Most people in the west recognize the concept of maya from Buddhism or Vedanta philosophies. Following these modes of thought, maya translates as illusion. The path of these philosophies is a path of negation (neti neti: not this not that) to distinguish the real from the unreal. They say that only god is real and objective reality (objects of the mind and senses and such) are not real. Such objects arise only through the illusion of maya.
Tantra accepts maya to be just as real as god himself. Since god consciousness permeates everything completely and fully, then every object of the mind and senses is, is a sense, equal. Rather than being an illusion that is completely unreal, Maya is a force that limits knowledge suggesting there is some sense of truth in everything.
The goal of Tantra then is to eliminate the ignorance with the light of knowledge.n There are two kinds of ignorance we are working with:
1. Ignorance regarding our true self
2. Ignorance of the attachment to thought constructs and psychological impressions.
“An Individual who, (though) desirous
of doing various things, but incapable of doing them due to his innate impurity, (experiences) the supreme state (Parma Padam) when the disruption (ksobha) (of his false ego) ceases.”~ Stanzas on Vibration. Translated with Intro and Exposition by Mark Dyczkowski ~
In order to remove this ignorance, they seek to clean up the impurities that cloud our vision. There are there types of impurity that each individual has to deal with in their own way.
1. Karma-mala is the first impurity we have to contend with This is the particle that attaches to our mind every time we perform any activity out of sense of attachment or desire. This is why so much yoga is focused on releasing desire and attachment. Rather then think of karma in terms of good or bad, we need to think of it in terms making karma, not making karma and burning off the karma we have without making more of it. Only by relinquishing the desire even for good results can we release ourselves from the karmic implications of our actions. And only thru the most difficult actions (tapas) can we burn the karma destined to fuel this lifetime. Karma yogi is the remedy for karma mala.
2. Maya-male is the second impurity. As we start to get our desires and attachments under control with karma yoga we begin to notice our limitations. But we also notice that a certain amount of limitation is necessary for the human experience. In many ways, it’s these apparent limits that set the stage for the classic human struggle of man vs himself & man vs nature.
Maya-mala basically makes us forget that part of ourselves that is divine by limiting our power & our knowledge. She makes us feel like we’re missing something from our lives (which is the polite way to say that she gives us desires). We are made aware of only a sliver of time and fear that this might be it. And finally, Maya makes us subject to cause and effect. The five divine powers of omnipotence, omniscience, fullness, eternal time and absolute freedom are hidden from us: not absent, just obscured; dulled down. We seek out this divinity within ourselves thru Sadhna.
The key to understanding Maya Mala is to search out our limits and find ways to overcome them, to push the boundaries of possibility outward. We do this in all realms: mentally, physically, intellectually, emotionally. Training and experience are they keys to Maya-mala.
3. Once we start to get a handle of our activities and start to push our limits we open the door to the possibility of cleansing the root impurity of individuality: anava-mala. Ultimately grace is the only way this gets removed, but we can prepare ourselves for it by seeking to be open to it. Only the greatest saints have the experience of clearly and spontaneously knowing that god is everywhere in equal measure. Death is the natural dissolution if our individuality.
Everything in the tantric’s path involves divine grace; nothing at all can happen without it. The very will underlying all action is said to be equal to the will of god. But once we have such a will for spiritual practice we can focus it on cleansing the impurities in our activities (karma-mala) and training ourselves in the various skills that will allow us to see that there really is much more to us than meets the eye. Tantra is an awareness of subtleties. We want to make our awareness more and more sensitive. To do this we sacrifice the gross, heavy materiality of this world for what is imperceptible and magical.