The Two Mayas

Lord Krishna and cows“Because nothing can exist without the Lord, it should be known that the illusory energy is also an energy of the Lord. The right conclusion of dovetailing everything in relationship with the Lord is called yoga-maya, or the energy of union, and the wrong conception of detaching a thing from its relationship with the Lord is called the Lord’s daivi maya, or maha-maya. Both the mayas also have connections with the Lord because nothing can exist without being related to Him.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.34 Purport)

In the Vedic literature, we are often told of an energy called maya. Translated to mean “that which is not,” maya is interchangeable with illusion. To be under the sway of maya is to be in illusion, which means that you don’t see things as they are. This isn’t really helpful, even if illusion is what you are going for. The mere desire to be illusioned is a sign of defeat. Rather than give up in the struggle for existence, one should find a situation where the illusion has no influence. Maya is actually an energy, and it can be of two varieties, both of which originate in the Supreme Lord.

God’s advaita property indicates that He is not different from His energies. This means that whatever we experience in life is rooted in God. Happiness, kindness, charity, compassion, and so many other good things are rooted in Him. And yet so are anger, despair, hatred, aversion, miserliness, and envy. The latter are the inverse of the constitutional emotions belonging to the pure spirit soul. The former give an indication of this constitutional position, which is one of bliss, eternality and knowledge.

Despite the fact that His energies are non-different from Him, they all don’t have the same effect on us. Some energies are specifically meant to operate in one way, while others are meant to do something else. Why the dichotomy? There are different desires. Try as hard as you may to eliminate wealthy people from society, you will always have disparities in income. In the end, the salary is nothing more than a result to activity. And not all activities are the same, since not all desires are the same. Therefore the results will never be uniform, which means that income levels will vary from person to person.

Disparity in wealth is just one way to show the factual variety in desires. At the root level, there is a basic up or down vote, a yes or no choice made that determines which energy will dominate. In the choice to separate from God, to futilely compete with Him for supremacy, the individual souls, the jivatmas, are placed under the sway of the illusory maya, who is also known as maha-maya. This is the bad maya, as it is not good for us. Think of it like operating a motor vehicle while under the influence or not paying attention while taking a test. In these activities there is a central focus that is required, and that which breaks the focus is harmful. In an existence, irrespective of the location, the central focus should be serving God. This is not only natural, as God is always superior to us, but it brings happiness as well.

When the choice is made in favor of service to God, the dominating energy is known as yoga-maya. Yoga is the linking of the individual with the Supreme Lord, so yoga-maya is that which helps to keep the link active. From this we see that God is ultimately not impersonal. If there is an energy that helps to keep one connected to Him, it means that within that energy there is variety. After all, there is variety in maha-maya, for we see differences all the time. These differences may only be temporarily manifest, but they still exist.

In yoga-maya, the differences in outcome are also there, but the whole nature has a different quality. Every outcome helps to increase one’s love for God. And the ironic thing is that the love can never reach a ceiling; it is always increasing. The idea of a fixed emotional reservoir can only exist with maha-maya, which persuades us to ignore the influence of spirit, though maha-maya itself is rooted in the Supreme Spirit.

In the Vaikuntha spiritual planets, the only energy is yoga-maya. This is different from even the heavenly realm in the material creation, which is not permanently manifest. One can fall down from heaven once their spiritual merits expire. In the same way, one can rise up again to heaven once their term of punishment ends.

Radha and Krishna in VrindavanaIn the Vaikuntha planets, the residence is permanent, but as there is a governing energy, there is constant activity. The highest of the Vaikuntha planets is Goloka Vrindavana. This is where God stays in His original form of Shri Krishna, who is the beautiful youth with a blackish complexion. His eternal consort, Shrimati Radharani, lives there as well, and both of them have many wonderful friends.

In Goloka Vrindavana yoga-maya is known as the personality Paurnamasi, who is also Radharani’s grandmother. She and the goddess of devotion, Vrinda Devi, collaborate to create situations that increase the pleasure of both Radha and Krishna. Each day is thus perfectly coordinated, with the energy acting in the Lord’s interests. There is full variety in activity, and that variety keeps everyone so happy that they don’t even know that they are serving God.

We can feel the same yoga-maya energy while on this earth. All that is required is a change in desire. The devotees, who indicate their desire to be with God through reciting His names, like those found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” take shelter of yoga-maya, who makes sure to keep them always connected with the beloved darling of Vrindavana, Shri Krishna.

In Closing:

A maya for illusion and a maya for devotion one,

Both energies from the Supreme Lord come.


If Shri Krishna’s supremacy you want to forget,

The powerful influence of maha-maya you’ll get.


If on Goloka Vrindavana you take your aim,

Protection of yoga-maya you’ll gain.


Advaita says that from energies God not apart,

Through illusion only from divine service we depart.


Variety in spiritual world there is as well,

Worship Radha-Krishna and avoid ignorance’s spell.

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