MAYA, written and pronounced in Punjabi as maid. As a philosophic category in the Indian tradition, Maya is interpreted variously as a veil or curtain concealing reality; the phenomenal world as it appears over against things in themselves; the grand illusion or the cosmic principle of illusion. Maya is assumed to stand between man and reality, producing error and illusion in the human mind, and creating difficulties in the individual`s progress to a state of knowledge and bliss. The Advailic conception of Maya endows it with unique and matchless powers.
It is conceived as parallel to Brahm, for both are treated as beginningless (anadi) and beyond adequate expression in human terms.The world of names and forms is a product of Maya, which is indicative of its powers of creating illusion and of concealing reality. Only for a spiritually advanced individual Maya ceases to be, and Brahma alone remains. Maya continues to exist for the rest of mankind as an objective entity. Sikhism does not subscribe to this extreme objectification of Maya in the Vedantic theory. The Gurus do not assign lo it the character of a metaphysical category in the framework of their scriptural compositions.
Of course, the figures of Brahma, Visnu and Siva, as also of Maya, frequently find place in gurbdm (utterance of the Gurus) indicative of a link with the tradition of Indian thought; but these figures stand only for the powers of the Divine.Brahma, for instance, is not to be taken in the literal sense of a creator with absolute authority. Likewise, Maya as an independent creative power would be out of place with the spirit of gurbdm. The only agency that governs the process of nature is nature itself as a manifestation of hukam, the Divine Ordinance. Guru Nanak describes such a world as an empty shadow misleading the world (GG, 932).
It is an ephemeral world falsely viewed as eternal in itself. It is like the fire of a single straw, a cloud`s shadow becoming flood water (GG, 717).Emphasis on the ephemerality and non permanence of the cosmic order is, however, only one interpretation of the Gurus` conception of Maya and the world.Maya is that of which the essence is time; it has come into being at the will of the Divine, and must disappear when He so ordains. In other words, Mayaor phenomenal Nature is neither beginning less nor selfsufficieni. It rests in the Creator, whose creation it is. But at the same time, it is also the embodied manifestation of the Eternal Spirit.
Transient it may be, but it is not unreal. This world is the abode of God; the True and Eternal one resides in it (GG, 463). In modern times, Maya has been interpreted in several ways, departing from the exclusive meaning assigned to it by the orthodox Indian view, viz. grand illusion, giving Maya an onio logical status while denying reality to it.Dr Radhakrishnan is known to have distinguished phenomenality and unreality, a view that comes quite close to the Sikh view. The world is phenomenal but not unreal; it is not real either.
In Radhakrishnan, who seeks to unite Sahkara and Ramanuja taking their positions as complementary, at least six meanings of the term Maya, other than `grand illusion`, have been discerned. These arc: inexpressibility of Maya, as the relation between the Absolute and the world, not fully comprehensible to the human mind; creative activity of God, or his power of self becoming (Mayasakti); duality of all things in the world process, a mixture of spirit and nature; primal matter (prakritt), that is, the Absolute with Maya; concealment: God is enveloped in the cloak of Maya; and lastly, one sided dependence, that is of the world on the Absolute.
In gurhdni, Maya is also equated with wealth (material goods) as also with the sense of attachment to worldly possessions. Most often, the term denotes delusion, since under the spell of Maya, the mind is not able to distinguish truth from falsehood, the everlasting from the ephemeral, the essence from mere appearance. In a word, Maya in Sikhism connotes avioded, that is ignorance. This is the subjective dimension of Maya, as opposed to the Advaitic approach that not only emphasizes the objective aspect, but leads to an emphatic objectification in its treatment of the concept.
The Sikh system acknowledges the existence of Maya, and lays stress on the lessening of its spell on the human mind, so that with the liberated psychic faculties, one may attain to the state of spiritual enlightenment a slate wholly exempt from the trance of Maya, a state of being liberated from its web and being one with the Absolute.
1. Taran Singh, ed.. Teachings of Guru Nanak Dev. Patiala, 1977.
2. Wazir Singh, Philosophy of Sikh Religion. Delhi, 1981
3. Greenlees, Duncan, The Gospel of Cum Granth Sahib. Madras, 1960
4. Sher Singh, The Philosophy of Sikhism. Lahore, 1944
5. Avtar Singh, Eithics of the Sikhs. Patiala, 1970
6. Jodh Singh, Bhai, Gurmat Nimai. Lahore, 1932