“You are the supreme primal objective; You are the best in all the universes; You are inexhaustible, and You are the oldest; You are the maintainer of religion, the eternal Personality of Godhead.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.18)
“What have I been up to lately? I’ve picked up golf. I can’t get enough of it. I bought a new set of clubs and I go out to different courses all the time. Sure, it’s preferable to play with friends, but I don’t mind playing alone either. I get up early in the morning, head out to the course, and then spend a large portion of the day walking from hole to hole. I can’t imagine ever getting sick of this.”
“What have I been up to lately? I love this particular restaurant. It has the best pizza in town. I’ve noticed that whole wheat crust has a different effect on me after eating. I don’t feel as bloated. I get the same enjoyment from the other parts of the pizza, without so many of the negative side effects. This one place makes the best whole wheat pizza, exactly to my liking. I’ve been eating there all the time lately. I love it.”
“What have I been up to lately? Well, I’ve found this energy drink that I love. It doesn’t have too many calories, and it tastes great. I drink it after a workout. This is my new favorite drink. I know I told you I liked other such drinks in the past, but this is my preferred one right now. I know I shouldn’t drink it so often, as I’ve gotten sick of other drinks, but why not enjoy right now? Why should I restrict myself?”
These are just three examples, but you can take pretty much anything in material life to see the same pattern. You dive into one thing, find it totally enjoyable, and then discard it later. The excuses are “boredom” or “lack of interest.” And yet at one time you didn’t find it boring. You were totally interested in it, so much so that others could call it an obsession.
In the Vedas this pattern of acceptance and rejection is described by the Sanskrit terms bhoga and tyaga. One minute we’re accepting something for enjoyment and the next we’re giving it up because the taste is gone. The Sanskrit term “maya” explains why the cycle repeats. Maya means an energy which specifically belongs to a powerful entity. There are different sides to maya, but in the discussion of acceptance and rejection it refers to “that which is not.”
Naturally, the next question is “what is the ‘that which is?’” If maya is illusion, what is reality? If I say to you that the reality is God, you might dismiss my opinion as blind sentiment coming from an established religion that has done so much harm to people. “Religion is opium for the masses, don’t you know? In the name of religion, so much killing has taken place over the years. Don’t follow blindly; just enjoy life and see what happens after death.”
Actually, a person’s religion is just their ultimate conclusion, their guiding philosophy. So even the sentiment that says to reject religion is a kind of religion. As everyone has their own ultimate conclusion, a philosophy which guides them, in order to follow there must be an assigning of authority. The Vedas are considered the ultimate authority by those who follow them, and one way to substantiate their claim is to study the difference between maya and reality.
The Vedas say that God is the truth. If you know of Him only as the truth, which is not maya, then He is called Brahman. If you know of Him as a separate spiritual entity who resides within each living being, then He is called Paramatma. If you know His full features, His personality which has accompanying names, forms and pastimes, then He is called Bhagavan. It is Bhagavan who is ultimately the source of maya. The energy which emanates from Him but does not directly represent Him is that which is not Brahman.
The constant rejection of interests and enjoyable items proves that the interaction is with maya. If you’ve found something that is not the truth, ultimately you will reject it. You can’t live a lie forever. You may for a long time, but eventually you’ll want something real. The drunkard can’t stay drunk forever. You can’t sit at home and sleep the day away. Eventually you have to do something real.
In the same way the consciousness must eventually find something tangible to hold on to. After all, the aforementioned attachments all relate to the consciousness. At the end of the day you need to be thinking about something. You could sit in a room and think all day, but since there is nothing tangible to think about you need to find separate interests. When the interests are in maya, they are eventually rejected.
When you find the truth, however, there is no need to ever reject Him. He allows for endless interaction, which requires only the consciousness. The interaction with Him in full is known as bhakti-yoga, which can translate to “God consciousness.” A core feature of bhakti-yoga is glorification of God. In attachment to maya, there is glorification of the individual or other individuals, all of whom are not God. Therefore eventually the pendulum must swing in the other direction.
In bhakti-yoga, the glorification is of someone who is eternal, blissful and full of knowledge. The glorification does not have to end. There is no pendulum because the side of bhakti-yoga is real. It is everlasting, provided one’s motives are pure. In real God consciousness, there is no room for maya. The previous aspects of nature which were accepted and rejected through swinging on the pendulum of material existence turn spiritual due to being dovetailed with the glorification of God.
For instance, if there was an attachment to food previously, that same food can then be used for offering to God, for glorifying Him by satisfying Him in ways that are authorized. The offering of food is mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita, which is the song of God sung by the Lord in His original form of Shri Krishna, who is all-attractive. If there was an attachment to music previously, the same can be used to sing wonderfully melodious songs glorifying Shri Krishna and His divine associates. One doesn’t even have to work hard to come up with lyrics to these songs. They can simply adjust the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” to fit the melody.
To those unfamiliar with bhakti traditions, the practices seem very new age and hippy-like, but if there is sincerity in the desire to finally reach the truth in life, then the attachment for the various processes will only increase. Unlike the life in maya, the life in glorifying God never has to end. It does not have to be abandoned, since God exists forever. He remains with the soul into the next life as well, so one never has to give up glorifying Him. Since one doesn’t get sick of praising His attributes, it means that He is indeed not maya. He is real.
Sick of this thing you feel,
Means ultimately not real.
If in the end something to reject,
Presence of maya easy to detect.
Following bhakti on solid ground,
Situation turns completely around.
Inexhaustible features to dwell upon,
In glorifying God can go on and on.