Maya is real.

Quite some time back, I went for a discourse by a Hindu scholar [whatever that means]. It was interesting, he had a heavy accent but it wasn’t unintelligible and he was answering a question from the floor about how Hindu mystics dismissed everything material as maya. When you realise the truth, about Atman and the Brahman concept, where you are a whole and yet part of a whole while the whole is a part of you [still bakes my noodle] and you wonder maybe “they” translated wrongly and really meant hole. But that’s another story.

I digressed. The question about maya. He answered it with a parable. I can’t atually remember the actual prose-like way he said it in but the main point is as follows:

A young man, much disillusioned by the disproportionate excesses and dearths in life, goes to a sadhu [a Hindu sage/mystic] and says: I don’t understand why the world is such. All this injustice is so infuriating. I’m so angry, it makes my blood boil. It makes me see red. How is it that everything that is maya can affect us so?

To which the sadhu says: You’re angry are you? Very well, let’s put an end to it. Show me this anger; give it to me, and I shall make it disappear.

The young man is flabbergasted: Don’t be ridiculous old man! Anger is not that which can be seen. Anger is not that which can be held. Anger is experienced. Anger is felt. I cannot *show* you my anger.

Sadhu says: You can show me a rock if I asked you to. You can show me your teeth if I asked you to. But you can’t show me your anger? Then how is your anger, or your feelings in general, different from that which you call maya? The world is not maya. The relative importance that you assign to objects and ideas, that is maya. The fact that you realise that you are distinct from every other person or object but fail to accept that you’re also one and the same as them, that is maya. The fact that you believe your consciousness is independent of the world, that it is influenced by but does not influence the world, that is maya. [This part just makes me imagine the NGE: EoE ending. The Primordial sea of consciousness.]

The young man walks away. [I think. How else could it end? Suicide, mass genocide? Turns out the young man was Alexander the Great in a cameo appearance? I’ll stop here.]

So what did I learn from that? Nothing. I remember the story. I think I understand what it means. But I’m still angry. If anger could be translated into productive energy, I could seriously get a lot of work done.

A question though. What DOES the parable mean? That everything is maya, INCLUDING your emotions and perceptions? Or the world is real, but our perceptions of it are illusory [maya]?

Contrary to definitive claims, there is no definite answer. If we can’t rely on our own perceptions, then how can we classify things we perceive as real or maya?

On a related note: reading a book on [not of] Sartre, it was noted that French for getting angry is se mettre en colore; translated word for word, it means to place oneself in anger. Perception is relative, and if you suscribe to the fallacy newsgroups, by appeal to Christianity, the concept of free will, will lend credence to the “fact” that anger, or indeed any other emotion is self-caused. [Anyone got a better word? Really.] You decide that you want to be angry, you decide that it is right to be angry, and you believe it is justified to behave angrily and you think the cause is worth getting angry about.

You *get* angry, like you get on a bus. The bus doesn’t swallow you and spit you out at your destination in disgust [bad aftertaste; I know. I’ll work on my metaphors.]

To place myself in anger eh? Just like…never mind.

There must be cause. Everything has a reason. What is the cause? Is it just one cause? Or one oligomeric cause? That is to say do you feel about anything individually, locally in an isolated manner? I don’t think so. When you’re happy, you get happier. When you’re pissed, McDonalds dispenses the last straw. [I wonder where that idiom came from anyway? “The last straw”?]

So your emotions are like lava lamp blobs, ‘cept there’s more than two immiscible liquids. Each happiness blob coalesces with a bigger [more dominant] blob, and similarly for each emotion. How many emotions are there anyway? I propose three. Happy, sad and horny. When you’re angry, you’re sad and really horny. [No…no it can’t be? Oh it just may be!]

If you can’t look past the rambly nature of speculative thought, do try.

A well-known Hindu parable tells of a sage who underwent such rigorous penance that he felt entitled to demand from Lord Vishnu the secret of maya. The god responded by ordering the mortal to dive into a nearby river. When the sage emerged, he did so as a woman, oblivious of her former existence. After a lifetime of success and failure, happiness and tragedy, she finally threw herself in despair onto the funeral pyre of her husband who had been murdered. The fire was instantly quenched by water. The sage regained his former body, and in that moment Lord Vishnu appeared. ” This is Maya,” he said, and the sage came to understand the nature of illusion and the workings of the universe.
[ From: ]
That was highly sadistic, Vishnu could’ve just told the guy dammit?

But the story doesn’t end there! Was the life that he lived as a woman real or not? No? It was maya? The fire was instantly quenched by [the] water [out of which he was reborn as a she]. So the world in which the life was lived, was THAT real? Did the people who knew the woman in “her” lifetime still grieve her after she “died” or was it as if she had never existed or did “they” cease to exist past the divine play in the first place?

Is our *life* maya? Or is the very concept of “I” under attack as well?
The latter question wouldn’t bode well with Descartes, who put it elegantly, “Cogito ergo sum.” I think, therefore I am. It must be noted that what Descartes wished to highlight was not the word “think” but the word *I*. It was his thought. Not yours or mine. By virtue of being an personal thought, like countless others, he wanted to establish that he existed in the first place. Also, by having a personal thought, he established that he was not a drone in someone else’s dream. An extra on the set of someone else’s grand opera.

But if our thoughts are maya, do we think we think [so where does the meta-thought originate?], or do we really think at all? I think, therefore I am…I think.

[Edit] As an acquaintance pointed out, the real issue is not the question “What is maya?”, the issue is the answer to “Define existence.” What is existence. To exist is to live? To live and feel? To live and think and feel? What IS existence? It can’t be answered. Hammers don’t exist, they lie around. Screws don’t exist, they’re screwed in somewhere. If you exist, then you must exist for a reason. The way I see it, the hammer has more reason to “exist” [altough it really doesn’t] than we do. Unless you know the reason, you don’t exist. You simply are. Perhaps on the way to becoming existant. But not actually existing.

For those who need clarification, no! This is NOT a standup routine.

Maya. Such a beautiful word. It rolls off the tongue ever so gently; just air, seemingly formless. For all intents and purposes, non-existant.

Yes! No? Maybe.

But I’m not angry anymore. To realise the transient nature of anger is to understand it’s not worth it. It doesn’t help any, just makes the ride a bit more unbearable.


About this entry