Maya and its effects

The power behind all creation is explained in the non-dualistic system (advaitic) system  of Indian philosophy in terms of the concept of  ‘Maya’. Adi Shankaracharya explains this clearly in his treatise ‘Vivekachudamani’.

Shankara calls this Maya as the power of the creator, indescribable, unimaginable and wonderful in its power, sweep and magnificence. It cannot be said that it does not exist, nor can it be said that it does exist.

 This power has no visible form. Hence it cannot be seen or understood directly. It has to be inferred from its effects. Space cannot be seen. When sound waves pass through space, it is to be understood that they are passing through the medium of space. Similarly, seeing the creation around us, it is to be inferred that there exists an entity, superior both in power and intelligence that manifests itself as visible creation.

For those who subscribe to this concept, which is in accord with thoughts expounded in the Vedas, this is a cardinal truth.  It is this power that is responsible for the causal body of man and which is made up of three distinct qualities that go to make up his personality.

The first of these three qualities is called Rajas. It is responsible for traits like desire, anger, avarice, pride, jealousy, egoism, envy, niggardliness etc. Other undesirable qualities like intolerance of others’ prosperity, ostentatious display of one’s qualities, arrogance of one’s superior social standing etc are also included. A person so afflicted will always be engaged in doing something to further his interests, leaving him with no time for contemplation and practice of higher values of life.

  Next is the quality called Tamas. It is the concealing or veiling power of Maya that makes a thing to appear differently from what it really is. Thus men get deceived that worldly sense pleasures are permanent, forgetting that it is only the substratum, the power of the creator that is everlasting.  As Shankara says, such is the misleading power of this Tamas that no matter how learned and wise a man may be, no matter he may be endowed with the most subtle and superior intellect, he is still deluded and commits the same mistakes as other ordinary men, such as lust, negligence, apathy, slothfulness etc.  It is like a man with perfect eyesight in a completely dark room. 
Third is the quality of Sattva. The good, pure and divine qualities. Like clear, unturbid water that reflects the sky above, this Sattva reflects the innermost core of man, the  divine entity that exists within. It is characterized by humility, modesty, non-violence, patience, uprightness, steadfastness, self- control, equanimity in the face of adversities,  unflinching devotion, dedication of all activities to the Lord with no expectations and contentment. As the Kathopanishad says, mere intelligence and learning are of no use for spiritual advancement. Only cultivating such desirable qualities through sustained efforts will yield results by gradually nullifying the first two qualities. 

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