Shackles of Maya: Detachment is the Key

Dr. Shalini Yadav

Humans engage in endless conflicts over trivialities, incessantly craving their own desires. Leaders engage in power struggles, yearning to reign supreme over their dominion. Common folk wage battles for basic rights and sustenance. These conflicts arise from a multitude of reasons, be it religion, race, ethnicity, physical appearance, intelligence, success, or wealth. These distinctions, crafted by the illusory nature of existence, serve only to belittle and debase fellow creations of God. Yet, amidst these divisions, many fail to acknowledge the ultimate purpose of every soul, known as the Atma, which is to unite with the divine, known as the Paramatma.

In this frenzied pursuit of worldly triumph, I find solace in embracing my peculiar stance as if being encircled as odd one by a nimble child’s artistry, instructed by an enlightened mentor. Why is it that we are instilled from infancy with the ideal of tangible conquests, rather than yearning for the serene tranquility found within the depths of our souls, unburdened by the frivolities entangled in the quest for materialistic triumph?

Behold, this is nothing but an ephemeral illusion, an illusory veil! For what treasures shall we bear at the culmination of our sojourn upon this terrestrial realm?

In the realm of existence, where shadows dance upon the stage of life, a powerful force called Maya looms, casting its deceptive veil upon our mortal souls. It is through this illusory web that suffering finds its roots, entangling our desires and captivating us in the transient charms of the materialistic world. But, dear seekers of truth, heed the timeless words of wise authors, philosophers, religious gurus, and saints, for they hold the keys to unlocking the shackles of Maya’s illusionary grip.

The desire of ‘Maya’! It is a giant illusion. Nothing stays with us. Attachment to the materialistic world is transient. A voice whispers from the annals of spiritual wisdom, cautioning us against the allure of fleeting attachments.

The illusory nature of Maya does not imply that it is inherently false. Instead, it acts as a veil that obscures the true essence of the inner Self and the timeless principles that govern reality. Within Sikhism, individuals find themselves ensnared in the material world due to the overpowering influences of five vices: kaam, krodh, laalach, lagaav, and ahankaar (lust, anger, greed, attachment, and ego). Maya serves as a facilitator for these vices, tricking individuals into perceiving the physical world as the ultimate truth.

To illustrate this concept further, envision a moonless night where a rope lies unnoticed on the ground, resembling a coiled snake. Upon closer examination, it becomes evident that the rope alone exists as the tangible reality, while the snake was merely an illusion born out of misperception. Eliminating the darkness allows for the revelation of the rope’s true nature, causing the illusory snake to disappear completely.

In the sacred Sri Guru Granth Sahib (332), it is mentioned: “Sakti adher jevarhee bhram chookaa nihchal siv ghari vaasaa.” In other words- In the darkness of Maya, I mistook the rope for a snake, but that illusion is now dispelled, and I dwell eternally in the abode of the Lord. This encapsulates the journey towards spiritual enlightenment wherein the shackles of Maya are broken, paving the way to reside in the eternal presence of the divine.

Touching upon Advaita Vedanta philosophy, dual realities are recognized. Vyavaharika stands as the empirical reality, known to our senses and entangling consciousness. On the other hand, Paramarthika represents the absolute and spiritual reality. Maya resides within the realm of Vyavaharika, forging a bond with the empirical world and obstructing the realization of the unitary Self—the Cosmic Spirit, also referred to as Brahman.

Within the Upanishads, two types of knowledge are distinguished: Vidya, which signifies true knowledge of the Atman, and Avidya, representing a lack of awareness or true knowledge associated with Maya. True knowledge encompasses an understanding of the Atman, while Maya’s influence is rooted in deception and obscuring the genuine nature of reality. By transcending Avidya and embracing Vidya, individuals can attain a higher level of spiritual attainment and clarity of perception.

Maya’s existence does not negate its role in shaping the human experience. It serves as a veiling force that obscures the inner Self and the true principles that govern existence. By acknowledging its impact and striving to overcome the vices fueled by Maya, especially through detachment, individuals can embark on a path of spiritual enlightenment and attain a deeper understanding of the eternal truths found within religious texts and philosophical views.

Attachment to the physical deludes us, makes us forget the infinite, and leads to the path of pursuing the finite. We forget in the illusion that ‘Parabrahman’ is the only reality. The one and only truth. ‘All else is sand that slips through the fingers’—says Satyarth Nayak, a well-known Indian writer.

In the words of the unparalleled philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, “Attachment breeds fear; detachment is not indifference, but the courage to love from afar.” It is this detachment, this ability to recognize the transient nature of the physical realm, that liberates us from the clutches of Maya’s beguiling dance.

In the tapestry of religious teachings, the saints and gurus paint a vivid picture of the illusory nature of attachment. Swami Vivekananda, a beacon of spiritual illumination, imparts his wisdom, “Delusion arises from attachment to sensory objects. Detachment from sense objects results from seeing the truth of suffering and the impermanence of worldly enjoyments.” The ephemeral nature of all that surrounds us is illuminated, urging us to cast our gaze upon the eternal flame that burns within.

The Vedic scriptures, venerable sources of ancient wisdom, echo this sentiment with profound clarity. Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy that unifies all existence, proclaims, “Tat Tvam Asi,” meaning “You are That.” In this realization, the grand illusion of Maya crumbles, and the seeker recognizes that the infinite Parabrahman alone exists, while everything else is but transient sand slipping through our fingers in this momentary play of existence.

The profound words of Paramahansa Yogananda, a revered yogi and spiritual master, resonate with the eternal truth, “Attachment is the strongest block to realization.” These words, crafted with precision by a sage of enlightenment, pierce through the veils of Maya, urging us to shed the weight of material ties and embrace the eternal essence that resides within us.

Thus, as wanderers of truth, we should heed the wisdom of these profound voices and embark upon a quest to pierce through Maya’s deceptive veils. In the realm of attachment, suffering thrives, and the illusion perpetuates, but through detachment, enlightenment beckons leading us towards Moksha according to Gita.

(Dr. Shalini Yadav is a Professor, Writer and Columnist from Jaipur, Rajasthan.)

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