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The Evolutes of Maya

The evolutes of Maya are given here in Sanskrit. Sanskrit is referred to as Devavak (the Divine Word, its meaning and its many expressions) and Devabhasha (the language of the gods). It both bears and conveys the subtle power of Brahman and Shakti. It expresses spirituality itself, for that was the essential ideal and salutary attainment of the rishis. The realizations of the illumined beings of ancient India are locked in Sanskrit in subtle form, as are the descriptions of Maya’s evolutes. Some of these are: Mudhavasta, Mamakara, Deha-adhyasa, Paraspara-dhyasa, Vishayashakti, Bahirmukavritti, Eshanatrayam and Shatavadana. These gravitational forces of Maya plague humanity and create obstructions to the realization of Brahman.

Mudhavasta is forgetfulness of one’s true nature. Due to this critical lapse of memory, beings fail to remember themselves as pure Spirit and instead identify with concerns of an impermanent nature. The sense of ownership, agency and separation from God all begin here, for the true Self is not an object, is free from activity and is ever one with Divine Reality. It is perfect, and therefore the blessed Christ stated: “Be thee perfect, even as the Lord in Heaven is perfect.” Herein, the remedy for mudhavasta is a firm acknowledgement that declares absolute identity with Brahman coupled with an ongoing and powerful practice that destroys all obstacles to this realization. Otherwise, the truth of one’s real nature can never be experienced. As Sri Ramakrishna puts it: “A bullock carries a huge bag of sweets on its back, but can never taste them.” The poet/saint, Ramaprasad, gives his rendition of this teaching in song:

“By forgetting Reality and seeking after the things of this earth, beings imbibe earth instead of nectar; they give themselves to nature instead of Spirit.”

In other songs, He advises remembrance in accordance with the divine names of God: “O complacent and restless mind caught in the fundamental illusion of finitude, do not forget to remember your Divine Mother’s hallowed name.” Thus, remembrance and recognition go hand in hand.

Mamakara means the sense of “me and mine.” The sense of ownership in relation to all levels of existence — my spouse, my family, my possessions, my wealth, my career, my learning, my future, my religion — casts a cloak of limitation over the mind and breeds thoughts and actions that are directly in opposition to Truth. The truth is simply that all these things proceed from and belong to nature, the realm of conceptualization, and ultimately, to God. Sri Ramakrishna gives a fine story about those under the influence of mamakara. He says:

“God laughs on two occasions: when the physician assures the mother that he can cure her baby, and when two brothers divide their land saying, ‘That side is yours and this side is mine.”

The gist is that few beings realize that all belongs to God. As Khalas, the great devotee of Sri Ram sings: “You flatter the millionaire but forget to pay homage to Sri Ram, though Ram is the owner of the entire universe!” More specific to mankind’s ignorance, the poet/saint, Ramprasad sings: “The egocentric bind themselves mindlessly, repeating ‘this is I, that is mine.’” Similarly, Lord Buddha advises: “Happy indeed are those who live free of attachment to possessions. They feed on eternal happiness, like the gods.” As the Great Master often said, “It is the attitude of ‘I, me and mine’ that has driven the whole world mad.”

Deha-adhyasa is attachment to the body out of ignorance. After forgetting one’s true nature, the sense of ego grows strong as there is nothing noble and transcendent to identify with. Preoccupation with the body is then the only recourse and the ego delights in this misguided pastime. In the Vivekachudamani, Shankara says: “This knowledge of the Self as the body — this wicked desire that ‘I am the body,’ — this is the root of birth and different sufferings.” Despite the body’s limitations, imperfections, illnesses, deterioration and death, deluded beings continually obsess with the finite form and thus habitually begin to mistake it for the Self. Instead of perceiving it as adhara (see article on pg. 18) — a container into which God pours a bit of His undying Spirit — ignorant beings mistake the vessel for the contents and suffer innumerable miseries. As Sri Shankara-charya states: “Consciousness remains untouched, ever pure; yet with the body and senses, the mind deludes Consciousness and creates there the thought of ‘me’ and ‘mine.’ This delusion causes suffering.” The advice of Lord Buddha on attachment to the body is well-known: “He who has not any attachment to name and form and does not grieve for what does not really exist, that one is wise beyond conception.” Further, He declared: “O builder of the house, I have seen you; You shall not build the house again. All the rafters are broken; the ridgepole is sundered. Mind has arrived at dissolution, having attained the extinction of all cravings.” Speaking to His beloved disciple, Uddhava, Sri Krishna advises:

“Living in the body which is under the sway of past actions, the deluded one becomes bound due to identification with it.”

Continual fixation with the body soon leads to a complex wherein the living being falls into a strong misconception that the body is the only self. In this case, even the mind and intellect, which are vastly superior to the body, become subservient to it. Thus is the body, an outer covering over Reality, worshiped in place of the indwelling Self. This invites the following evolute of Maya to enter in.

Parasparadhyasa is an unfortunate malady wherein one mistakes the Self for the body and the body for the Self. Most human beings are overcome with the idea that they are actually their physical sheath. Even some of those who profess to be spiritual cannot shake this delusion and cling to life in a body. Sri Ramachandra states openly in the Adhyatma Ramayana: “How can this human body made of five elements, blood and excreta ever be the immortal, all-pervading Spirit?” In the Vivekachudamani, Shankaracharya declares: “That which is real and one’s own primeval essence, that is beyond form and activity. Attaining that, one should cease to identify with one’s false bodies like an actor giving up his assumed mask.” Sri Ramakrishna states:

“The seat of the mind is in the center between the eyebrows, but its gaze is ever fixed below the navel and on the organs of evacuation and reproduction.”

When the mind is pure and sure of its immortal nature, then, it dwells in transcendental bliss and ceases its endless dalliance with desires associated with name and form. Further, the Great Master stated: “The body is a mere pillowcase, but the heart of the devotee is the abode of Brahman.” Despite these and other teachings, and though the mind has infinite potential for higher expression, it stubbornly reverts to body consciousness, worldly thoughts and the lower passions again and again. “The camel eats thorny bushes and even though its gums bleed, it will not give them up,” notes Sri Ramakrishna. As Patanjali, the father of Yoga declares: “There are five obstacles in spiritual life; ignorance, egotism, attachment, aversion and clinging to life.”

Vishayashakti influences the mind by attaching it to the senses. The world is full of people who have very little depth to their thinking process. Due to preoccupation with the surface of human awareness, they are simply unaware of the infinite potential which lies within them and are unable to access it. With the senses out of control, they remain rank materialists, bereft of the wherewithal to transform themselves into an image of Spirit. Ramprasad sings: “Oh essential mind, you are infinitely more refined than the organs of action and perception. In the kingdom of consciousness, you are natural sovereign. Yet you accept as constant companions the most limited and negative intentions. What a petty potentate you have become.” Communicating similar sentiments, Shankaracharya states: “A great tiger, whose name is the mind, wanders in this world. The wayward senses and their objects are the forest where this great tiger roams. One who is desirous of liberation should not go there.” Lord Buddha speaks of sense control as well: “Blessed indeed are they who live amongst those who are yearning for sense delights, without yearning for such things.” In the Uddhava Gita, Lord Krishna says:

“Contact with the senses, which are the creation of nescience, should be avoided until attachment, which is a stain on the mind, has been removed by a strong and systematic devotion to God.”

Thus, the warnings against sense life devoid of love and wisdom are declared by the wise in every religion.

Bahirmukhavritti describes the outward going mind that fixates continually on external stimulae, usually of a mundane or banal variety. Unable to curb its wayward tendencies, beings give the mind free reign and suffer the resultant consequences. Not only does this bind the thinking process to external phenomena, it also robs the mind of its precious ability to look within for answers to life’s problems and thereby abide steadily in the Atman. Sri Krishna states in the Bhagavad Gita: “The mind is difficult to control, no doubt. But it can be controlled by Abhyasa Yoga, the path of constant practice.” About the wayward mind, Sri Ramakrishna says: “It is extremely difficult to gather up mustard seeds that have been blown from the package by the wind.” This means that once the mind’s thoughts are habitually given to the outside world, it is much harder to withdraw them and place them within once again where peace abides. Offering solutions for this malady, Lord Buddha states:

“Irrigators conduct water whenever they please; fletchers shape the arrow shafts; carpenters work the wood, but the wise discipline the mind.”

Eshanatrayam, the triple desire, is the drive for attaining spouse, wealth and offspring. These three pursuits are natural to most human beings, and if sought after with maturity and detachment, bring fulfillment of earthly desires. Unfortunately, due to selfishness and inadvertent clinging, the impositions of lust, greed and the desire for power enter in and squelch any positive benefits that may come from earthly existence. Sri Ramakrishna noticed the predicament of worldly beings attached to mundane existence in the family setting and remarked observantly: “The rich, miserly and worldly spend their money in four ways — litigation, thieves, physicians and wicked children.” Ramprasad, gazing upon the ways of the world, sang: “To seek for help from spouse, friends or family provides no profound solution. Don’t you know that all are lost here? Everyone lives in pallid imitation of everyone else.” Though family life is a time-honored institution, it is, in this day and age, an open door for the entrance and influence of Maya and its evolutes. As stated in the Dhammapada, Lord Buddha said: “Non-recitation is the rust of scriptures; non-exertion is the rust of households.” Furthermore, He stated:

“The wise do not call strong that fetter which is made of iron, wood or hemp. Rather do they call attachment to jewels, ornaments, children and wives a far stronger fetter.”

On the other hand, He also advised: “If you find a wise companion to associate with you, one who leads a virtuous life and is diligent, you should lead a life with him, joyfully and mindfully, conquering all obstacles.”

Shatavadana means thinking of and doing a hundred things at once. Its presence is a telling sign of our times. Beings find it difficult to concentrate with one-pointed concentration and therefore succumb to various distractions. This fragments human awareness so that it cannot focus sufficiently. Over time, this becomes a habit which drastically limits the mind’s attention span. Lord Buddha says: “There is no perfect contemplation for that one who is not wise, and no wisdom for the one who does not concentrate.” Therefore, in spiritual endeavor, the inability to meditate on the essence of Reality is a great loss. In this case, restlessness takes over and wins the victory. Sri Krishna speaks of this tendency in the Uddhava Gita:

“The man of uncontrolled mind falls into the error that there is a plurality of objects and this error leads to his downfall.”

Sri Ramakrishna puts it in yet another way: “Everyone is enamored of the rich man’s garden, but few ever inquire after the owner.” Thus do embodied beings pass over what is essential and beneficial due to preoccupation with a thousand external considerations.

These perplexing evolutes of the enchanting power of Maya are to be recognized and transcended. They inundate our thinking process and thus affect our daily actions and our relations with God, nature and other living beings. Though a part of the experience of life and necessary for its perpetuation, they are responsible for ignorance, delusion and much of the suffering that human beings undergo. As Sri Ramakrishna so revealingly states with regard to Maya and its powers:

“Maya is like the skin of a mango. It protects the fruit while it is ripening, but once the fruit is ready the skin is discarded. One should not eat it for it is bitter.”

In view of this astute observation and if one studies the first eight evolutes of Maya, it will become clear how living beings have, especially under the influence of materialism and agnosticism, made a veritable feast out of the skin of the mango! Attachment to the body as if it were a permanent structure, preoccupation with the external world as if it were a permanent location, attachment to the five senses as if they represented permanent awareness and attachment to family, friends and wealth as if they were permanent possessions — all of these have become normal behavior. This warped and distorted view wherein Reality is considered an illusion while relativity is perceived to be real and abiding, is the work of the avidya shakti aspect of Mahamaya. Time-honored abidance in Nityanityavastuviveka — discrimination between the real and the unreal — is its antithesis and the time-tested practice of neti, neti — the implementation of “not this, not this” — is the solution. Other solutions for the malady of delusion abound in the Vedanta science, as well as in Yoga and Tantra. These will be presented and treated in another article.

These eight evolutes of Maya provide a firm basis upon which to trace root ignorance and rid oneself of its problematic tendencies. By identifying them in this fashion, aspirants may destroy Maya’s effects while remaining free of its perplexing enchantment. As Sri Ramakrishna indicates with regard to Maya and Brahman: “If one holds up a towel in front of a lamp, the lamp disappears.” By recognizing Maya’s presence from a detached position, and transcending its powers of obscuration and distortion (avarana and vikshepa), beings can tear away the towel of illusion and appearance from in front of the lamp of Atman and perceive the all-pervasive light of Consciousness called Brahman.

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