Tag Archives: maya

Maya: Our personal world measured out

“Maayaa is the lack of discernment of the principles beginning with Kalaa.”

The principles (that obscure the individual soul) form a group that ranges from Kalaa to Earth. (They are called) “principles” tattva because the entire universe is pervaded by them. Kalaa is said to be (the individual soul’s) limited power of action.” (Aphorisms of Shiva. Trans. Mark Dyczkowsky. 3/3)

The more consciousness is freed from the impurity (mala) the more the light of the self is revealed.” (p. 377, Kashmir Shaivism)

He who is deprived of his power by the forces of obscuration (kala), and a victim of the powers arising from the mass of sounds (shabdarashi) is called a fettered soul.” (Stanzas 45)

Three kinds of mala (defilements):

1. Anava mala: (mula mala – root mala) arises as consciousness descends to sadashiva (this is perhaps where we are a thought in our parents mind; duality is just recognizable, but we are not yet separated from non-duality) level as a mantra-maheshvara; as the lord puts limits on himself (self-contraction) which occurs at the very first moment of the manifestation of the universe. (Sun)

a) For those whose experience is above the mayatttva (pure beings) which includes experients from mantra-maheshvara to vijnankalas. Knowledge of the divine remains intact, but experients do not have freedom of action.

b) Freedom of action is intact, but experients do not recognize their divine awareness. This is said to be the fate of everyone who experiences life as individuals from prakriti down (parlayakalas and sakalas (the human experience/human condition)).

2. Mayiya mala: Maya (Moon) and the five kanchukas (Mars, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn). Gives gross and subtle bodies to the soul. Brings about the sense of duality. Robs us of all sense of divinity and makes us oblivious to our real nature.

The five Kanchukas: 1. Kalaa: limits power (Sun, Mars), 2. vidya: limits knowledge (Jupiter, Mercury), 3. Raga: limits fullness (Moon, Venus), 4. Kaala: experience of time and change (Moon, Saturn) , 5. Niyati: experience of cause and effect (Saturn, Mars) .

3. Karma Mala: provides us with our physical body which is essentially a collective of residual impressions (past karmas). Once karma mala defiles the monade, embodied individuals known as sakals (humans) are created. Karma is the imprint made in the mind due to action motivated out of attachment. (Rahu/Ketu)

The jiva (limited soul, Sun) is limiting himself thru maya (moon) and the five kanchukas (planets). The Malas are due to the kanchukas and two types of ignorance (ajnana):

      1. Paurusha ajnana (Ketu): the innate ignorance regarding the truth of the self.
      2. Bauddha ajnana (rahu): ignorance of the buddhi. Considers the subtle body and the gross body as the self on account of ashuddha vikalpas (creating ideas, thought constructs; irrational or psychological thought)

Replacing this ignorance (ajnana) with knowledge (jnana) is the main prescription of Shaivism.

Bruising the ego to find the true self

This article has been published on Elephant Elephant Journal at this link

I was speaking with one of my first yoga teachers the other day. He’s doing quite well for himself teaching yoga in Rishikesh and Dharmasala these days. He knows asana very well and has earned the success that comes to him. He told me that he never misses an opportunity to knock someone’s ego. If they can leave from his course with just 1% less ego, then he’s happy.

But people don’t like having their ego knocked. It’s these sorts of knocks that can put a yogi out of business. Yoga, of course, is all for allowing ones true self to shine while disparaging the karma that comes from allowing your ego to shine in a similar way.

This is the crux of the dilemma: which is the ego and which is the true self? The ego comprises all those traits that we can share with people directly thru words and actions. Within this realm of our lives everything is clouded in maya. The true self, on the other hand, is comprised of all the things that we can’t share with other people directly. We are at a loss for words as to how to describe it and when we put our minds to thinking about it we cannot even express it.

The ego seeks energy from outside of oneself. It takes energy from others thru seeking their approval or daring them to disapprove. This is why saints and rebels can be equally tiresome. Defensiveness can be a clear sign that an ego is at work. Saintly people are often passive aggressive in this regard since they ensure take every precaution so that no one can possibly disapprove. We can tell when we’re having our energy sucked even if we can’t explain it.

But expressions of the ego don’t just suck energy, they also thrive by forcing their energy onto you. Again, this can be in a rebellious aggressive manner that is clear for everyone to see, or in a saintly manner like forcing well-intended opinions on someone.

When one acts from a place of their true self they have balance in the way they exchange their energy. They are only giving energy that can be received and only receiving energy that is freely given. There’s no need to get defensive or prove oneself. This is how a true saint never makes others feel less than him, he doesn’t speak over their heads nor does he patronize them with catch phrases or spiritual baby talk. This is how a true saint can knock someone’s ego and have them be thankful for the experience. They knock only as hard as the ego is ready to be knocked just when it’s ready to be knocked.

When someone is not ready to have their ego knocked, it will do no good except serve the ego of the one knocking while firming up the walls that are defending the unready. Likewise, if one is acting with awareness of their true self, what ego is there for people to knock upon. If ones energy comes from inside then nothing from the outside can touch it. In this case, what need is there to become defensive?

The higher truth in this conversation is that it is always the true self acting; it cannot be otherwise since there is really only one self and that true self shines in everything.

However, by this line of reasoning, it’s equally true that the ego is always acting; since maya also clouds everything. This is why two people can have such different experiences from the same thing. One person experiences only the spirit of true self without judging, without defending, while another person experiences only the material of maya always judging, always defending.

Most of us are somewhere in the middle. Using the ego to get what we want in the material world while falling back on the spiritual world when karma has bruised our egos. Which makes such bruised egos quite good for yoga business.

Maya of Tantra

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.


Meditation on Maya

Everything has a root! Every idea, every action, every thing that ever is has some root. Getting at the root is often like the voice of a curious child. Where did the apple come from? Where did the tree come from? Where did the sun and the earth and the river and the sky come from? What is the big bang? What is god? And somewhere around these topics you dive for a pearls. You read this and that; practice that and this. You’re just diving down into the ocean, feeling around and coming up with whatever is there. You usually don’t know what you have until you get to the top. Some people are fortunate to have many pearls where they are diving, others have many monsters; but no one knows when some shark will come thru.

What is knowledge? What is not-kowledge? What is a noun? And what is a verb? What is giving? What is receiving? What is knowing and what is not knowing?

We really don’t know what we will find! This is one of the root difficulties we face: we lack knowledge. Right knowledge, some kind of complete knowledge of everything that ever was, is, and will be is incomprehensible for most people even though most will admit that this is the level of knowledge that the universe as a whole is working: right knowledge; complete knowledge. But this is because we usually think of the objects of knowledge as knowledge. Knowledge is not noun, it’s active and non-specific; it’s not the facts, but the way we put facts together. We lack power to change many of the things we would like to change, but this is not because of lack of facts, but the rearranging of those facts to produce action is faulty. Most of us are vastly limited in in our ability to direct and control even our own lives. Cause and effect are routinely studied, but still no one knows what will happen. Actually, everyone knows, but no one wants to talk about it: everything will come to and end someday!

What is infinite? What is finite? Is time linear or circular or both or neither? Where is the root of our lives in time?

Time is another web we find ourselves in. Are we rooted in the womb, or in our ancestors, or are our roots somewhere else entirely. And where will we end? Birth leads to death as sure as anything, but if our roots grow beyond our birth, then it’s reasonable that our branches reach beyond death. And if it’s all circular, then what can we say about the beyond; the beyond will just lead us back to where we are. But as we are, as we perceive this world, we have no control over time. We are swept away as if by a river going to sea. The greatness of time is that it’s the great destroyer, dancing upon the ashes of the past so that new growth might emerge. No one knows what the new growth will be. Every time is completely unpredictable. Or is it? As the planets clock time in the macro-cosmos, so too is the micro-cosmos ever pushed into activity by time. All is moving, all is changing, and all is ever in relationship. We are products of time and time is produced by us: circles swirling with forward momentum. What is moving time?

What is fullness? What is emptiness? What is satisfaction? What is disappointment? What is the root?

I know what moves me: my appetite: for food and drink, love and affection, truth and beauty, or whatever other desire that arises to move about unrestrained. But they’re always restrained, because there’s so rarely a direct route to attaining our desires. We have to enter into relationship. We have to give and receive. Some would say we have to find balance between giving and receiving (between being active and passive); others would suggest we yoke them together.


The Limitations of Man: a tantric perspective

To hear some people speak, you would think that humans would die out quickly if we stopped the mental chatter about past and future. Many people are attached to this chatter and there is nothing wrong with this: it’s the differences that make life. To have just one of something is not possible to recognize because recognition needs something else to compare with the first. Things have to go a little out of balance for the whole to exist. Though this “out of balance” has to balance upon something and that something is of course the one.

So, it’s natural and necessary that no one gets along or agrees with each other. This is the ravage of time on embodied existence. These are the effects of the limitations of time, knowledge, power, desire, and the effects of cause and effect itself. Without such limitations where would we be? We certainly wouldn’t be here raging against these limitations as we head off to our meditation workshops and places of worship following whatever practices seem to be offering some positive effect this week.

In the mean time, without ever taking a serious look at the natural limitations that turn out to benefit us, we blame the other person or the other group or the other nation for the “curse” of these very necessary limitations. Some traditions put these limitations into the category of illusion. By doing so, they trivialize all that we know of the joys and sufferings of life. If the limitations are mere illusions, then everything that comes after them is also illusion; which pretty much covers everything that embodies beings recognize as reality: all matter all experience.

But this life is no illusion. If matter and experience were mere illusion, then we could not use it to see past the limitations. Illusion cannot be used to reach reality, but reality can be used to see a deeper reality if we learn how to use it.

Our bodies are matter: finely tuned instruments with a handful of limited senses and limited ways of taking action in the world. And somewhere inside of our bodies is a mind with various ways of computing all the information coming and going.

The spiritual path begins when we begin to notice some difference between what is happening on a physical emotional plane and the one watching it all unfold. And though we might complain and discredit those whose views and ways of life are different from our own (whether spiritual or material life, structured or chaotic), it’s these essential differences of human nature that prod us to look beyond the differences.

Just as great suffering so often becomes a great blessing by inclining a person towards spiritual path, so too does the constant bickering amongst people and within minds allow for the blessing of discovering the inner witness. As the ‘witness’ we can easily recognize non-difference though we are forced to live in the world of bountiful difference.


Note for those who asked, how is this related with Tantra?

This article takes Tantric perspective in that Tantra (Kashmiri Shaivism) is a realist philosophy. Maya (the limiting factor) is real and not illusury. God consciousness permeates maya as much as everything else. Tantra teaches us how to use maya as away of overcoming maya. This is said to only be possible because, as Mark Dyzkowski so beautifully put it in his exposition on the Aphorisms of Shiva, everything “participates equally in the unity of the hearts essence.”