The word “Maya” generally used in the Hindu scriptures or literature, has a very different meaning compared to the literary meaning many people understand. In general, it is misunderstood to denote illusion, or delusion, or some such kind of thing. But the concept of Maya is one of the pillars of Vedanta and is therefore very much necessary to understand it correctly. The word Maya in the oldest sense is understood to be something like magic.
What is Maya?
We all know that, one day we’re gong to die. Death is the end of everything. It is the end of beauty, life, wealth, power, virtue etc. Saints die, sinners die, kings die and beggars too. Though everything dies at the end, we still cling to life. We cannot give it up. And this is Maya.
The mother cares for the child with great care; all her life and soul, is in that child. The child grows up into a man, perhaps into a wealthy man and a brute, kicks and beats her everyday. But still, the mother clings to the child thinking that something got hold of her nerves, which she cannot escape from; she covers it up with the idea of love. But, she cannot shake of the bondage she is in. And this is Maya.
In reality, everyone is after the treasure of gold, thinking, one day it’ll be his. Every man knows his chance is one in twenty millions, but everyone struggles for it. And this is Maya.
“Everyday people die, but men still think they’ll never die.” And this is Maya.
Animals live upon plants, men upon animals, strong upon the weak. This is going on everywhere and this is Maya. The descendants of the human beings are happy today, but why must be there suffering now? There is no solution. This is Maya.
Thus we find that Maya is not a theory, but simply a statement of facts as they exist. The very basis of our being is contradiction and we have to move through these contradictions. For eg. wherever there is good, there must also be evil and vice versa.
What is Our Nature?
We work with patience. What for? Why should we work? The modern agnostics know there is no solution to this problem and so we should be satisfied and enjoy life. What do you mean by life? Is it mere senses? But no one agrees to that and life means something more than that. Our feeling, thoughts and aspirations is all part of our parcel of life and is not the struggle towards the great ideal, towards perfection, which we call life? The doubtful person takes this life minus ideal components, which he says cannot be reached and therefore we must give up our search for perfection. This is what is called Maya, this nature, this universe.
Therefore, the Maya is everywhere. Yet we’ve to work through it. The man who says that he’ll work when everything has become good then he’ll enjoy bliss, is like saying “I’ll cross the river when all the water has run into the ocean”. The way with Maya, is not with it, but against it. For example, Nature tells us to live in forests, but man says he’ll fight with nature and builds a house. The whole history of humanity is a continuous fight against laws of nature and man gains in the end. Coming to the internal world, it is the fight between the animal man and the spiritual man. The idea of a Personal God, is not the end of these Vedantic ideas, but only a beginning. He comes to know, that he, who was standing outside all this time, is he himself and is in reality, the Ruler of Maya himself.