“Illusion means to accept something which is not: maya. Maya means ‘what is not.’ Everyone is accepting the body as the self. If I ask you what you are, you will say, ‘I am Mr. John; I am a rich man; I am this; I am that.’ All these are bodily identifications. But you are not this body. This is illusion.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shri Ishopanishad, Introduction)
Not quite the devil, as described in the popular faiths of the world. Not an adversary of equal potency compared to the Almighty. Not someone of wicked intent, wanting to bring people down for no reason.
The illusory energy known as maya is actually a great devotee of the Supreme Lord. She facilitates the desires of the conditioned living entity, jiva, the primary of which is forgetfulness of their true nature. In this way she plays two games with me. The time of engagement begins at birth and then continues until I finally become wise to her tricks.
1. She hides that which should be seen
I am spirit soul. Aham brahmasmi is the explanation in Sanskrit. Anyone who comes across this instruction is fortunate. The reason is that hardly anyone will know. The species lower than the human being have no chance. They simply cannot comprehend higher topics. No matter how much instruction gets passed on, even with willing participation the brain capacity is simply lacking.
Every human being should realize that they are Brahman, which is the spiritual energy. The questions should be asked:
“Then why not? It is such a simple concept to grasp. At the very least, I should know who I am. I know my name. I know my place of birth. I know who my parents are. Should I not be informed as to the true identity that exceeds the boundaries of time and space?”
The reason I am unaware is because of maya. She plays the game of hiding that which should be seen and known. At this game she is an expert. The meaning is that even if I wanted to see, there are so many obstacles, excuses, and impediments placed in the way to keep me in ignorance.
2. She shows that which is not actually real
The commonly invoked comparison is to the dream. I woke up this morning not feeling too good. It was because of the dreams I had last night. Put into this situation and that, one problem after another. At least now the illusion is over. Nothing from the dream was real, though my experience in it certainly did take place.
Another comparison is to watching a film in a cinema hall. There is a screen, a projector and one or more members of the audience. On the screen there are fires, explosions, rivers, bridges, guns, thunderstorms, and the like. Different scenes in different places, with a variety of characters.
Because there is a fire on the screen it does not mean that the movie theater will burn down. The oncoming truck does not burst out of the screen and onto the seated audience. The film is a depiction, but there is a kind of illusion. The person watching intentionally forgets that it is a scripted performance. This is for enhancing the enjoyment of the experience.
In the same way, maya plays the game of showing me things which are not actually real. I take that which is not to be my true identity. The body and its different parts go through a constant evolution of change. The trigger agent is kala, which is time. Kala’s final act is known as death. This is the complete destruction of the body, with the living entity poised to accept a new one and thus start another lifetime.
Maya plays these games because of my desire. The way out of illusion is to simply be engaged in the service of the Supreme Lord. This is the dharma of the soul, which is a particle of the Brahman energy. The instruction from Shri Krishna helps to solve the mystery, to clear the illusion. The more one advances in the culture of genuine religion, the more they appreciate every one of Krishna’s energies, including the expert magician known as maya.
Playing tricks on me,
Not true identity to see.
That to be known to hide,
When in her land to reside.
To my original desire due,
Maya playing these games two.
To dharma of the soul return,
And respect for her efforts earn.
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