As I switched off the television in my study and rendered the popular K-serial back into the electromagnetic ether, I wondered to myself – was this what the Vedic rishis alluded to by the word māyā . Just as I was able to turn off the sound and light interplay with a little pressure on my remote, I thought to myself – is this what’s going to happen to my five senses some day – but then where is the remote and who has the finger on the button, my button? That this world is ephemeral I believe, but that it is all an illusion I do not accept – there must be more to this māyānvī universe, or should I say multiverse in Ken Wilber’s terminology. With such heavy thoughts I first illumined my desk and then turned to various scholars for help.
Māyā is derived from the root √mā in Sanskrit that literally means to measure, to form, to limit . According to the Hindu philosophy all that we observe through our senses falls into this realm of measurability and determination, giving rise to the multiplicity of creation. The oldest of the Vedas the Rig Veda gives Lord Indra the mantle of māyin , or one who brings about this māyā and a shlöka (6.47.18) affirms :-
rūpam rūpam pratirūpo babhūv tadasya rūpam prati chakshanāya
indro māyābhih pururūpa iyate yuktā hayasya harayh shatā dasah..
The various shapes and forms of māyā that are nurtured by our collective vision is Indra precipitating Himself in lower forms. This manifestation is likened to Indra as the charioteer, harnessing ‘a thousand horses’ referring to the multiplicity of the universal shaktī . Lord Indra, in Purānic myths, is the master of Devlok or the intermediate region of heavenly splendor. Here he regales other Gods or Devtas and there is many a saga of boons and battles, between them and the Demons. These stories are the back bone of mundane Hindu wisdom that for millennia have helped many a grandmother coax children to sleep and inculcate in all a step towards spiritual quest.