Mind and the Intellect (fwd)

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Sun Jan 6 05:56:34 CST 2002

[Was Re: Comment on Jaldhar Vyas's writeup.  Please try and use more
descriptive subject lines to help your fellow list members find articles

On Sat, 5 Jan 2002, Hemant wrote:

>   The word Maya occurs variously in litterature. Of course English
> substitutes are inadequate but their pragmatic utility is undeniable.

It was from a pragmatic viewpoint I made that statement.  In my
experience, such vagueness of translation is the biggest cause of
misunderstanding of Advaita teachings by Indians and foreigners alike.
Advaita Vedanta s not idealistic in the philosophical sense, i.e. it does
not argue that the phenemenal world is "all in your head."  The world is
real, the world _appearence_ is misunderstood due to ignorance.

>   Maya in the Gita is quite different from the connotation Sankara
> attaches to it.

Hmm the followers of other acharyas may think so but as Advaitins we would
beg to differ!  Take for example one of the place in the Gita where Maya
is described (7.25) Krishna Bhagawan says:

n'AhaM prakASha sarvasya yogamAyA samAvrtaH |
muDho'yam n'abhijAnAti loko mAm ajam avyayam || 25 ||

I am not revealed to all.  Covered by my Yogamaya this dull-witted world
fails to realise I am unborn and unchanging.

Let's look at this.  n'AhaM prakaSha sarvasya = I am not revealed to all.
The word prakash as a noun means light.  So the verb is literaly to
illumine.  It is consistent with Advaita doctrine that Brahman is pure
consciousness and thus needs no other "illumination" to be understood.
But Bhagavan says the light of Brahman is not available to all.  Why?
Because yogamAyA samAvrtaH = covered by Yogamaya.  Why Yogamaya not just
maya?  Although the terms Samkhya and Yoga ar used frequently in the Gita,
it would be a mistake to assume that they necessarily refer to the actual
systems of those names.  Rather at this early stage they are generic terms
for "theory" and "practice".  The result of Bhagawans "practice" is Maya.
This Maya covers or conceals the light of Brahman.  As a result, muDho'yam
n'abhijAnati loko = This dull-witted world is unable to realize.  In
modern Indian languages, Gujarati at least, when we say a person is muDha
we mean they are dull-witted, lacking in discernment, only able to react
etc.  That is a characteristic of this loka, world (or alternatively the
people in general.  Cf. loko in Gujarati or log in Hindi.)  Such people
fail to realize.  AbhijanAti is another interesting choice of words.  The
root is jna - to know.  Jnana is the cause of prakash.  Lack of Jnana due
to being mudha results in maya.  The prefix abhi in front of jnana
indicates a process.  Abijnana is not facts we know now but are to be
learned.  Lacking initiative, the mudha people do not learn.  What is they
have to learn?  That mama ajam avyayam = I (Bhagawan, Brahman) am unborn
and unchanging.

> Etymologically Maya is that which measures.

That doesn't sound right to me though I'll have to find where I put my
Amarakosha to know for sure.

> Maya
>   to my mind cannot be equated with Ignorance or Avidya. Avidya is
> individual where as Maya is cosmic.

True but this is just a matter of scale isn't it?  Both are essentially
the same in nature.

> Maya in Sankara is the
>   Brahman's power of foisting name and form (Nama, Rupa) upon itself. It
> is neither real nor unreal nor even an unreal reality. Therefore to
> translate it as an illusory power, while being inadequate to convey the
> exact philosophical nuance, is pragmatically satisfactory.

Again, I think we can do better in conveying the meaning even in a foreign

>            Secondly, the soteriological nature of Indian philosophy. The
> highest object of life being Moksha, the company of saints etc.is
> extremely desirable (to get out of Maya). But Sankara goes further and
> prescribes Sannyasa for (serious) aspirants. This Karma Sannyasa is a
> necessary practical compliment of Sankara's doctrine of Maya.

Yes, very true.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
It's a girl! See the pictures - http://www.braincells.com/shailaja/

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