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The Relationship Between Maya and Isvara
KW: Hi, I had a short exchange with James a while back when he was less busy, but now I want to know the relationship or difference between the notion of Isvara with respect to Maya. I was given to understand that Maya was a product of misunderstanding Isvara in the phenomenal world. Can you clarify this for me?
Sundari: Maya is not a product of anything. It is a power in awareness which apparently allows for it to delude itself, so it is beginningless. But it is not endless, because Self-knowledge has the power to remove it. When Maya covers the mind and it is ignorant of its true nature as awareness, it does not understand who or what Isvara and the jiva are or that their common identity is awareness. The mind is under the spell of ignorance.
First and always there is pure consciousness. When Maya appears, awareness plus Maya (the gunas) is called Isvara, in the role of Creator. Lastly, matter appears. There is no point in talking about the differences between Maya/Isvara and the Creation, because matter does not mean anything without Maya and Maya does not mean anything without Isvara, and nothing means anything without awareness. They are the same because everything is awareness, but there are subtle differences that are important to understand.
Isvara can be equated with Maya, beginningless ignorance. Maya/Isvara are not always manifest. When Maya manifests, the world of objects/Creation (duality) appears as a projection on the screen of awareness. Isvara creates, sustains and destroys the whole universe. The world we see with our senses and the senses with which we see it is Isvara’s Creation. But Isvara is the cause of Maya, not its effects. This is the confusing part because Isvara also appears as a jiva, or subtle body, and as such is also the effects of Maya. The effects of Maya are called mithya, i.e. that which makes the apparently (not always present and always changing) real appear real (always present and unchanging). Isvara is not really the effects of ignorance; it only appears as the apparent effects in a different form.
Pure Maya is pure sattva. When tamas and rajas arise, awareness apparently becomes a jiva and is deluded by Maya. Isvara is the wielder of Maya but is never deluded by Maya, so not modified by ignorance, the gunas. When avidya (personal ignorance) is removed and your nature is known to be non-dual, duality (Maya) is no longer an issue, even though it still apparently exists.
Maya/Isvara is always present in awareness, but it is either manifest or unmanifest with reference to awareness. Therefore Isvara associated with Maya, like the jiva, is not real either, although in terms of the apparent person Isvara is “relatively” real and eternal. In other words, Isvara associated with Maya is eternal or permanent with reference to the jiva and the objects it experiences, but impermanent with reference to awareness. To say that Isvara associated with Maya is eternal with reference to the jiva does not mean that Isvara is limitless with reference to awareness. This is because ignorance, or Maya, only “operates” on a tiny fraction of awareness and because Isvara is resolved back into awareness at the end of the Creation cycle. The words “operates on a tiny fraction of awareness” are also used simply to put Maya in perspective because the Self has no parts and cannot be quantified. It is important to understand this because “partially covered” means that awareness is never actually covered, because it is aware of the partial covering brought about by the manifestation of Maya.
Maya is eternal because awareness is eternal, therefore Maya is said to be beginningless. Although its appearance gives rise to the apparent reality, Maya is neither real nor unreal. Maya creates the categories of real and unreal. Without Maya, there is no Creation, no jiva and no Isvara. Personal ignorance (avidya) ends for the jiva when the Self is realized to be its true nature, ending its cycle of incarnation and suffering. But Maya, or cosmic ignorance, continues unchanged, although it is not always manifest, because the Creation is not always manifest.
The question is: What is the relationship between jiva and Isvara? Jiva can’t see a world that appears to be “out there” unless it is aware, and Isvara can’t create the whole objective world unless it is aware. We know that Isvara is aware because its Creation is intelligently designed: it all hangs together perfectly. Thus their common identity is awareness.
So there is essentially no difference between jiva and Isvara except in their capacity to create. Isvara creates the objective world, and jiva creates the subjective world. They both appear to be conscious because consciousness is the common denominator, which is why Vedanta says they are “essentially” the same. If this is true, then we can eliminate both jiva and Isvara as real and take ourselves to be consciousness.
KW: The idea of zero-sum game is all Isvara as opposed to the magical thinking associated with Maya chakra?
Are they chakras at all?
Sundari: What does “they” refer to? The hypnosis of duality, samsara, is like a chakra in that it drags the mind into a seemingly endless vortex of suffering. The zero-sum game refers to the fact that there is nothing to gain in the world of objects, because objects are value-neutral. The joy is not in the objects and is only to be found in you, awareness. Chasing objects means you believe you are incomplete, and therefore you suffer. Knowing what it means to be awareness and no longer identified with the body-mind as your primary identity is moksa, freedom from limitation, i.e. freedom from samsara.
~ Om, Sundari