“The last illusion, the last snare of maya to trap the living entity, is the proposition that he is God. The living entity thinks that he is no longer a conditioned soul, but God. He is so unintelligent that he does not think that if he were God, then how could he be in doubt? That he does not consider. So that is the last snare of illusion.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 18.73 Purport)
Friend1: I’m going to describe a personal experience to you.
Friend1: There’s a purpose. I’d like you to explain the cause at the end.
Friend1: When I first read the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, I had no problem accepting that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan. There was really no resistance on my part.
Friend2: Any reason for that?
Friend1: When I was much younger I believe one time my mother’s cousin, who I respected so much, told me that Vishnu was supreme amongst the three deities of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
Friend2: You had asked or something?
Friend1: I think I saw the images everywhere and eventually decided to ask. Anyway, later on, when I’m reading Bhagavad-gita As It Is, I see that Vishnu is the same as Krishna.
Friend2: That was enough for you to trust Prabhupada.
Friend1: That’s exactly what I was going to say next. There wasn’t this great resistance on my part. Granted, I could hardly understand the rest of the content. It’s a lot to take in, especially when you’re accustomed to material life for so many years.
Friend2: It’s kind of earthshattering instruction. It’s like, “Why was I never told this before? Why doesn’t the entire world know this? It makes too much sense.”
Friend1: The stuff about birth and death, how the soul can never be killed. It really is profound stuff.
Friend2: Is that the end of the experience?
Friend1: I’m getting to that. As I continued reading, proceeding further into books like the Shrimad Bhagavatam, I began to notice that the term Mayavadi is used a lot.
Friend2: Vada is a conclusion and maya is illusion.
Friend1: Yes, the impersonalists. I eventually came to understand the meaning. My experience was that I grew tired of seeing the word. Mayavada and Mayavadi. The impersonalists. A few times I closed the book and started yelling at Prabhupada. “Why are you so obsessed with these people? Get over it, pal.”
Friend2: Man, isn’t that nice? You felt so close to the author that you could chastise him like that, to yourself.
Friend1: Right. I would never say something like that in public. There was a deep attachment to the guru. Anyway, so I kind of thought it was overkill. What I noticed next surprised me.
Friend2: What was that?
Friend1: That Mayavada is actually pretty popular.
Friend2: As in many people believe in it?
Friend1: More than just believe, they write volumes of books about it. I was conditioned by Prabhupada from the beginning to view it negatively. It’s not just blind sentiment, either. Arjuna directly asks which path is better. Krishna says that impersonalism takes longer and is more risky. Worshiping Krishna directly is superior. There are many more valid arguments, as well.
Friend2: Right. Maya is illusion, a kind of shadow. You can only have an illusory version of something if the real thing exists. In my dream I am back in school learning. The dream isn’t real. I am an adult now. However, school does exist. It is a real thing.
Friend1: And so if there is an impersonal side, it is based on the person. This means that God the person is the real thing. Pretty easy to understand.
Friend2: If we are all fragments of the one Brahman, how did we get this way? If God can fall under illusion, how can He be God?
Friend1: There you go. Another great argument. So here is my question. Why is Mayavada so popular?
Friend2: Oh, that’s pretty easy. There are several reasons.
Friend1: That people are inherently against God? That is to say the root cause of birth in the material world is envy of the Divine.
Friend2: Oh, for sure. Impersonalism of that kind is the last snare of maya. The first trap is thinking that material enjoyment is everything. Accumulate. Gather as much as possible. Win and keep on winning.
Friend1: You eventually get exhausted with that. Just see how many wealthy people are miserable.
Friend2: So the next step is to negate. Get rid of stuff. Go in the reverse direction. I am not meant to enjoy. Instead, I am God. I am equal to Him.
Friend1: And you’re saying Mayavada philosophy validates that?
Friend2: Brahmavada says that we are all equal, part of the spiritual energy that is Brahman. That is the truth, for sure. We are spiritual in nature. We are more amazing than anything we call amazing. The soul lives on through everything.
“Some look on the soul as amazing, some describe him as amazing, and some hear of him as amazing, while others, even after hearing about him, cannot understand him at all.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.29)
To stop at the Brahman understanding means the purification is not yet complete. If Brahman is everything, and we are all Brahman, then we are all God. Mayavadis use the comparison to the pot of clay. When divided up, the pot is still the same; it’s just manifesting in the form of different pieces. When everything comes back together, you get the pot again.
Friend1: So once everybody becomes Brahman realized, God is whole again?
Friend2: Right. God is always God; just manifesting in different ways.
Friend1: What is their opinion of Krishna, Rama and other personal forms of Godhead?
Friend2: Those are just elevated souls, Brahman realized. Any person can become the same. Don’t worship Krishna the person, but the Krishna within you.
Friend1: That is just nonsense. Listen, we can spend hours pointing out the flaws to their philosophy. Why is it so popular? Is it just the last snare thing?
Friend2: There is a lot incorporated into that. Mayavada essentially says, “I’m okay, you’re okay.” If we’re all God, then nothing that we do is wrong. One person is further along in the process of realization, but they haven’t become perfect yet. So don’t sweat it. Don’t worry about rules and regulations. If you become advanced, you won’t need to follow anything anyway. You can worship the different avataras if you want, but one day you’ll move past that. You’ll become enlightened.
Friend1: Isn’t it cheating people to say that there is no personal side of God?
Friend2: Of course. That’s why Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu advised against hearing from a Mayavadi. The devotees of the Lord take great umbrage with the fact that people are using the Vedas, which are non-different from Krishna, to downgrade Krishna’s real status. That is why Prabhupada talks about impersonalism so much. The way it manifests in this world is a great offense to him. Know that any flawed philosophy will be more popular than the real truth, that we are part and parcel of God, meant to serve Him eternally. It is a difficult truth to accept at first, but one who does has the chance to regain their constitutional position and find lasting happiness.
Of personal side not aware,
Trapped in maya’s last snare.
That to God the same am I,
To merge with energy I’ll try.
In truth oneness and difference both,
World from lotus stem of navel’s growth.
Impersonalism and others popular more,
Since no need surrender to Krishna for.