The Royal Secret Part 2! Late joining this series? Catch up on Part 1!
“My divine energy Maya, consisting of the three modes of nature, is very difficult to overcome.” –Bhagavad Gita Chapter 7
The Illusory Power of Maya
Maya is a term specifically coined in Vedanta (the philosophical basis of Hinduism) to explain the conditioned behavior of humans and the illusory nature of all our experiences. If you REALLY understand Maya, it will help enormously in your spiritual progress. But the attitude of a typical person is to pooh-pooh its concept saying, “I am a smart and intelligent guy. This Maya thing is all nonsense and I am not influenced by it.” If you ever said that; at the other end of the room ‘Maya’ just said ‘Yesssss.’ Maya is real and fully operational and active in our lives. Maya is a ‘cookie-cutter’ that defines and ensures a mundane and materialistic life for a human.
How is it that most of us follow the same monotonous path of looking for satisfaction and pleasure in sense-objects although even a little critical thinking will convince us otherwise? How come we all have egos that are possessive, self-absorbed, and ready to pounce on anyone who may dare challenge or hurt it. This is Maya in action. We have to first intellectually understand and accept its reality and then take steps to transcend it.
Maya’s Main Tool (the ‘so what’ instrument in our heads)
You do need the mind to find a good travel deal or analyze a project plan at work but you don’t need it to keep generating mindless, repetitive, and destructive thoughts and messages which cause stress in your life! I like to call the mind ‘the so-what’ instrument; like a powerful weed shredder, it is always cutting asunder every explanation and aphorism that are presented to it.
Understanding Maya is to also realize that the mind is DESIGNED to do this. This is the grand plan of Prakriti (the creative power of the universe) to keep us deeply involved in the process of survival, procreation, and material advancement of our species and progeny. Don’t believe what I am saying? Just sit in meditation and see how the mind works so hard to prevent you from being silent. Just remember this, letting the mind be your master instead of your servant is a sure way of not being able to discover the royal secret. We do not have to kill the mind but we have to transcend it. But how do we do that?
“The world around us is very mysterious. It doesn\’t yield its secrets easily.” – Carlos Castaneda in \’Journey to Ixtlan\’
The Secret of Aloneness
We understand physical silence very well; we sit in a place where no one will disturb us, put the phone on silent, and so on but do we understand REAL silence? Let us say you have been sitting in silence for 20 minutes. Your mind is calm and the thoughts have died down to a few random ones. At least we think so, but the mind is working very hard to generate the noise that gives you the feeling ‘I am John’ and also the feeling ‘that is a flower.’ Adyashanti, a popular Zen teacher, explained it, “Our ego is a verb, not a noun.” If THIS noise were to go away then John could experience ‘I and the flower are one.’ It takes years of meditation practice to bring on the silence that is free of the ego. Sometimes this happens just for a momentary flash for which the Zen Buddhists gave the name satori.
John and the flower, and indeed the whole universe, are one. In yoga, the state of realizing this unity is called samadhi. The greatest obstacle to the attainment of samadhi is the ‘so what’ mind that is always dragging your attention away to something concrete and trying to mark the meditation process as a futile exercise. Ignore the mind and just practice. It is impossible for anyone to describe the nature of TRUE SILENCE but when experienced even for a flashing moment it can bring a fresh new perspective to our life and existence.
To quote Rumi, “Silence is the root of everything. If you spiral into its void a hundred voices will thunder messages you long to hear.” If you learn the art of enjoying being alone, you would solve, for yourself, the greatest mystery of the human predicament, the constant dependency on the approvals of others, and attachment to the foibles of other humans. We sadly see the negative effects of such dependencies in the spate of news of celebrity suicides and depression. The ego is not a very good friend, ignore him for the resplendent, pure, and beautiful self that shines within each of our hearts. Shravanam, mananam, niddhidhyasanam. Read, contemplate, meditate; this is the advice of the scriptures.
“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.” – Hafez, Persian Poet, and Mystic
When the Winds Spoke to Us
Many years ago, when I was teaching a yoga class, I asked the class to come out onto the grass to practice ‘earthing’ a lesser-known form of healing for many chronic diseases. We stood barefoot on the grass and I asked everyone to try and connect with the earth and nature. All of sudden, as if out of nowhere, a small gust of wind blew on us. And it was not a breezy day. Everyone was stunned and so was I. But in that moment, I understood why yoga meant ‘union’. In that moment of surrender, we had all somehow united with nature and she was responding.
We are all one, humans, animals, trees, and even rocks; let us drop the anger and resentments that the mind creates and transform it into love; the only emotion worth keeping! Today, at least, if you see someone without a smile give them one of yours.
Stay tuned for the final part of this series this time next week!
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I am a yoga and Vedanta teacher living in New Jersey. I had the good fortune to spend 21 years in Varanasi, one of the oldest cities in the world. This spiritual intoxication of Varanasi sowed the seed in me which today has bloomed as a passionate interest in Yoga and Vedanta. Om Shanti.