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What is 'Maya'?

The Problem

Sanskrit word, ‘Maya’ may be one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted words in the entire vocabulary of spirituality. It has been wrongly translated into English as illusion, resulting in many heated discussions. As many of us believe, ‘Maya’ does not suggest that the visible world is a mere mirage. What it suggests is the simple fact that we don’t see reality as it is. We are always inclined to see it as something else. You will definitely ask; how does it happen? Similar questions are many in number. This article is an attempt to answer these questions. The first question is: Is what we see as the external world, the ‘Reality’? Quantum physics is the modern discipline which will help us to answer this question. The second question is: If not, why don't we perceive Reality as it is? Psychology may be the proper tool to approach this question. Quantum emptiness Paradox Take the first question first. We are all taught in schools that the world is made of matter, of atoms. Atoms make up molecules and molecules make up materials. So atom is the basic building structure. Quantum physics has revealed that 99.999999999999 percent of an atom is empty. So, we can assume that the universe, which is made up of these atoms is also almost empty. This forces us to redefine how we see ourselves and the reality. If basic building blocks of our visible reality consist of 99.999999999999 percent empty space, why and how do we feel and see solid objects all around? It is the paradox of which Science doesn't have a clear answer. Wave/Particle paradox The second paradox we face when we go deeper into sub-atomic level is that matter can exist there both as wave and as particle. Normally, waves and particles have different and sometimes opposite properties. For example, particles have properties such as mass and they travel from place to place through a linear path. On the other hand, waves have properties like amplitude and instead of traveling in straight lines they always spread out. But when we go to the sub-atomic level, we will find that a sub atomic particle can show the qualities of both particle and wave. In the famous double slit experiment it was proved that when a particle was shot through slits, it showed the characteristics of a particle when it was measured or observed. Other times it showed the characteristics of a wave. In other words, when

it was observed it showed the tendency to exist as a particle and at other times it showed the properties of wave. What does that mean? It simply means that wave [energy] becomes particles [matter] only when it is observed! Can you imagine, our visible material world is constructed with these floppy particles! Quantum non-local connection The third paradox regarding these quantum particles is their quantum entanglement or quantum non-local connection. Two sub-atomic particles will behave like one object even if they are separated by light years. Though they do not send any messages, they respond to each other instantaneously. To understand how strange this phenomenon really is, imagine that you and your friend have two apples which have sub-atomic qualities. Regardless of how far each of you travel from one another, your apples will instantaneously reflect anything either you did or your friend did. This can happen even if both of you are hundreds of light years away. Famous physicist Henry Stapp wonders, "how does the information get so quick?" As an answer to this, another physicist Michael Talbot writes in his 'mysticism and new physics: "Mind and matter are different vibrations in the same pond" In his famous book 'Tao of Physics' Fritjof Capra says, behind all matter is only a "quantized field of energy which could be freely created and destroyed." What does this mean? It may mean that there is an inter-connectedness at sub atomic level and we can no longer consider the different objects around us as independently existing entities. Henry Stapp writes: "An elementary particle is not an independently existing entity. It is in essence a set of relationships that reach outward to other things." If you have understood what he said, pause for a while and think: are we really that much separate? Summary Let’s summarize the three points we have already discussed. At sub-atomic level, A. 99.99999999999 percent of the reality is emptiness. B. Existence of the remaining substance as energy or as matter [wave or particle] is depended upon whether they are observed or not. The energy [wave] becomes matter [particle] only when it is observed. C. There is interconnectedness between the particles. How do we observe ‘external world’?

How do we observe the "external world"? Do different persons observe differently? Is the process of human perception a program installed in our brain? These are all intriguing questions. Let's try to address these questions. We are all boxes with five openings Metaphorically speaking, we are all closed boxes with five openings. These five openings are our five senses. Surrounding us is the complete reality and from that complete reality stimuli approach us through the five senses. All the information that we have about the external world has conveyed to us by our five senses. The world we know consists of what our eyes see, our ears hear, our nose smell, our tongues taste, and our hands [skin] feel. Man is dependent on those five senses to acquire knowledge. Senses present the stimuli in the form of electrical signals to the brain. And the brain interprets and attributes meaning to the signals and gives birth to the picture of a coherent and logical visible ‘external world’. So, in a way, the "external world" is the brain’s interpretation of the collection of the electrical signals presented by our five senses. How do we ‘see’? For better clarity, let’s check how we see things. Light clusters travel from the object (or what we consider as an object) to the eye. At the back of the eye, the light is turned into electrical signals. Neurons transmit these electrical signals to the back part of brain and there, this signal is perceived and interpreted as an image. Then we say we “see” things. When we see colors, what reach our eyes are merely electrical signals of different wavelengths. Our brain transforms these signals into colors. In reality, there are no colors in the "external world". The redness of the rose, the softness of a feather, and the lines of this article, are only the brain’s interpretation of electrical signals. Again, let's pause for a while and think; ‘Does our perception reflect Reality?’ How do we create ‘experience’? We have seen how the brain perceives an image. Now let’s analyze how it interprets those images? Like any computer, brain needs a program to do that. What we call ‘mind’ is nothing but a program of human beings, which interprets and manipulates the stimuli in order to create the picture of a coherent ‘world’. Whatever it is that comes through the senses, it can only be what this program says it is. According to Hinduism this inner program called "Anthahkkaranam" has four sections. 1, Mana or Mind [which collects the stimulus] 2, Buddhi or Intellect [ Which sorts out the stimuli] 3, Ahamkaram or Ego [Which connects different stimuli to a centre] 4, Chittam [Which discriminates and finally forms a coherent experience].

Mind collects the stimuli and hands them over to Buddhi which sorts the information into different categories and presents them to Ahamkaram [ego]. This ego or ‘I’dentity becomes the thread to which all these pieces of information are interwoven. When all the pieces of information are interwoven around ego, it becomes a beautiful story or script. Don't you realize that Our ‘ego’ is a better script writer than any of the famous holly wood scriptwriters! The next time when you have an uncontrollable desire for something or anger toward somebody, close your eyes for a moment and look inwards. Then you can meet your own ego, striving hard to complete a wonderful script. Once the script is finished, it is presented to Chittam [discriminating mechanism]. Being the director, it is the duty of Chittam to conduct the show. For that, he gathers the Karmendriyas [ organs of action] and orders them what to do and not to do. This is ‘Maya’. Let's conclude this article with the great scientist, David Bohm's words, "objective reality does not exist. Particles are not individual entities but are actually extensions of the same fundamental something." He further says that this universe is a hologram. A hologram is a special entity. If you cut a hologram into several pieces all the pieces will be similar to the original. For example if you cut a hologram of rose into many pieces every piece will contain the entire image of the original rose. Every piece of a hologram contains all the information possessed by the whole. So when Bhom says this universe is a hologram, it sounds to be an echo of the Old Brihadaranyaka Upanishad manthra. OM POORNAMADAH POORNAMIDAM POORNASYA POORNAMAADAAYA POORNAAT POORNAMUDACHYATE POORNAMEVAAVASHISHYATE

THAT (BRAHMAN) IS WHOLE THIS (CREATION) IS ALSO WHOLE FROM THAT WHOLE (I.E. BRAHMAN ONLY) THIS WHOLE HAS COME OUT (CREATION) BUT EVEN THOUGH THIS WHOLE HAS COME OUT OF THAT WHOLE YET THAT WHOLE REMAINS WHOLE ONLY.

Isn't it strange that the description of a hologram appears to be an interpretation of the old Bruhadaranyakopanishad Manthra? Isn't it surprising to see the paradoxical nature of the language of both Modern science and the Old sanskrit manthra?

Not at all, if you know what they are talking about. They are talking about Reality; hence their language is same. Since they are using Human Language, which is very shallow and the product of ‘Maya’, as a tool; it becomes paradoxical. When we let the senses supply powerful stimuli and let the mind- mechanism to conduct the show, then we are in ‘Maya’. Instead of that, if we can go deep - to the world of the potential Emptiness, the mysterious wave/particle transformation, the holistic disconnectedness – and can listen to what it has to say, we are in reality, no, we are THE REALITY.