Being an illusion does not make it unreal. The term Māyā, in Indian philosophy, refers to the deity who creates both dreams and illusion—primarily referring to the illusion of duality in the phenomenal universe caused by the false perception of a distinct self.
The eastern philosophers believe that the illusion of self, Māyā, veiled the oneness of the universe.“The phenomena of life can be compared to a dream, a ghost, an air bubble, a shadow, glittering dew, the flash of lightning and must be contemplated as such. — Buddha”
Without an understanding of the illusory nature of this world, we can’t fully enjoy even the blessings that come our way, because there are so many underlying fears for the future. Without an understanding of the nature of Māyā, even success can bring unhappiness, because there is so often an underlying fear of loss.“With enjoyment, comes fear of disease With social position, fear of disfavor With riches, fear of hostile people With honor, fear of humiliation With power, fear of enemies With beauty, fear of old age With scholarship, fear of challengers With virtue, fear of traducers With the identification with body, fear of death Everything in this world is done with fear Renunciation alone makes one fearless. — Bhartruhari”
In the same time, Nietzsche posits that truth wears masks of individuality, which are veils of illusion that conceal the fact that man exists as expressions of an underlying primordial energy impulse of nature. There, the reflection on dream images trains the aesthetic man for his life. In his dreams, both joyful and troubling, the dreamer can experience “the whole divine comedy of life” passing before him in illusory form.“He who… is the ‘shining one,’ the deity of light, is also ruler over the beautiful illusion of the inner world of fantasy. The higher truth, the perfection of these states in contrast to the incompletely intelligible everyday world, this deep consciousness of nature, healing and helping in sleep and dreams, is at the same time the symbolical analogue of the soothsaying faculty of the arts generally, which make life possible and worth living.”- Nietzsche
Schopenhauer’s principium is based on the concept of Māyā, the “veil of illusion.” Schopenhauer explains that in a world of torments, man is able to exist calmly and rationally because of a trust in his own existence as a distinct individual, separate and unique from the rest of the world. This is the illusion of Māyā, which is overcome by reaching enlightenment, or in Nietzsche’s case, Art.
So, what is that nature of illusion or Māyā what helps us to achieve an attitude of faith and renunciation? If with these gems we can witness the events of life from a higher viewpoint, even while we continue to play the game…“The Tricks of Maya” by Meher Baba
All human beings – whether they are conscious of it or not – want to realize the ultimate Truth; but Truth cannot be known and realized as Truth, unless ignorance is known and realized as ignorance; it is therefore of vital importance that man understand Maya – the principle of ignorance in Creation. To understand Maya is to know half the Truth of the universe. It is necessary for man to know that which is false – for unless he knows it, he cannot get rid of it; and rid himself of it he must if he is to achieve spiritual redemption.
They do not seek God to satisfy an inner hunger for spiritual Truth. They long for all things except for the only Truth which they ignore as wholly unimportant. They pursue happiness through everything except the Truth of God, the only unfailing source of Abiding Joy.
The apparent existence of the duality of a God Infinite and a world finite is illusory; for in Infinite hood there is in truth no room for anything else or anyone else. How then does the false world of finite phenomena come into existence? It is created by Maya. Maya eludes the comprehension of the finite mind; its very existence depends on eluding it. For if the finite mind of man could readily grasp the meaning of Maya, the whole intricate scheme of deception, which is Maya’s stock-in-trade, and with which it has held all of man-kind in its grip from time immemorial, would instantly disintegrate; it would in fact have been unable to hoodwink man in the first place. So it is innate in the very nature of Maya to have placed itself beyond the pale of the human mind. In whatever manner the limited intellect tries to understand or explain Maya, it falls short of the truth. Maya is as unfathomable as God; Maya is God’s shadow. While both God and Maya are beyond the comprehension of the limited intellect functioning in the world of duality, they come to be thoroughly understood in the clear light of spiritual realization. Not until then is the enigma of Maya completely and finally solved for man. Maya itself is not illusion; it is the creator of illusion. Maya is not false; it is that which creates false impressions. Maya is not unreal; it is that which makes the real appear unreal, the unreal appear real. Maya is not duality; it is that which causes duality.
Maya becomes irresistible by taking possession of the very seat of knowledge – the human intellect. Maya is difficult to surmount, because under its sway the intellect – so dear to man – creates and upholds false beliefs and illusions with insidious logic that on the surface seems the last word in wisdom. The intellect which functions in freedom, prepares the way and assists the aspirant in the realization of the divine Truth; but the intellect that is slave to Maya, concentrates all its vast capacity and cunning on preventing true understanding. Falsehood consists of taking the true as being false, or the false as being true; in other words considering anything to be other than what it intrinsically is. Mistakes in valuation can be committed in three ways Taking as important that which is unimportant; taking as unimportant that which is important; attributing to something as importance which is other than its true significance. All these falsehoods are creations of Maya.
The value of sense-objects is great or small according to the intensity or urgency of the lust and longing of the individual. They have potential value when the lust or longing are latent; they assume actual value when they become active. But every one of these values is false; for when ultimately all lust and longing disappear, these pseudo-values are stripped of their borrowed importance; they stand naked in their true light : empty, unreal deceptions. A characteristic example of attributing importance to that which is unimportant, is the prevalent attitude toward death. When a loved one dies, it usually rouses a feeling of sorrow and loneliness. This sense of grief for the deceased, whom one had been accustomed to seeing so often in the flesh, is, however, rooted in attachment to the form, not the soul of the departed. In his ignorance, man is not aware that even though the form – the outer garment – has vanished, the soul is not dead, has in fact not even passed away; because the soul is imperishable, ever-present, everywhere. The feeling of loneliness, the lingering memory of the beloved, the longing for his presence, the tears of bereavement and sighs of separation – are all due to false valuation; they are the product of Maya.
There is but one effective counter force that can thwart the design of Maya and guide the aspirant to divine safety: the grace of the Perfect Master, who alone knows all the tricks of Maya and who alone on this earth is impervious to the wiles of Maya.
Few are interested in God for His own sake. If the worldly-minded turn to God at all, it is mostly for their own selfish, mundane purposes. They seek gratification of their cravings, hopes and even spites, through the intervention of a god of their own conceit — or of a deity who is the special fabrication and exclusive monopoly of the church or cult to which they happen to belong. They do not seek God to satisfy an inner hunger for spiritual Truth. They long for all things except for the only Truth which they ignore as wholly unimportant. They pursue happiness through everything except the Truth of God, the only unfailing source of abiding joy. This distortion of man’s vision into considering as unimportant that which is important, is also the device of Maya. An example of giving an importance to a thing other than its intrinsic significance, is when rituals, ceremonies and other routine religious practices are considered ends in themselves. They have their own value as means of expression, as vehicles of spiritual conditioning, but as soon as they are permitted or encouraged to assume claims in their own right, they are vested with an importance which does not belong to them and to which they have no rightful claim. When thus clothed by Maya with an importance beyond their true measure, they bind and atrophy life, rather than quicken and help unfold it. False beliefs too are among the tricks Maya uses to hold the soul in ignorance and bondage. The false beliefs created by Maya are so deep-rooted and powerful that they assume in the average consciousness the status of self-evidence; they masquerade in the garb of veritable truths and are accepted by the mass of mankind without question. For example, man believes that what he is, is represented by his physical body. It never occurs to him that he might be something other than what seems embodied in his tangible form. Identification with the body is accepted by him instinctively, without further proof. All his mundane senses and his ego-mind constantly attest what he has always regarded as an incontrovertible ‘fact’; and he holds the belief all the more strongly because so sure is he of his premise that he needs no further rational proof to support it. To give up the belief that he is the body, would involve the renunciation of all his desires pertaining to the physical body, and all the false values spawned by them. That is why the belief that he is his physical body becomes natural to man; it is easy to hold, difficult to uproot. On the other hand, belief that man is something other than his physical body seems unnatural and to call for convincing proof; it is difficult to hold, easy to resist. Yet, when the mind is ultimately freed of all physical desires and attachments, the belief that man is his physical body proves to be utterly false, and the revelation that he is something wholly other than his physical body emerges as the truth. This is equally true of man’s subtle and mental bodies.
Man cherishes his false beliefs because he has come to relish them. Maya has succeeded in so thoroughly indoctrinating him, that through his long life as an individual soul, man has fondly clung to the false idea of his separate existence. All his thoughts, ideas, emotions, experiences and activities have ever assumed, confirmed and demonstrated to him the existence of the separate ‘I’. To give up this deep-rooted Belief – which he does not even suspect to be false – to yield what he believes to be the core of his identity, would mean to surrender all that seems to constitute his very existence. This is a prospect utterly beyond the capacity of the unenlightened even to contemplate, let alone to accept. To shed this last vestige of falsehood – to yield one’s cherished identity – is therefore the most difficult of all tasks. Yet, in truth, this falsehood has no more substance than any of the earlier deceptions, which prior to awakening had seemed to the aspirant such unchallengeable certainties. Identification with the ego-mind too must eventually come to an end; it meets its doom when the soul renounces all craving for separate existence. Countless are the falsehoods which Maya-ridden man, in the stupor of his ignorance, is duped into accepting; but from the very beginning all falsehoods carry within themselves the seeds of their own unmasking. Sooner or later in the evolutionary progress of the aspirant, their hollowness becomes evident and he recognizes them in their true colors for the innate falsehoods they are. Even in the very depths of ignorance, at the inception of man’s evolution, there is a faint stirring of challenge to the first falsehood that fastens itself upon the soul. However feeble and inarticulate this slender beginning of a protest, it is the dawn of that quest for the final truth which will ultimately lead to the annihilation of all ignorance, all falsehood. The usurpation of every subsequent falsehood is accompanied by a spontaneous, though slow growth of inner restlessness – a slight tremor of suspicion, a vague quiver of fear-born of the divine ferment implanted in the depth of the soul for its ultimate salvation. Identification with the body, for example, brings with it the fear of one’s death, the fear of losing others. And in the very profundity of this fear — in man’s heart of hearts — is seeded the first little sapling of suspicion that depending for abiding happiness merely upon the possession of perishable forms is building castles of hope on shadows of sand. This is true of reliance on earthly possessions for security, and of all the other false premises with which Maya so enticingly paves the road of deception on which it is its diabolic business to lead man to his undoing. By the grace of God, however, there is a hollow sound to every flagstone of falsehood over which man is lured to walk toward his doom. The false note in the very sound, the sense of walking on camouflaged pavement of thin ice, betrays the fancy trappings of Maya to the growing spiritual intuition of the victim and eventually leads him to full consciousness of the Truth. To achieve this, however, the aspirant must retrace his steps over the treacherous road he had traveled, and this is a task fraught with the most acute dangers. For not only is the surface flimsy and slippery, but Maya has cunningly changed the camouflage and shifted the landmarks, so that the victim now finds himself tragically lost in the labyrinth of a wilderness. Frantically now he tries to escape, and in his anxiety is again and again fooled into following the innumerable false Maya lights that beckon him to bogus safety. Maya’s task now and it is expert at it — is to conceal from the aspirant the one and only path that leads to his redemption. There is but one effective counter force that can thwart the design of Maya and guide the aspirant to divine safety: the grace of the Perfect Master, who alone knows all the tricks of Maya and who alone on this earth is impervious to the wiles of Maya.
Through the grace of the Master the aspirant is enabled to distinguish the one true light from the myriad false ones, and to find his way out of the karmic wilderness into the eternal stronghold of God’s Truth which is impregnable to the assaults of Maya.
Not until then does the soul become lucidly aware of the all-absorbing Truth that in the divine fact of Reality, Maya, and the whole universe of deception created by it, do not exist. Not until then does the soul know itself to be what it has always been eternally self-realized; eternally infinite in all-knowledge, all-bliss, all-power and all-existence; eternally free from duality; eternally, inseparably all-one in God.