By Jayaram V
According to Hinduism, the world around us is not real,
because it is impermanent and ever changing. The world in which
we live is a world of
ignorance and falsehood or untruth, called Asat, in contrast to
Sat or the world of Truth that exists beyond it, where neither
the mind, nor any of the senses can ever reach even remotely.
According to the concept of maya, the very existence of an
individual as a separate entity is unreal. As long as the
individual thinks that he is different from the rest of the
creation and strives to work for his own ends, protecting,
furthering nurturing and defending his own ego or
individuality, he suffers from illusion and his ego continues
its journey into an unknown future shaped by his endless
actions and desires. The purpose of human life is to realize
this truth and work for unity with the Divine.
The senses draw us towards the sense objects and through the
process of attraction or repulsion give us feelings of joy or
suffering, rendering our minds unstable and vulnerable most of
The world draws us into its vortex of confusion and misery
as we try to embrace it. There is no escape for us from this
world of illusion, unless we wriggle out of our individualities
and realize our true nature.
We all are subject to it. Those who think they are not are
in fact in greater danger because their minds have already
become intoxicated by its blinding influence.
Keeping us chained to our individual selves, making us do
things which would result in frequent conflicts with the
outside world, it binds us to our selfishness and our
respective interests, building walls of isolation and ignorance
all around us.
We are conditioned from the early childhood that we have to
compete ceaselessly with every one and for every thing, in
order to survive and succeed. This is what we are taught in the
schools, by our parents, by our institutions and by our
philosophers of materialism and theorists of "enlightened
We are told that this world favors only its fit children,
that others have to perish in the jungles of Nature which has
always been and will always be working for the survival of the
We are expected to cultivate certain degree of ruthlessness,
"killer instinct", to deal with this harsh reality of our
existence. Work for your self, live for your self and do only
that which you think is good for you. Social responsibility,
well yes, but only after personal gratification.
This is very much the law of illusion. It chooses the best
amongst us, ensnares them in its dazzling net, because it does
not want the best children of God to escape from its clutches
and go back to Him.
"Stay here and show me how far you can go away from the
center of truth"- this is the game of Prakriti and this is how
it chooses to play it day in and day out. It is also what it
dearly holds in its bosom as it hold you too.
We cannot overcome this problem of our existence unless we
learn to look at ourselves with a different awareness, hold
back ourselves and our petty interests, and accept life as it
comes to us.
We cannot qualify for liberation from this world, unless we
cease to be our selves and stop all manner of struggling and
striving and protecting and furthering our individual
There are of course divergent views about the true nature of
the sensory world that exists all around us. These beliefs
subsequently gave birth to the Dvaita and Advaita and
Vishistadvaita schools of thought with further variations among
them. It is also suggested that the concept of maya was not
part of original vedic religion, but was taken from Buddhism
What ever be the scholarly opinion about these theories, the
fact is that the concept of maya is today a very dominating
theme of Hinduism. The Bhagavadgita gives its own verdict on
this subject, "The self is the enemy of the self and the self
is also the friend of the self". The outer self is an enemy of
the inner self when we become attached with the external world,
turn selfish and egoistic and it is a friend when we become
selfless and detached innerly.
It is only through self we can ultimately raise ourselves
beyond our limited awareness and our illusory attitude towards
life. It is fallacious to believe that God would come and
rescue us from this problem, without the necessary effort from
To use the old cliché, "God helps those who help
themselves." Without individual effort, sincere and serious
commitment, it is difficult to attain spiritual success.
When we stop playing with the sense objects and start
looking with in ourselves, we become sensitive to the play of
maya and develop the strength and understanding to deal with it
summarily, the way the seers and saints did and still do in
many parts of the world. Only then the cloud of illusion gives
way to the vision of the resplendent light that lies beyond.
Suggested Further Reading