees, the chirping birds…all these are illusionary to our senses that mistakenly compartmentalize this vast sea of universal energy flow into distinctive experiences. To help the mind rise above this diversity that is continuously being fed in by our senses we need to develop a deeper perspicacity. The path to this higher goal of knowledge or “something more” (as R. puts it) is through the rhythmic process happening around us even though it is illusionary to our senses. We should not get deluded by this and continue our Karmic search with minimum perturbation. This is the path to spiritual wonders described, time and again in their various ways, by the Great men who have truly reached enlightenment.

This cloak of Brahman is the vāsyam referred to in the first line of the first shlöka of Īśavāsyopniśad :-

! [-SaavaasyaimadÐ sava-ma\ yai%kMca jaga%yaama\ jagat\.

īśāvāsyam idam sarvam yat kim ca jagatyām jagat…

All this, whatsoever moves in this Universe, including the Universe itself moving, is indwelt or pervaded or enveloped or clothed by the Lord….[11]

Chinmayananda says – “vāsyam is a pregnant word in Sanskrit with unlimited suggestiveness and innumerable meanings. The root ‘vas’ means ‘clothing’, ‘covering’, ‘inhabiting’, ‘enveloping’, or ‘pervading’. And here in the context all these meanings are applicable. The Great Rishī exclaims that ‘all this’ (īdam sarvam) that we are perceiving through our sense-organs or by the intervention of our mind and intellect –all this – is indwelt by the Spirit which is the Lord of the world-of-perception……

All this should be covered (clothed) by the Lord (Īśa). The world-of-matter acts as the veil, covering from our vision the Divinity within, and therefore, we are unable to perceive the Divine presence everywhere around us in the without. The Light of consciousness illumines all our perceptions, feelings and thoughts. It illumines our sense-organs, mind and intellect. It pervades all and nothing pervades it. And yet, the paradox is the world-of-plurality covers so successfully the vision of Truth, in whose light alone the plurality can be experienced.”

The second distinction that emerges in R.’s writings is the One-sided Dependence of the world on Brahman. Whereas the latter is eternally tranquil, this world is subject to incessant vibrations (jagatyām jagat). The emergence of our consciousness into this picture gives rise to the duality of appearance (vivarta) and transformation (parināma). The Īśwara is a transformation of the Brahman, a process which is extraneous to the consciousness and captures all the vividness of Brahman without diminishing its order whereas appearance is a reflection of the external reality into the sensuous mirror that is us – the Observer. Now this convergence entails a loss of information for it is restricting the Īśwara and its immensity to the limit of our collective neural combinations. This appearance is of an order lower than the cause from which all this grows, the Brahman. In the external reality, at our hand, this results in a chirality, an arrow of time, a single sided energy flow.

In the Yajur Veda (14.18) as measure is interestingly detailed at three levels viz.(maa) , pramā (p`maa) and pratima (p`itmaa). The further explanation to this shlöka is given in Śatapatha Brāhmana VIII.3.3.5 [12]. Here, I feel, is an important metaphysical concept which should be studied meticulously. Let us commence with Max Müller’s translation[13] :-

‘The metre Measure;’ – the measure , doubtless , is this terrestrial world ayam vai lökö mā ; for this world is, as it were measured ayam hi lökö mita iva; – ‘the metre Fore-measure !’ – the fore-measure pramā , doubtless, is the air-world itya antarikś lökö vai , for the air-world is , as it were, measured forward from this world pramā antarikśa lökö hyasmāt lökāh pramita iva ; – ‘the metre Counter-measure,’ – the counter-measure pratimā , doubtless, is yonder heavenly world itya asau vai lökah pratimā , for yonder-world is, as it were, counter-measured in the air aiśa hya antrikśa löke pratimita iva ;……

counter-measured is explained in a note as ‘That is, made a counterfeit, or copy, of the earth.’

          The first level of , metre-measure is bhūlök , the world at hand, the terrestrial surroundings – the prithvī . The second level of pramā , fore-measure is that which is beyond our reach and this is the antarikś which is usually translated as the sky or atmosphere. However, this word should not be restricted to the upper reaches only. I feel antarikś extends to both sides of the spectrum – the very large or the very small. The third level is the pratimā , Max Müller translates it as the counter-measure but actually this is the dyauh , as is explained in S. Br. VIII.3.3.5. and Y.V. 14.19. it should be understood as the edge of the universe, but again on both ends of the scale the extremely large….the galaxies, the quasars or the extremely minute the quarks, the neutrinos and so on and so forth. dyauh we can study only by indirect means, by imagery or reflection and this is exactly what pratimā stands for.[14]

Analytically, therefore, māyā can be understood to unfold at three levels that essentially encompasses the entire scale of sizes which the human mind can derive in its consciousness. The lends itself to direct experience and can be subjected to measure by hand. This is restricted to the prithvī or the earthly-domain. The pramā is just out of the human reach and therefore requires standards of measure and their mathematical projections, or fore-measure, to bring it within our mindset. We use the domain knowledge for this purpose and further extend it to study this pramā region – the antarikś or the vacuum that is inter-galactic or inter-atomic (for here the prefix antar should be understood as inter- or that which is in between). The pratimā can only be imagined and it is that fold which is at the very border of the ‘deducible’ universe. This is the dyauh [15] – it is the nominative-singular of the noun div ( idva ) which literally means the ‘region of light’ or the heaven. (Interestingly it also means ‘to lay a wager, to gamble, to play dice or to bet with’).Scale-of-Sizes-within-the-Universe