Maya is time and space and the law of cause and effect13 min read

We ask: “What is Maya? Where is Maya?” When we ask “what is Maya?” it is a question within the realm of cause and effect. When we ask “what is Maya?” we want to know what is its cause and what is its effect. When we ask “where is Maya?” we want to know its relationship with space, and space is always bound up with time; “where?” is always coupled with “when?” So the whole question answers itself, that Maya is time and space and the law of cause and effect. Maya is beginningless; we cannot imagine the beginning of time and if it begins somewhere, then it begins in space. Then Maya is cause and effect, time and space.

All right, it is. But then there is Maya, and there is an entity which apprehends Maya. There is something which notices what changes take place in time, and where they take place in space. There is something which evaluates, appreciates and apprehends the law of cause and effect. And this subject of time and space and causation, that is of Maya, cannot be Maya itself because subject and object are entirely different entities. Subject is not object and object is not subject.

Here we stand now. There is Maya and there is an entity which apprehends Maya, which appreciates Maya. The Mahatmas put it in this way: “Mind reads the senses, the senses read the world, and that which reads the mind is Self.”

(Question: Cannot one part of Maya remain static and see another part moving? Answer: Maya is homogeneous. Time and space in their absolute aspects are partless. Maya is homogeneous but in a certain way we can say it has parts, though from the absolute point of view we cannot attribute parts to it. The point is that there is something, an entity, which apprehends Maya. The body is Maya, mind is Maya. The perceiver of the body and the mind is Self. The animator of the mind is Self.)

Well then, if Maya is, let it be! Why worry about it? This is the second guest ion. If a man is suffering from fever, and if it makes no change in his consciousness, he will not worry. But if it makes him restless, deprives him of his appetite, raises the temperature and creates a kind of disturbance in the whole system, he must worry about it. There are thousands of kinds of poisonous germs which live in the body, but as long as the body is endowed with the power of resistance, we do not mind them. But when that power is at a low ebb, then they attack the body and its vitality and we feel it. The same is true of Maya.

Maya affects consciousness in two ways. You know the properties vikshepa and avarana. One is the veiling, avarana; it covers the real nature of truth or reality and creates in it an appearance which is quite contrary to the nature of the Self. The other is vikshepa. Some translate it as “projection” but the word as it is used in colloquial Sanskrit does not mean “projection” but “agitation” and I prefer this word. Perhaps it can mean “projection” but we use it in daily language in India and there is means “agitation”.

Then Maya produces two effects (i) it veils reality and makes it appear as something that it is not, and (ii) it disturbs, it robs the Self of its innate tranquillity. If somehow or other you began to think that your children had horns and tails, you would not like that thing which produces such a misconception. Many people in India eat a thing called cannabis indica; it produces such hallucinations and therefore the wise never touch it. This is what we call avarana. The Self is immortal, perfect, free from all changes and all bliss. Under the impact of Maya it appears to you mortal, subject to disease and pain, finite and full of suffering. And therefore we have to take action, and we have to do something with Maya. If Maya did not do this, we would let it stay, like the germs innocently staying in the throat. It is only when they begin to affect the vitality of the organism that we take some action. Hence it is necessary to take action against Maya.

(Answer to question: Avarana veils the object and makes it contrary to its true nature. It veils the real nature and endues it phenomenally with something it is not. The snake in the rope is avarana. The agitation caused by the snake when it is seen in your room is vikshepa.)

It is invalid to ask the question: “Why does Maya do so?” About Maya three questions do not apply: “where?” “why?” and “when?” Each of them presupposes the existence of the entity about which there is question. “When did it happen?” The meaning is “at what time?” and while you want to know about time, the quest ion presupposes the existence of time. So there is no “when” or “why” or “where”. “Where did space begin?” You are presupposing by the question that there is space.

(Question: All animation must be in Maya: how can the Self animate the mind? Answer: The mind is an evolute of Maya as much as a stone is. The mind, owing to subtlety of composition and proximity of the Self, is conscious. Animation is the result of the sense that anything which is near the fire is heated and acquires for the time being the properties of fire. Animation is caused in minds by the proximity of the mind to the Self and the subtlety of the material of which it is composed. In coma the animation ceases but in the normal condition of the mind it receives the property of animation from the Self, just as a piece of metal near the fire receives the heat from the fire.

Question: But the Self has no animation? Answer: Self is consciousness, and the rays of consciousness, if I can say so, passing into the mind, illumine the mind for the time being and this illumination is called animation.)

It is the property of Maya to produce agitation and veiling in whatever it comes in contact with. It imparts its own property temporarily to the thing which it comes in contact with, that is, agitation and veiling. Remember that these three questions are invalid: “When did the world begin, that is, when did Maya begin?” “Where?” and “how or why?”

Know it well, the Self is the subject of the mind, and therefore the properties of the mind are not the properties of the Self. Even at the time of Aristotle this philosophical maxim was accepted, that the subject was different from the object. There is agitation in the mind and there is the power of veiling. The Self adopts these two things and begins to think it is veiled and agitated. The European scholars give the meaning of “projection” to vikshepa, but I do not think it will take you far. We know the word very well; it is used in our common parlance.

Now we come to the conclusion. We do not like veiling and we do not like agitation; we like to see things as they are, not contrary to what they are. No one likes his cow to appear like a tiger. We all like tranquillity; no one likes agitation. The Mahatmas say (I do not know how far you will understand or accept it) that everybody likes passivity and not action. When they sit in their vichara on the banks of the Ganges, they say so. European thought is quite different to this. The thought of Goethe is “strive, strive, strive, strive.” If the philosophy of Gide can be expressed in one word, it is “effort”. So the key to Western character is striving, effort. Captain Cook and other great navigators were impelled by some force to go round the world. In order to find curry-powder they went round the world again and again. Their main object was to find the way to India because curry-powder came from India, and when the Germanic tribes began to have spices, they paid fabulous prices. So in order to make money, people began to find their way to the East; they did not want to learn anything from the East.

What is all this? It is rajas. Activity is rajas. Tranquillity is sattva. We want a balanced state of mind. A state which is recommended in the Gita is that if you have to exert yourself, do it without being disturbed, and if you have to live at peace without exertion, then also do not be too attached to it. It is called samata yukta and by many other names. If we dive deep into consciousness , I think you will agree we want tranquillity and a balanced state of mind and not the itch of action. Where has action led us to? What is wanted is peace, tranquillity and a balanced state of mind, and Maya does not permit it. Let us do something about this Maya.

(Question: Since consciousness is all-pervasive, what is the meaning of the mind being in proximity to the Self? Answer: The light of the sun pervades the whole of the atmosphere. A little cloud comes in proximity to it and it is lit and acquires many colours.)

Some distortion of the mind makes the reality look like appearance. That is, it is mind, the product of Maya, which intimately concerns us; it is mind, the evolute of Maya, which intimately concerns us. There may be a flood around London but as long as your house is all right, you don’t worry, but if it invades your house, you take action at once. Therefore to take action against Maya, what have we to do? We have to make the required adjustments in the mind. The holy philosophy comes down to this fundamental practical point of view: we have to make adjustments in the mind.

What adjustments? Gita chapters 16, 17 and 18 contain the vital analysis of the mind. If our mind is tamasika, we have to overcome that lethargy by activity. Activity can mean ambition, extension of power, too much love of enjoyment of sense-objects. These characteristics of the mind appear in it when rajas is in the ascendance. Tamas produces infatuation. Rajas produces agitation and over-activity. Sattva produces tranquillity, peace and calm. Charity, patience, devotion and so forth, the qualities enumerated in the Gita, are the qualities of sattva. Egoity, power, manifestation of one’s importance, glory, stabdha the quality of not bending (these people do not want to offer salutations to anybody; the representatives of Stalin are always right in their opinion, and others always wrong. They do not want to bend), conceit – these are the qualities which rajas produces, says the Gita.

Now the word bhavana. Wrong bhavana caused by rajas and tamas makes the mind disturbed, makes it lose its peace. The word bhavana also has been translated so often, but I tell you Sanskrit is to us like our mother tongue, we need not consult a dictionary, we know the daily use of the word. Bhavana comes from “bhava” and means ”deep mental attitude”. If a man used to come to the Sat Sang of Swami Sacchidananda with humility, willingness to learn, patience and affection, they used to say: “What a good bhavana!”And if he came only to criticise and not to learn, he was a man of bad bhavana. Bhavana means “intimate mental attitude.” The word “deep” or “intimate” means that this mental attitude is not subject to logical analysis; it is subject to cultivation. We have to produce good bhavana. Study helps it; Sat Sang, meditation helps it.

Now, illustrations of bhavana from Shri Vamana Purana: “Achitoham, Anantoham, Anandoham, Hariraham, Nityoham, Sacchidanandoham, Ajoham, Amritoham, Muktoham. I am Indestructible” (No questioning about it, no reasoning to be applied to it. Why? Destruction takes place in time and space. Destruction cannot affect me). “I am infinite” (The things material have a limit; the things which are supramaterial can have no limit.) “I am bliss,  I am Hari” (The word Hari has so many meanings that, in a good dictionary, perhaps there will be ten pages on it. One of the meanings is “thief”. He robs you of your property without your being aware. He robs devotees of their sins before they are aware of it. Ramanuja uses the word “Hari” in the sense of “Brahman”.) “My nature is truth, consciousness and blissfulness . I am unborn,  I am immortal. I am Brahman, and I  am freed” (in spite of appearances to the contrary.)

“You can say it only when you are realized, not before. If you are feeling sick, how can you say it?” It is wrong to say so. A rope has always the right to say “I am a rope”. It may appear a snake to George or some other man; it is not a snake. The rope has a right to say, ” I am a rope, there cannot be any snake in me; it is impossible.” In the same way Maya, the mind, is inert, an object, passing, “tuccha” (in colloquial Sanskrit it means “insignificant”, “a thing which is worth nothing”.) Such being the mind and such being the disturbances it has created, such hallucinations, “Brahmaivaham, na sansari. I am Brahman, not sansarin” ; this should be the real and true bhavana of the people.

This is an illustration used by the Mahatmas to explain the identity of jiva and Brahman. Imagine a vast lake entirely covered by ice. Imagine it. The water is not visible, but it is there, under the ice. Then, after some time, there are innumerable holes of different types through which the water is seen. After some time you look at the lake and you find many holes and you can see the water. Some are circular, some triangular, some hexagonal. They have been cut by the force of the wind. Somewhere the water appears triangular, somewhere circular, and so on. In reality the water is one, without a second, without these forms, and it is indivisible, but it appears divided because the ice on the surface is divided. Maya is the ice, the holes are the jivas and Brahman is the water. What is created? What makes the undivided look divide? Maya, the ice, the hole which appears rectangular, is nothing but pure water inside, the water in which there are no dimensions and no geometrical conceptions can be applied to it. Maya is the ice, the holes the jivas, and Brahman the water. From the point of view of reality, all is water. All is Brahman. Every jiva is Brahman.

Grant that we create the right bhavana and help other children of God to the right bhavana by our propagation of the holy truth. May our study establish us in the right bhavana of devotion and jnana. May we live in the world endued with the right bhavana, freed from raga and dvesha.