The Subtle Intrusion and Recognition of Maya in Daily Life

The Subtle Intrusion and Recognition of Maya in Daily Life

The five-fold Maya, consisting of name, form, time, space, and causality, as defined by Swami Vivekananda can be abstract, inscrutable, and difficult to recognize in daily life.  The aspirant may hear of it repeatedly from the guru, and through study and contemplation, yet still fail to recognize its subtle presence and continued intrusion on their vulnerable thinking process as they attempt to live a more spiritual life.  To make this connection requires an awareness of the dharma teachings and an inspection of one’s habits, actions, and thoughts.  The student must come to some concise conclusion as to the meanings of the dharma teachings and then constantly keep them present through sadhana (spiritual practice.)  Otherwise the green scum of Maya, to reference Sri Ramakrishna’s story, will weigh down the mind leading to doubt, fear, and forgetfulness of the Self.  This is often seen in how students will exit retreat feeling invigorated with the dharma and then go right back to identification with their old “non-self” through their actions and lack of follow through with the guru’s instructions.  This results in renewed ignorance and taking the world, its problems, and stresses to be real.
To recognize Maya in daily life we must acknowledge the realities of our waking state, namely, as Swami Vivekananda has explained, that character is always being molded through the power of karma.  Mental impressions are constantly being made or reinforced through our thoughts and actions and that, in turn, like momentum, influences future thoughts and actions.  With this in mind, we must realize that our every action and thought is either mayic and keeping us in samsara, or dharmic/yogic and taking us towards Self-Realization.  Because most of the activities engaged in prior to entering spiritual life were oriented towards the former, we must inspect and render dharmic all happenings in the relative world.

To give several concrete and personal examples of how to recognize such mayic tendencies, one might consider the influence of the four-veiled pathways of fundamentalism, materialism, secularism, and religious convention on a given day.  We will also want to note the mind’s inherent tendency to become deluded by and attached to pairs of opposites such as gain/loss, life/death, good/evil, attraction/aversion, and pleasure/pain. 

A first example consists of my own personal habit of allowing the mind to constantly assign attributes and qualities to appearances in Maya.  This would involve thinking and saying cosmic contradictions like, “Susie is white, female, an engineer, married, gossips too much, and is attractive.” Such thinking, especially in the workplace, leads to attraction and aversion to certain people and situations. Worst of all, this habit causes a conceptualization of myself as a psychophysical being.  Survival in the world dictates we be practical and love the tiger-God at a distance, as Sri Ramakrishna would say. However, overuse of these designations is a false superimposition of Maya over the Atman.

A second personal instance of recognizing Maya involved my attitude surrounding the loss of a job and putting the desire for a similar one above all else, even spiritual life.  I had the opportunity to dive deep into the dharma by moving to Hawaii and being close to our spiritual teacher and other serious devotees.  A seeming absence of faith, rooted in the ignorance of mundane convention that says, “You go where the work is,” won the day.  A decision was made to move several states away from teachings for the “security” of a job.  

The last example of the intrusion of Maya stems from the perspective I held in my marriage.  For virtually all of my time in spiritual life I have brooded over the fact that the person I am married to is not interested in the spiritual path.  I felt it would be wrong or shameful should we part ways due to our differences, which lead to callousness, fear, and a sense of bondage about the possibilities for spiritual life.  The source of this brooding was eventually traced back, through the indispensable counsel of the guru, to false guilt stemming from fundamentalist religion’s morals, ethics, and absolutism surrounding marriage between two people and its preservation.  This guidance has led to a less attached and more fulfilling marriage because both partners strive first to serve the best interest of the other. 

Through these examples we can recognize the source of confusion and attachments surrounding transitory experience.  This is Maya.  We must become adept at quieting these mayic tendencies of the mind by rendering all thoughts and actions spiritual via the Four Yogas.  By studying the teachings of these paths and then assuming and maintaining them as mental positions, the aspirant will push away Maya through constant practice and the power of their own Intelligence, thus becoming enlightened in this very moment.  And if these cognitive postures cannot be held, this is also a great boon, for the mind is revealing the cracks of its foundation which the Self alone can repair.  This refinement process will culminate with the descent of Grace due to gaining Pure Mind, and the Goal will be realized.

– Tadrupa