Friday, August 6, 2010


Of this universe
This is the 4th Post in the series of “WHO AM I”.
The ancient Indian sages had differentiated three entities and called them as :  (i) Jeeva (SELF) (ii) Jagat (the universe) and (iii) Eswara. Our Journey, as readers may remember, is basically to understand the SELF.
Many of us may have some idea of what Jeeva and Jagat are, especially after we have called Jeeva as SELF and Jagat as universe. We are not saying that our ideas tally with the findings of the Rishis (the ancient sages). The third entity, Eswara is defined roughly as  a combination of the Universal consciousness (called Brahman) and another entity called “MAYA”.
We may have some idea of Brahman, the universal consciousness.
It is about Maya that most of us have the least idea about. So, what is Maya?
MAYA is a highly mystical, mysterious, quizzical, confusing and confounding entity.  
In reality – it is said to be the unreality surrounding us!!
But, what is this unreality surrounding us?? It is - what we know as the REALITY  surrounding us.
Aha.. It is already, truly confusing. Confounding. Mystical. Mysterious. How can the REAILITY  we see, be the UNREALITY  surrounding us?
But, that unfortunately is the MAYA.
We will go to the UPANISIDIC concept of Maya a little later.
But first let us hear a few mythical stories about this MAYA.

Indra is the  King of Gods as per Indian Mythology. These gods are akin to Angels in western mythology. Indra is their king, but he is like any other angels, assigned with certain duties to perform, like overseeing rains, clouds, agriculture and so on.
Being King of Gods, and possessing huge powers to implement his assigned duties, he periodically becomes highly egoistic, and then,  faces the reality of his place.
One day- he was waxing eloquent about how he was the wisest of gods – and not subject to any other Power, and how he was free from the effects of Maya, being the wisest man.
Having said that – he wants now to see the effects of Maya on the earth. He comes down to earth. At one place, he sees a beautiful Garden, much like his own Nandana vana, the celestial garden. In the garden, he finds beautiful, fresh water ponds surrounded by well kept lawns, with beautiful trees surrounding them and the whole scenario is simply enchanting.
Indra nods approvingly at how some one is taking care of the garden and passes out of it. Adjacent to the garden, he finds a dirty muddy water pond or pit.
Indra sees a few Pigs and piglets rolling in that muddy water, shouting, playing and almost insanely happy in that foul smelling, dirty, muddy water. A big male pig is playing with a few female pigs in the pond and they are surrounded by their progeny, the piglets.
As Indra watches them, he feels sorry for their foolish behavior. Very adjacent to it is a beautiful garden with excellent fresh water ponds and beautiful lawns to play on, but here are these pigs rolling in dirty, muddy water hilariously as if it is a heaven. He is unable to understand how the pigs can be so joyous in that foul, stinking  smell of the muddy pond.
The more he watches their hilarious play, the more he begins wondering how this can at all be possible – that  a wonderful garden with lawns and fresh water ponds be available at  a stone’s throw, but the pigs choose to play in this foul smelling, dirty water pond.
How can this be? Even if they are pigs without much brains, why should they be suffering in that dirty, muddy pond? But then, they don’t seem to be suffering at all. They are insanely happy in that foul smelling muddy water. Indra can not recall a single occasion in which either he himself or other angels were happier than this in their great heaven. How can this be? Surely this is the worst possible place on earth. But the pigs are happy as if it is far better than heaven itself!!
Indra grows highly inquisitive to unravel this mystery created by the creator (The Brahma).He hits upon a plan. He takes out the life of the male pig from its body and enters it himself. He wants to understand it with a first hand experience – not through hearse and not through logic.
Once inside the male pig, he now starts playing with the female pigs. Time rolls on. He begins to like the female pigs. Absolutely no hassles, no tricks, so plain hearted are they and least envious of each others playing with him. Yes. There are many positive aspects in the pond life. The smell isn’t that bad at all. It is almost aphrodisiacal.  Indra begins liking the piglets. They too are so innocent and showering so much love on him. Where is that much of pure love in heaven? Now, Indra knows, heaven isn’t the best place to live. There are better places. This pond has been blessed with the best of female pigs and their love and the best of piglets and their love and an aphrodisiacal smell which makes for the best of moods. Now, time goes on flying for Indra. He is so happy at his luck. He forgets the heaven, the angels and his own assigned duties. Nothing is a match  for this life in this beautiful little pond.
But then, the Gods in heaven are searching for Indra. They need their king. They search all places including the earth and find no trace of Indra. They go to their Guru, the great Brihaspathi, and ask him. He searches with his divine vision all over the Universe and finally locates him in the male pig. He tells the gods and asks them to bring Indra Back. The gods go, find Indra in the form of the male pig and are astounded. Why are you in that dirty pond as a pig? Which god or sage has cursed you? What sin have you committed  again?  They ask.
Indra laughs at them and tells them how he has accidentally located this greatest ever place in the universe and how happy he is. The gods try to reason with him – but Indra is unwilling to let go of his new found heaven. No one can persuade him to come back to heaven. At the behest of Brihaspathi, their Guru, they try to kill the female pigs and piglets so that he will come out. But, Indra uses all his powers to protect his clan. Not knowing what to do further, they go to the creator (the Brahma) and ask him. He says – open up the pig’s flesh fully and bring him out of it. He tells them how to do it. They now go armed with Brahma’s instructions, and launch a surprise attack on the male pig. They open up its flesh and drag Indra out of it. Once out of the Pig’s body, Indra looks at himself and finds all dirt and foul smell coming out of his body.  He is unable to bear the stench. He is bathed in the nearby fresh water pond and taken back to heaven. Back in his seat, he again starts talking of how wise he is – and suddenly recalls his escapades in the dirty heaven on earth, with the female pigs and piglets. He shudders at how, he, the great Indra, could do all those silly, stupid things.
He now knows that it is the great MAYA that did all that to him. It is of course debatable and doubtful, if Indra has fully come out of the MAYA, even after this incident.
Readers can think whether the Pig’s heaven is worse or better than Indra’s heaven. But think – wearing the pig’s flesh when you think of  pig’s heaven and wearing Indra’s flesh when you think of Indra’s heaven.
What looks so real is so unreal!! But it is also equally correct that what looks so unreal is so real??

Narada, the great divine sage, goes to Lord Krishna once. Lord Krishna, the human incarnation of Vishnu, the highest God of all, receives him, and treats him as his guest of honour.
During their discussions, Narada points out how Lord Krishna was using his MAYA to drive the Pandavas and Kauravas towards the Maha Bharat war rather than peace and how his MAYA is keeping his wives, disciples and subjects in great happiness, even with a looming war on the horizon and a possible destruction of their clan in the war. Krishna smiles benignly. Narada becomes curious on the effects of Krishna’s Maya on people. He requests Lord Krishna to display a little bit of his Maya’s effects on the people. Krishna politely refuses first but when Narada insists, Krishna agrees to display to him how his Maya is affecting various people.
Now, Narada and Krishna set out outside Dwarika city to see the effects of Krishna’s Maya. They were discussing and walking for a long time. They come to an arid desert. Krishna says – look Narada, you are a constant traveler every where in the universe. I am not accustomed to this much of walking. I am tired. I am very thirsty also. I can’t walk any more and so I will sit here. Why don’t you get some water for me? Then we will proceed further. Narada readily agrees to Lord Krishna’s request and goes out to fetch some water. At some distance, he finds a small hut surrounded by some trees.
He taps the hut and a young lady opens the door. The lady invites the sage into the hut, asks him to sit and gives him water to drink. As he is drinking the water, Narada is looking at the beautiful face of the young lady. He hasn’t seen such a beautiful face any where in the heavens or earth or other places. Was he roaming the whole universe so long, to find this beautiful girl – Narada is wondering. He feels, his search is over at this cottage. He now wants to marry this girl.
But the girl says – you must ask my father.  The father comes after some time. Narada pleads with him. The father thinks for some time, and says -  you are a nomadic wanderer – how will you  keep my daughter happy. Unless you are willing to live here with us in this hut – how can I agree to give my only daughter in marriage to you?
Narada finds this request quite reasonable and agrees to it. The father of the daughter solemnizes the marriage of the two in the hut itself. Then, he says – you both stay here while I  go to Varanasi to fulfill my vows to Lord Siva there and come back. The two happily agree. Narada starts new life. He wasn’t as happy as this in all his life.  As time rolls on, the two had a son and a daughter. The children are growing up and now they are four years and three years of age respectively. Life is going on in great happiness for them.
But, one day – a great flood comes and sweeps off all things around. People in adjacent villages are all being washed off in the flood. The flood waters become neck deep. Narada and his family are forced to come out of their cottage and walk to higher plains at a distance. As they were walking in the flood waters, Narada keeps the son on his shoulders while his wife keeps their daughter on her shoulders. But,  her frail body is unable no carry the daughter for long. She expresses her inability to carry the child further, to Narada.
Narada advises – if we are alive, we can have a daughter again.  You cannot carry it- so no sin will come to us. Please leave it in the flood and come. They walk without the daughter. But for how long? The son also proves too heavy for Narada to carry. He applies the same logic as earlier and leaves the son to flood waters. Now, the husband and wife hold each other’s hands and start battling with the flood waters to reach a safe place. But, the flood waters become too strong, separate them from each other and fling them to different directions. Narada, with great difficulty, swims to a shore, and is in great sorrow at losing all his family members. He sits under a tree surrounded by the flood waters and starts weeping uncontrollably. He is angry with the whole world, with the river, with the flood waters, with the gods and with himself at losing his precious, beautiful heavenly life in this pitiable manner.
As he is weeping uncontrollably with his head on his knees, a hand gently taps him on the shoulder and says – Narad, Narad, What are you doing her? Why are you weeping?
Narada lifts his head and finds Lord Krishna before him. Narada is in uncontrollable rage now. If only Krishna willed, he could have stopped the flood and he could have protected his life, his wife and his children. Even for a great disciple like himself, Krishna did not do it – so, Narada becomes terribly angry  and starts abusing Krishna in choicest terms.
Krishna stops him and asks him – I don’t know what you are saying – please tell me what happened. Narada recounts his story fully, sobbing all the time. Lord Krishna  looks at him innocently and asks him – what desert, what cottage, what beautiful girl, what children, what floods? What are you talking about?  I asked you to get me some water from this well and you are sitting by the side of this well and sobbing!! Five minutes are over and so I have come looking for you. Come, let us go.
Narada is confused and confounded. He looks up and looks in all directions. There is no desert, no floods and no devastation any where in sight. Narada is dazed.  He takes quite some time to come out of his confusion – to come out of the MAYA  he was in. He falls at the feet of Lord Krishna again – and says, my Lord, save me from your Maya. I will no more ask you to show me the Maya. The Lord smiles and both of them go back to their Palace.
PS : Hope readers have got some glimpse of Maya surrounding all of us. In next post I will carry one more story on Maya – and then we will take up more serious, technical, logical discussion on MAYA.
PS.2 : One disciple asked his Guru, why is it so dark around?
        Guru said gently, Open your eyes.

  *   *   *    to be continued   *  *  *

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