Maya (The Goddess of Great Illusion)

Clouds shaped like horse

Last week I wrote about my experience at The Chopra Center during my Meditation Instructor certification, where Deepak Chopra inspired me to write about ”Software of the Soul“.

There was another event that happened in that week though – which has taken me a little longer to understand. When I was there, I, along with some other 300 people, attended a lecture by Deepak – a genuinely favorite teacher of mine.  In this lecture, he was talking about Maya – The Goddess of Great Illusion. I sat in the back of the room, far away from the stage. But from nowhere, I was stunned when in the middle of addressing the gathered audience on the issue of Maya – the eastern goddess of, and archetype of illusion – Dr. Chopra paused, and addressed me personally in Hindi:

“Rajiv ji, Do you hear me? Are you understanding this?”

I was stunned that he even knew I was in the room, when there were some other 300 people there. I was stunned that he was addressing me specifically in my mother tongue! I was stunned to find myself answering in a reflex reaction:

“Yes, Sir!”

Now that time has passed since the incident – and the truth is that I have been pondering ever since then what he meant to ask me; and why he singled me out specifically to question me on whether or not I understood what Maya is – what an illusion is.

After deep refection and meditation: I got the answer.

The concept of Maya originates in ancient India’s 4,000 year old sacred scriptures and can be simply interpreted as the concept of illusion – the idea that all material reality, all experience is an illusion; the view that the material world, and all sensory experiences, including our bodies and our minds are just tricks that delude us from the true nature of ultimate reality – which is that we and the entire universe are One.

What the scriptures tell us is that it’s an illusion to think that there is a cosmic creator out there separate from you or me. The truth is you and I are manifestations of that Cosmic Creator. Not creations of it that is separate from It. But actual manifestations of It.

You’re It. So am I.

If we could just see the Truth, we’d see that there is only One reality, and multiplicity of experience, identity, individuality are all not actually real: they’re just illusions of separateness. They’re just One thing joined up, connected and part of one cosmic body and consciousness – thinking they’re separate, individual and alone, experiencing Maya – the illusion of separateness.

Living in the illusion of our self as limited to a physical body, we become very attached to our experiences – seeking better and better feeling ones, avoiding those that would give us discomfort. We begin to pursue things that we decide it will be nice to experience: possessions, positions, power, fame, wealth -  we develop desire and aversions. We become so attached to our likes and desires that we forget who we are and what we need to do to in order to be ourselves. We become very attached to our actions believing that we must take decisive action to achieve what we want, pursuing every avenue open to us to succeed, all the while believing that we are the doers of our actions – when in fact the Truth is that we are not the doers of our actions, Maya is.

We are sleepers, pursuing a dream, that we think is real, with our own divine Self witnessing our ignorance in the background, waiting for us to wake up.

I understand that Dr. Chopra was reminding me where true happiness lies – in selfless service in “Seva”.

Happiness lies in making conscious choices that are illumined. When we have become aware of the presence of Maya in our life, we can make begin to make our decisions in the light rather than in the dark.

Illumined choices happen from an awareness of, True reality and the Self, from transcending Maya. And Maya is transcended by the practice of detachment: when no matter how much we desire an outcome, we genuinely have no attachment to the results of our actions.

“Thy human right is for activity only, never for the resultant fruit of actions. Do not consider thyself the creator of the fruits of thy activities; neither allow thyself attachment to inactivity.”
—Bhagavad Gita Ch. 2 v 47 (interpretation of Paramhansa Yogananda)

Dr. Chopra was reminding me to make choices from higher awareness, from evolved consciousness.

Every word I write may be read or not read. Every concept I offer may resonate with many or with none. But my actions will be with engagement of all my intelligence on my spiritual realization – and the results will be as they will be.

Rumi said: ‘When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy..’

There is truly nothing to achieve but to serve and share, and these acts take one beyond happiness towards a truly divine bliss. After my very public private comment from Dr. Chopra, I now feel liberated and free – because the experience caused me to reflect on what my motivation is; on who I want to be, and on who I really Am.

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