The Mechanism of Maya

According to the English dictionary (I refer to the online dictionary, Maya translates something like this:


    1) The power of a god or demon to transform a concept into an element of the sensible world.
    2) The transitory, manifold appearance of the sensible world, which obscures the undifferentiated spiritual reality from which it originates, the illusory appearance of the sensible world.


This is a story many of us have heard or read in our childhood. It is a story about the Celestial Sage Narada and the Lord Vishnu (in the Avataar of Sri Krishna)


    Once Narada and the Lord were walking, when Narada asked, “Lord, would you please explain to me the secret of this magic called Maya?" Sri Krishna hesitated, and suggested that Narada wait, lest the concept of Maya be too overpowering for him.

    But Narada would not listen. So the Lord replied, "Of course. Let us sit down under this tree, while I tell you everything. But it's terribly hot and I am thirsty; would you please get me some water?” “Yes my Lord,” Narada replied, and he scampered across the fields to find water. The sun beat down with all its might and the tired Narada walked on and on. Finally he reached a village and approached the nearest house. The door opened — and there stood a woman. He asked her for water. She brought a pitcher of water and poured it out for him, while he drank. Drinking the water, he looked up and realized that she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Narada was enamored with her beauty. Narada approached her father and asked him for her hand in marriage. The girl's father accepted and they were married.

    The couple settled down to a happily married life. They had children and watched them grow up. All the while, Narada's glory and fame spread far and wide, as did the land he possessed. Narada was ecstatic with life and its pleasures.

    One day, a terrible flood arrived out of nowhere. Narada managed to hold on to his wife and children in the foaming currents of the flood. But the force of the water was so strong, that his wife and children were washed away. As Narada held on to an uprooted tree for dear life, tears streaming down his cheeks he called out to the Lord.

    “Lord! Why did you let me get to this state? My loved ones are all dead and I am struggling to survive…” Then suddenly he saw Lord Krishna sitting under the tree, as he had left him in what seemed several years before. The Lord asked him kindly, “Narada, where is my water?” Narada realized then that what he had experienced was 'Maya', that his loving wife and wonderful life as a family man no longer existed.

I think Maya is a greatly misunderstood concept. We often hear people saying, “Oh! Maya is Illusion; the World we live in is Maya, therefore nothing is real”…and so on. Surely, on the surface, Maya means 'Illusion'. But Maya is not merely syntax. There is a greater meaning to the word. Therefore a simplistic translation to 'illusion' is not sufficient to explain it.

In some of my previous articles, I have described the nature of Consciousness and the world-view held by the Yogis, Mystics and Shamans of various ancient traditions of Spirituality. Let me try to summarize these concepts for the reader's benefit.

In the Mystic's world-view, the primary constituent and life force of this Universe is Conscious Energy – or Consciousness. It is present throughout the Universe, everywhere. It is to the Universe as the atmosphere is to the Earth. It is the core and being of everything.

Consciousness is Intelligent, beyond any quantification or qualification. The material realm that we can see and sense is merely a manifestation of this Consciousness. Or in other words, the Material Universe is a subset of Consciousness. Now, since Consciousness is present everywhere, we as living beings have the inherent ability to tap into it (as we do the physical manifestation of this consciousness – our Material Universe), provided we learn how to manipulate our sensory mechanism appropriately.

Maya is the manifestation of Consciousness, those we observe (and also those we do not observe). Our physical bodies are manifestations of Consciousness as is our physical world – and this is what Maya is. It is reality and not illusory in that sense. But, it is not the only reality (or the Ultimate reality, so to speak). It is merely a fraction of the consciousness.

The human mind is capable of tapping into this Consciousness and when this has been accomplished directly, the state of Kaivalyam or Enlightenment is achieved.

The Auric Egg

As I have referred to earlier (Inner Dialog), a great influence in my metaphysical leaning has been Mesoamerican Shamanism. It is through the teachings of this tradition that I begun to understand Hinduism and Yogic philosophy. Now, I don't claim to be an expert – I am just a layperson trying to walk the ancient trail of spirituality.

Reading books written by Carlos Castaneda on his apprenticeship with Don Juan Matus (the Native American Sorcerer), I came to understand several concepts of our traditions, obfuscated as they are in mythology and metaphors. It is my belief that a more straightforward system of knowledge (such as Nagualism provides) is very essential in carrying on the Mystical traditions in the modern world.

Don Juan had this way (or perhaps it was Castaneda) of putting things so simplistically that a common man like myself would understand a lot of what he had to say. After I learnt about Don Juan's worldview, I turned back to Indian (Hindu) traditions. I was looking for reassurance that what I had learnt was indeed correct.

And I found that indeed what I had learnt from both my Hindu upbringing (not overly religious) and my reading of Castaneda were identical.

What struck me as most fascinating was the idea of “Seeing Consciousness as it flows in the Universe”. According to the Shamans of Mesoamerica, it is possible for a practitioner of Shamanism to see in that way. Later I corroborated this with the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It is my opinion that the 'Samadhi' state that is referred to in the Yoga Sutras (both Nirbija and Sabija Samadhi) are different levels of “seeing consciousness as it really flows in the Universe”.

A general understanding of 'Samadhi' is of a state of awareness in which the Yogi is oblivious to his surroundings, “immersed in Cosmic Consciousness” or something to that order. I think this 'immersion' of the Yogi in cosmic consciousness is indeed being in that state where one can perceive and understand the 'flow of energy' all around. When the 'true' nature of the Consciousness can be observed.

This state of being is beyond reason or logic. It simply is.

Well, the Shamans believe that every human being (and for that matter, every conscious being) has a sheath/body of Energy which they can see and call it 'the Luminous Egg' — perhaps for the lack of something better to call it. The Indian Yogis called it the PiNdANda (or the Auric Egg).

According to the Shamans, this luminous body (egg) has numerous filaments of energy all over it. The energy body has a focal point (of sorts) about the size of a tennis ball, positioned two feet behind the left shoulder blade, within the egg.

The rays of Consciousness that are always in flux, throughout space pass through this focal point (which is called the 'assemblage point'), thus giving rise to our awareness of this Consciousness in the sensory world. That is the material world as we see it. The assemblage point can be shifted within and outside the auric egg and with each movement of this assemblage point, our perception changes, as does the Material Universe as we see it.

Of those who have read Castaneda, some have perhaps taken his writings seriously. Others might have found them offensive. For he writes about the 'Peyote' ceremonies, of ingesting 'hallucinogenic Mushrooms' and a few other psychotropic drugs that he consumed under Don Juan's tutelage. (A lot of drug addicts read his books and assumed that he endorsed drug abuse and partied till they dropped). But in all his efforts with Castaneda, Don Juan's intention was merely to make his assemblage point shift, to show him a separate reality. Don Juan later warned Carlos not to continue with these drugs since they can be dangerous to the person.

Anyhow, my purpose for going into these details was to provide an alternate point of view regarding Maya and how it works. Don Juan's attempts to shift Castaneda's assemblage point was to demonstrate the mechanism of Maya – about how the shift of the assemblage point would change the way Carlos viewed his 'ultimate reality'. The Yogis have been doing that since time immemorial, polishing and enhancing the PraNa in the body, meditating to bring about movements of their assemblage points. Moving through Maya to achieve Samadhi.

The ideas I projected here might seem fantastical to you, dear reader. But they answered a lot of my questions. Perhaps, they will do the same for you…or at the very least, they might provide an alternate way of looking at things – a different Maya.

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