“Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu gave protection to devotees and killed many demons in the course of His preaching work. He specifically mentioned that the Mayavadi philosophers are the greatest demons. Therefore He warned all others not to hear the Mayavada philosophy.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 17.53 Purport)
Friend1: The Mayavada philosophy is so dangerous that the recommendation is to stay away from it, if possible.
Friend2: Can you explain what that philosophy is?
Friend1: Take the two terms individually. Maya is the illusory energy. Illusion. The literal translation is “that which is not.”
Friend2: What does the “that” refer to and what is it really supposed to be?
Friend1: Everything that we see around us. That hand. That leg. That skyscraper building. That pizza pie fresh out of the oven. Those things are not the Absolute Truth. They are not what they seem.
Friend2: What about me? Am I maya?
Friend1: When I identify in terms of body type, country of origin, facial features, skin color, occupational post, and such, then I am in maya. That is to say I am under the spell of illusion.
Friend2: I see.
Friend1: Vada refers to a conclusion. Mayavada is therefore the conclusion that everything is maya. Nothing is real.
Friend2: Interesting. Why is that a dangerous philosophy?
Friend1: Because there is something real behind the curtain, so to speak. I am not my body, but the experience within this form still exists. Something is animating that which is not Brahman. The individual is Brahman. There is confirmation in the Bhagavad-gita:
अक्षरं ब्रह्म परमं
स्वभावो ऽध्यात्मम् उच्यते
akṣaraṁ brahma paramaṁ
svabhāvo ‘dhyātmam ucyate
“The Supreme Lord said, The indestructible, transcendental living entity is called Brahman, and his eternal nature is called the self. Action pertaining to the development of these material bodies is called karma, or fruitive activities.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.3)
Friend2: If Mayavada says that everything is illusion, does that not include their philosophy, also? The words spoken. The exalted teachers. Are not they maya, as well?
Friend1: Precisely. You have identified the contradiction. This means that there must be an exception. There must be something beyond the illusion. When the Divine descends to this world, He is neither in maya nor affected by it. Only fools think in that way.
अवजानन्ति मां मूढा
मानुषीं तनुम् आश्रितम्
परं भावम् अजानन्तो
avajānanti māṁ mūḍhā
mānuṣīṁ tanum āśritam
paraṁ bhāvam ajānanto
“Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.11)
Friend2: Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has given the recommendation. Better to not hear the Mayavada philosophy. You will save yourself a lot of grief.
Friend1: That is what I wanted to ask about. Doesn’t that resemble cult-life to a degree? Blind faith. Stay within the community. Don’t stray too far, lest you risk eternal damnation.
Friend2: Something to the effect of, “Don’t listen to anything that will discourage your faith in the Almighty.”
Friend1: Exactly. I thought we were supposed to use our intelligence. Doesn’t that involve a careful and thorough analysis? Understand competing points of view. Look at the truth from all angles of vision and then make up your mind. Krishna gives Arjuna this choice:
इति ते ज्ञानम् आख्यातं
गुह्याद् गुह्यतरं मया
यथेच्छसि तथा कुरु
iti te jñānam ākhyātaṁ
guhyād guhyataraṁ mayā
yathecchasi tathā kuru
“Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.63)
Friend2: I am glad you bring that up. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu isn’t asking us to shut off our brains. He is advising us to stay away from cheaters. If there are two math teachers in a school and one of them is teaching that one plus one equals three, should I listen to them?
Friend1: Probably not, but what is the harm? I will figure out that they are wrong.
Friend2: Not necessarily. On the other hand, if you go to the right teacher, you will already learn the incorrect answer. You will be able to identify the flaws in the other teacher. It doesn’t work the other way around.
Friend1: Are you saying that I will already learn about Mayavada through the bhakti teachers?
Friend2: Look at the Bhagavad-gita. Krishna presents both the impersonal side and the personal. Arjuna poses the question directly, as to which path is better. The authorized way includes every kind of competing philosophy. You will not only hear that point of view, but you will also understand the reason someone could be cheating others. You will understand the underlying cause and thereby more easily avoid such a perilous fate for yourself.
Avoiding a perilous fate,
That everyone as God to state.
From Mayavada mistakenly to hear,
In worst kind of illusion fear.
Better if at start staying away,
Heed what Chaitanya has to say.
Since everything in bhakti included,
To learn even how others deluded.