On Wednesday night, one of my clients sent me a sms, asking me a fundamental question – “What is reality?” I was delighted because it showed that she has started to question her own reality. This is one question that everyone must ask one self at some point in life.
Basically, there are 3 types of realities – my world (the subjective internal reality), the world (the physical outer reality) and the Absolute Reality (which can only be experienced in the present moment). Right now, we are only aware of the first 2 realities because the Absolute Reality is only perceivable by the awakened ones.
According to the Shiva Purana – a Hindu religious text dedicated to Lord Shiva, it states that there are 5 roles of Existence. In the Vedic cutlure, the Guru and the Creator are one and the same, and both are forms of Lord Shiva who is beyond form and formlessness. He is worshipped by the yogis as Lord and by all the gods as the Supreme Lord. From the stories, it stated that Existence performs the role of – 1) Creation (Brahma), 2) Maintenance (Vishnu), 3) Destruction (Rudra), 4) Putting human beings into illusion (Maya), 5) Liberation (Moksha). These are the 5 aspects of Divine action upon the human sphere. Maya is expressed in the whole cycle of birth and death (samsara) till an individual soul becomes matured enough and decides to break free from this bondage of continuous rebirths and deaths. This strong conscious desire to seek liberation or enlightenment requires one to awaken his individual consciousness and align his entire life towards the Absolute Reality.So what is Maya?
Maya in Sanskrit language can be translated loosely as illusion. Maya is real and perceived by our senses, but it refers to things that are not true, that are not lasting, they are not the ultimate truth of life. Truth here refers to the state of permanence, of being eternal. Our perceptions through our 5 senses may be real but not necessarily true. A dream is very real when we experience it, we go through the emotions of anger, fear, excitement, lust during the dream. Our body responds to the emotions that we feel in the dream and our senses react to what we observe in the dream. Yet the moment we start witnessing the dream, we are awakened from the dream. The dream is not true though it seemed so real when we were in it.
The same thing happens when we are awake and daydreaming. We may be awake but we fantasize most of the time! The fantasies are not permanent and we cannot do anything tangible with them. Even when we think we are fully awake, what we perceive through our senses may not be what we interpret it to mean. We judge whatever we perceive through our conditioned memories of the past. All that we do is selectively put together pieces of what we perceive to support our judgment.
The truth is we are constantly caught in the experiences of the past, reliving them under the excuse of learning from them, but in reality, we are caught in guilt, regret or pleasure from remembering the past experiences and memories with no ability whatsoever to do anything about them. The past is gone, a history. We need to understand that our intelligence, creativity and bliss can only be accessed in this present moment.
Another mistake we make is we speculate about the future. The future is just as unreal as the past. How can we control the events of the future when we can’t even control the next breath? The futility of our constant movement between the past and future and back again is the root source of our suffering because Maya comes from the fleeting restless mind. The only reality in life is the impermanence of everything. When one realizes this truth, automatically he turns inwards to seek the eternal truth, here starts one’s spiritual journey in seeking for the permanent Absolute Reality, the Ultimate. The process of finding one’s way home to the wholeness of Absolute Reality is Yoga.In the 21st century, you should be aware that Maya appears broadly in these 7 forms:-
- Laziness. With the advance of technology, more and more mundane work is being taken over by computers, machines and robots, human beings have become sedentary and lazy. They start to discard the physical work as soon as they gain a little knowledge. Falling into laziness and false superiority is the worst Maya that not only destroys the body-mind system but also ruins one’s entire life. Paramahamsa Nithyananda, an enlightened master said that “Knowledge does not become wisdom unless it is inscribed into our muscles memory through physical experience”. We may read books, search information from online but insight comes only when we move our bodies with the intention to understand what we have read. Knowledge cannot transform our consciousness unless we manifest it in our physical reality. Breaking the laziness pattern through yoga practice is the first step in awakening the vehicle of your dreams and achievement – your body. By its nature, our body is designed to move and work!
- Attachment to sensory pleasures. The next Maya happens when a person feels his identity is nothing more than the body itself and indulges oneself in sensory pleasures without knowing the sensory experiences are all temporary – feeling of pleasure and pain, hot and cold, sweet and bitter, wet and dry including other experiences of like and dislike are all temporary. For a person who is driven by senses, he is considered to be a body-centered individual and he feels the end of his individual existence is death, which is obviously an illusion, a delusion which brings tremendous suffering. He will be tortured by the suffering of fear of death constantly and the illusion does not let him live while he is having the body. The more one enjoys through the senses, the more the need for enjoyment. However, if he is a centered-person, the experiences of impermanence do not affect him. Lord Buddha refers to sensory experiences as anicha or impermanent and unreal. They are relative and based on time, space and individuals’ perception.
- Attachment to material possessions. Do you know that the concept of money, possession, ownership is the side-effect of inability to accept the death of the body? It is because of the fear of death that people seek ways to create extension of the body through material possessions. Society created an insecurity in us which constantly drives us to accumulate more and more possessions. Many people cling on to wealth and material possessions despite knowing that they cannot take even a single cent with them at time of death. They are living a deluded life because of the ignorance of Maya. Unfortunately, this is one of the greatest delusions that humanity suffers since time immemorial. The right way to relate with wealth and material possessions is – they belong to Existence, they are in our temporary possession for our enjoyment. Give gratitude to the blessing by Existence while enjoying the possessions without clinging on to them. But be ready to give up when they are taken away from us. When we realise that nothing we possess is actually ours, a deep healing and acceptance happens to us.
- Attachment to name & fame. For people who are mind-centered, they seek name and fame as an extension of their identity by leaving behind a glorious legacy after they exit the body. While in the body, name and fame also gives one the attention and power which feeds the ego. For celebrities, politicans and public figures who achieve the status and prestige without achieving the state, they often fall into depression or drug abuse the moment the name and fame is taken away from them.
- Addictions of all kinds. Our true nature is that of bliss (ananda), this is our original state of being. Since time immemorial, human beings have been trying to achieve this state permanently. But without the right understanding, some resort to drugs, alcohol, smoking, sex and pornography, virtual games, gambling to attain a state of temporary “high” or ecstasy. The side-effects of these is total destruction of body-mind system and wasting the very life itself.
- Attachment to Relationships. Relationships give you the feeling it is very important in the life because through every relationship, you try to have extended life. While you are living, whatever your body and mind cannot do for your interest and pleasure, you try to fulfill through the body and mind of your relationships. And same way whatever they cannot fulfill through their body & mind, they are trying to fulfill through your body & mind. So mutually, each other helping to fulfill the others’ interest through body & mind of each other is relationships. People who are heart-centered, they try to find fulfillment from relationships. However, the illusion that people are not able to accept is even with a mutually fulfilling relationship, it is still transient. One truth is that by the very nature of our spirit, it is pure aloneness (kevala), when we are one with Existence, it is aloneness. All oneness is aloneness.
- Fear of Hell & Greed for Heaven. In some cultures, people are taught to believe that one’s life ends at death. This belief leads to a desperate behaviour, an urgency as if there is no further time for the individual to seek happiness. Hell and heaven have been created based on this concept of having single life and the permanence of death. These concepts are used by these cultures to control people through fear and greed. Once you understand that death, like birth, is merely a passage and sees the continuity of being, the fear of losing one’s identity disappears along with fears of sins and hell. The spirit that occupies the body lives on forever. The spirit is pure energy i.e. energy of life. It is the body, the sheath that covers it, that dies and is reborn. After death this energy moves from within the body that it occupied temporarily to the universal energy that surrounds the body. Death is a transfer from one body into another. Death is the only certainty in this otherwise uncertain world. There is no need to fear death, it is the disappearance of one material body but we are beyond this material body. When we wake up from a dream, we don’t mourn for our dream, as real as they felt at the time. Isn’t it? In the same way, when we awaken into the highest state of consciousness, we have the same experience that this “real” life is only a dream. Even when the body perishes, we do not die, we continue to exist. We are eternal. There is no death! The body-mind continually ceases to exist and get recreated. It is not permanent. Separate from the body-mind system is our spirit that lives on eternally. The spirit remains the same through our life with no change despite all the changes in the body-mind system. It continues to be, to exist even after our death. It lives on and is permanent.
To be truly joyful is to understand the truth that you are indestructible – that your spirit lives on. When you understand the difference between eternal (nithya) and transient (mitya), you become a seer and a knower of TRUTH. The only truth or reality is the truth of this very moment – the presence. As long as you focus on this present moment, you are truly aware and centered. The present moment alone is Sat (truth), every thing else is Asat (untruth). One who realizes this and acts accordingly is enlightened. He knows how to live a fulfilled life, how to genuinely enjoy himself and play with life. Namaste. 🙂