Correspondence on Maya

Hemant reachhemant at ETH.NET
Sun Jan 6 18:32:24 CST 2002


Hemant 1  The word Maya occurs variously in literature. Of course English
 substitutes are inadequate but their pragmatic utility is undeniable.

JHV1 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.

Hemant2 "The philosophies which recognize mind alone as the creator of the worlds or accept an original principle with Mind as only the mediator between it and the forms of the universe, may be divided into the purely noumenal and the idealistic. The purely noumenal recognize in the cosmos only the work of Mind, Thought, Idea: but idea may be purely arbitrary and have no essential relation to any real Truth of existence; or such Truth, if it exists, may be regarded as a mere Absolute aloof from all relations and irreconcilable with a world of relations. The idealistic interpretation supposes a relation between the Truth behind and the conceptive phenomenon in front, a relation  which is not merely that of antinomy and opposition. The view that I am presenting goes further in idealism; it sees the creative idea as the Real-Idea, that is to say, a power of Conscious Force expressive of  real being, born out of real being and partaking of its nature and neither a child of the Void nor a weaver of fictions."
                                                    Sri Aurobindo (The Life Divine)
The above quotation can be taken as my personal position. SAnkara  advaita is basically a noumenal position. The world if not an illusion (You appear allergic to the word!) is a Lie in Sankara's  philosophy. (jaganmithya). I shall have more to say on this subject later.

 Hemant1  Maya in the Gita is quite different from the connotation Sankara
 attaches to it.

JHV 1 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.
Hemant2 a) Usage of the words Samkhya and Yoga in the Gita: While they don't refer to orthodox systems of philosophy they cannot be taken as generic names for "theory" and "practice". The Sloka 3.3 makes it abundantly clear. I give the translation.
The Blessed Lord said: " In this world two-fold is the self application of the soul (by which it enters into the Brahmic condition), as I before said, O sinless one; that of the Sankhyas by the Yoga of knowledge, that of the the yogins by Yoga of works." 
                b) The Gita's Supreme is not metatheistic like SAnkara advaita but super-theistic. The supreme there is not the Nirguna Aksara Purusha but the Purushottama which it claims is not only beyond kshara but also beyond the Akshara.
                c) In the Shkoka you cite Bhagawan cannot be equated  with the Brahman of Sankara. The Bhagawan is a Superperson but Sankara's Brahman is nirviSesha vastu!
Again the Bhagawan does not preach karma sannyasa like Sankara but exhorts Arjuna to action.    

Hemant1Etymologically Maya is that which measures.

JHV1 That doesn't sound right to me though I'll have to find where I put my
Amarakosha to know for sure.

Hemant2: mIyate anena iti mAyA !!

Hemant1  Maya   to my mind cannot be equated with Ignorance or Avidya. Avidya is
 individual where as Maya is cosmic.

JHV1 True but this is just a matter of scale isn't it?  Both are essentially
the same in nature.

Hemant2 Both are not essentially the same. Maya is sattwic whereas Avidya is triguNamayI. The difference of scale does matter unless of course, both the individual and the cosmos are are an Illusion in which case the two terms can be used interchangeably as is done in some contexts.
Hemant1  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.

JHV1  Again, I think we can do better in conveying the meaning even in a foreign

Hemant   Secondly, the soteriological nature of Indian philosophy. The
 highest object of life being Moksha, the company of saints
 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.

JHV  Yes, very true.

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: </archives/advaita-l/attachments/20020107/f54d6aee/attachment.html>

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list