The word Maya has often been erroneously taken to mean as a power of Illusion. But when seen from a Non-dual state, Maya appears to be a Power of the Lord that helps to measure our steps of the ascent. There are of course various forms of the Divine Maya, the Asuric and the Daivi. Here we share some aspects of the workings of the Divine through His Maya.
Words of Sri Aurobindo
Invasion of the Divine Maya
Arjuna first describes the state of his dejection. By the sudden revolt of affection and self-pity, the mighty hero Arjuna is overwhelmed and vanquished. All the strength of his body has dried up in a moment, his limbs have grown weary, he has no power to move about, his strong arm is incapable of holding the Gandiva bow. The sensation of heat produced by grief exhibits the signs of fever. The body feels weak, the skin is burning as if in flames, the mouth has dried up within, the body trembles violently all over, the mind is as if whirling under that attack. On reading the description of this state, we are at first satisfied only by enjoying its poetic beauty and regard it as an inordinate expression of the poets imaginative power. But on looking at it with close scrutiny, a deeper meaning of this description comes to mind.
Arjuna has fought the Kurus before this, but such ideas have never occurred to him. Now, at Krishna’s will, suddenly there is this inner disturbance. There are lying hidden within Arjuna’s heart many of the most powerful instincts of mankind dominated and restrained by his Kshatriya training and high ambition. The heart is not purified by repression, the purification comes through self-control with the help of discrimination and a purified understanding. All the repressed instincts and feelings come up some day from the heart, either in this life or in another, invade the understanding and on winning it over drive all action along paths favourable to their own self-expression. This is the reason why one who in this life is full of kindness becomes cruel in another life, one who in this life is a vicious lustful man becomes pure and saintly in the next. Instead of repression, the impulses have to be rejected with the help of the discrimination and a purified understanding; this is how the heart can be purified. This is what is called self-control. Self-control becomes impossible until the tamasic feelings are discarded through the influence of knowledge. That is why Sri Krishna is wanting to purify the heart by removing the ignorance and awakening the dormant power of discrimination. But if the undesirable movements are not raised up from the heart and presented before the understanding the latter does not get a chance to reject them. Besides, it is only through a struggle that the inner enemies, the Daityas and Rakshasas, are killed and then the discrimination makes the understanding free.
In the first stages of Yoga, all the evil propensities that have taken root in the heart invade the understanding with great force and overwhelm the unwary seeker with fear and grief. This is what is known in the West as the temptations of the devil, these are the attacks of Mara, the Evil One. But the fear and the grief are the products of ignorance, the temptation is not of the devil but of God. The World-Teacher dwelling within us calls on those propensities to attack the aspirant, not for doing harm but for his good, for the purification of the heart.
Just as Sri Krishna in his physical body and in the visible world is the friend and charioteer of Arjuna, so he is within him the formless Godhead and the indwelling Lord. It is he who threw with great force the hidden movements and feelings all at once upon the understanding. At that terrific blow the understanding lost its balance and the acute mental disturbance was revealed instantly through the symptoms in the physical body described by the poet. We know that an acute unexpected grief or pain manifests thus in the body, this is not beyond the common experience of mankind. Arjuna was overwhelmed in a moment by the divine Maya of the Lord with its entire force, hence this acute disturbance. When evil takes on the guise of tender feelings like love and kindness, when ignorance comes masquerading as knowledge, when the thick darkness of the Tamasic mode pretends to a bright and clear purity and says, “I am Sattwic, I am knowledge, I am virtue, I am the cherished messenger of God, I am virtue incarnate, I come to establish the reign of Law”, then it is to be understood that the divine Maya of the Lord has shown itself in the understanding.
The Signs of the Divine Maya
The main weapons of this divine Maya are affection and pity. In the human race, love and affection are impure movements; owing to distortions produced by the body and the vital sheath the purity of the love and compassion is tarnished and deformed….
It is the unpurified citta that lies at the root of this confusion, hence the purification of citta is the first step to progress. This state of impurity does not stop with spoiling the tamasic and rajasic movements alone, it pollutes the sattwic movements as well. Such and such a person provides material for my physical and mental enjoyment, he pleases me, I must have him and no other, I feel unhappy in his absence — all this is impure love, it is a distortion of pure love through a pollution of the mind, body and life. As a result of this impurity, the understanding becomes confused: it says, “Such and such is my wife or brother or sister, relative, friend or close companion, they alone should be the objects of love, that love is sacred, if I act contrary to that love, it is sin, it is cruelty, it is unlawful.” This kind of impure love gives rise to such a strong sense of pity that it seems preferable to throw overboard the law of right living rather than let the dear ones be aggrieved or harmed. In the end, we come to justify our weaknesses by calling the law of right living an injustice because it deals a blow to this sense of pity. The proof of this kind of Divine Maya can be had in every word of Arjuna.
The Littleness of Divine Maya
To give up one’s personal interests for the benefit of the clan, for the love of dear ones, under the influence of pity or for fear of bloodshed may be a high and noble attitude for one who is not an Aryan man; but for an Aryan, it is not the best attitude, to give up one’s interests for the sake of the right and for the love of God is the highest attitude. On the other hand, to give up the right law of living for the benefit of the clan, for the love of dear ones, under the influence of pity, for fear of bloodshed is the worst attitude. To keep the feelings of affection, pity and fear under control for the sake of the right law and for love of God is the true Aryan way.
The two paths
There are two paths to reach God: to possess the Knowledge and to possess the Ignorance. Both are means to Self-knowledge and God-realisation. The path of the Knowledge is to reject this Creation full of Ignorance though a manifestation of the Supreme, and to realise Sachchidananda or merge in the Supreme Self. The path of the Ignorance is to see the Self and God everywhere and to realise the Supreme Lord who is Knowledge, Power and Good incarnate, as friend and lord, teacher, father and mother, son and daughter, and servant, lover, husband and wife. Peace is the object of the Knowledge, love the object of the Ignorance. But the Divine Nature is made of both the Knowledge and the Ignorance. If we follow the path of the Knowledge alone, we shall realise the Supreme in his form of Knowledge; if we follow only the path of the Ignorance, we shall realise the Supreme in his form of Ignorance. He who can possess both the Knowledge and the Ignorance alone realises Vasudeva in his entirety; he crosses beyond the Knowledge and the Ignorance. Those who have reached the final goal of the Knowledge have possessed the Knowledge with the help of the Ignorance.
This great truth has been revealed in the Isha Upanishad in very clear terms, as follows:
“Into a blind darkness they enter who follow after the Ignorance, they as if into a greater darkness who devote themselves to the Knowledge alone.”
“Other, verily, it is said, is that which comes by the Knowledge, other that which comes by the Ignorance; this is the lore we have received from the wise who revealed That to our understanding.”
“He who knows That as both in one, the Knowledge and the Ignorance, by the Ignorance crosses beyond death and by the Knowledge enjoys Immortality.”
The entire human race is progressing towards the Knowledge through its experience of the Ignorance; this is the true evolution. Those who are the best, the aspirant and the yogin, the man of knowledge and devotion, the doer of the Yoga of works, are in the vanguard of this march. They reach the far goal at a quick pace, they come back and make the human race hear the gospel, show it the path, distribute power.
The incarnations and emanations of God come and make the path easy to tread, create favourable conditions, destroy the obstacles. To realise the Knowledge in the midst of the Ignorance, renunciation in the midst of enjoyment, the ascetic spirit while living in the world, all beings within the Self, the Self in all beings, — to have this realisation is the true knowledge, this precisely is the path laid down for the human race to march to its destination. The limitations of one’s self-knowledge are the main obstacles to progress; the identification of self with the body and the sense of egoism are root causes of those limitations; hence, to look upon others as one’s own self is the first step to progress….
Words of the Mother
“The ways of the Divine are not like those of the human mind or according to our patterns and it is impossible to judge them or to lay down for Him what He shall or shall not do, for the Divine knows better than we can know. If we admit the Divine at all, both true reason and Bhakti seem to me to be at one in demanding implicit faith and surrender.”
[Letters on Yoga, 23:596]
Oh, but this is admirable…. It’s wonderful! (Mother repeats, in a very humorous tone) “The ways of the Divine are not like those of the human mind or according to our patterns….”
“To be free from all preference and receive joyfully whatever comes from the Divine Will is not possible at first for any human being. What one should have at first is the constant idea that what the Divine wills is always for the best even when the mind does not see how it is so, …
It’s exactly as if he were answering all that people are now saying!
“… to accept with resignation what one cannot yet accept with gladness and so to arrive at a calm equality which is not shaken even when on the surface there may be passing movements of a momentary reaction to outward happenings. If that is once firmly founded, the rest can come.”
[Letters on Yoga, 23:597]
Yoga in its process of purification will lay bare and throw up all hidden impulses and desires in you. And you must learn not to hide things nor leave them aside, you have to face them and conquer and remould them. The first effect of Yoga, however, is to take away the mental control, and the hungers that lie dormant are suddenly set free, they rush up and invade the being. So long as this mental control has not been replaced by the Divine control, there is a period of transition when your sincerity and surrender will be put to the test. The strength of such impulses as those of sex lies usually in the fact that people take too much notice of them; they protest too vehemently and endeavour to control them by coercion, hold them within and sit upon them. But the more you think of a thing and say, “I don’t want it, I don’t want it”, the more you are bound to it. What you should do is to keep the thing away from you, to dissociate from it, take as little notice of it as possible and, even if you happen to think of it, remain indifferent and unconcerned. The impulses and desires that come up by the pressure of Yoga should be faced in a spirit of detachment and serenity, as something foreign to yourself or belonging to the outside world. They should be offered to the Divine, so that the Divine may take them up and transmute them.