30 Oct Maya – October 31 2018
Posted at 18:39h in Daily Thoughts
The immanent world is not maya; not even the ego is maya. The real maya is the separateness. Feeling and thinking that we are really separate from the whole is the illusion.
Amit Goswami, Ph.D., The Self-Aware Universe
There is a Sanskrit term, maya, that usually is translated as ‘illusion,’ and is used to describe the phenomenal world, the idea that this world and everything in it is an illusion. This idea, especially to the Western mind, can be disconcerting and even off-putting, for sometimes it seems to suggest that what happens here in our world doesn’t matter, that since it’s all illusion, we shouldn’t even care about it. But, as with so many Sanskrit terms, this one is often misunderstood.
The central thesis of Vedanta is this: there is no separation. I am at-one-with Totality. I am at-one-with all things. I am at-one-with you. At-one-with God. And yet my senses tell me this is not the truth. So what good is this idea to me?
We can challenge ourselves to expand our mind to include perhaps a way of seeing things through the lens of this idea. As in: Okay. There’s only one thing. That means I’m the same as that guy at work who irritates me. I am Self and he is extended Self.
Just the same as recognizing, in this moment, that I’m up here, having this ‘me’ experience that generally includes my head, neck, throat, shoulders. My thinking. Me. Also my arms and hands, if I’m typing; but if I care to, right now I can put my awareness down into the big toe of my left foot, and suddenly, I have extended my experience of self to include much more of myself than I was including just a moment ago. The toe was a part of me even before I put my awareness there, but I was in a sense ignoring it. Now that I’ve awakened my ‘toe-identity,’ I’m alive in even more of myself. As a matter of fact, I can feel my whole body now. I feel more alive. So the mere presentation of this idea to myself has changed my experience of being me.
Now, that works for my body. What if ‘I’ extended beyond this body? What if this oneness thing were true? By extrapolation, we can assume the possibility of feeling oneness with another; that the oneness experience is here to be had, but I simply have been ignoring it; and now that I put my awareness over there, on this other person, perhaps I can begin to feel, or at least imagine, what it’s like to be this other person, as well as being me. What it might be like to see the world through her eyes, to feel the world through her senses. Then perhaps I can begin to feel the possibility of connectedness between us. Perhaps I can begin at least to entertain the idea that he/she and I are one.
And if we can feel something, anything, connecting us, energetically, emotionally, even if that feeling takes place only in our imagination, isn’t that what we might call compassion? Or empathy? And wouldn’t that feel better than simply being annoyed? Wouldn’t that be more in the direction of where we would like to live, in that oneness spoken of by the Veda? Wouldn’t that make the world feel a bit more like we always thought it could feel, should feel–safe, warm, welcoming? Available for love?
Today I will open my mind to the idea that I am at one with another person, and I will ask myself how that might feel.