Maya

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Maya (ਮਾਇਆ) : Literally "delusion". Also money, wealth, illusion, transitory.

Sikh theology explains that everything in this world is an illusion, and that the only true reality is Waheguru. A person affected by maya is described, in the Sikh Scripture, as suffering from the delusion of believing that those things which are fleeting and impermanent are worth pursuing and permanent. A person attached to maya cannot escape the cycle of life, death, and rebirth; to release oneself from continuous reincarnation is one of the prime goals of every Sikh. A Sikh strives to avoid rebirth through living a meritorious life of honest work, service to others, and remembrance of God’s name; away from addiction to maya and this transient material world.

Maya (ਮਾਇਆ) written and pronounced in Punjabi as maia. 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 three qualities of Maya

Sikh theology informs us that there are 3 aspects or qualities (Guuns) of Maya - Raj Guun, Tamo Guun and Sato Guun. Prior to Sikhism within Hinduism it was expressed by Krishna to Arjuna summing it up as Sat Gun produces Gyaan (knowledge), Rajo Gun produces greed (attachment of karm and their fruits), and Tamo Gun produces Moh (laziness and craziness also).

As explained by Bhagat Kabir in the shabad below, Raj guun is illusion connected with energy and activity; Tamo guun relates to darkness and inertia and Sato guun is illusion due to purity and light.

ਰਜ ਗੁਣ ਤਮ ਗੁਣ ਸਤ ਗੁਣ ਕਹੀਐ ਇਹ ਤੇਰੀ ਸਭ ਮਾਇਆ ॥ ਚਉਥੇ ਪਦ ਕਉ ਜੋ ਨਰੁ ਚੀਨ੍ਹ੍ਹੈ ਤਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਹੀ ਪਰਮ ਪਦੁ ਪਾਇਆ ॥੨॥
Raj guṇ ṯam guṇ saṯ guṇ kahī▫ai ih ṯerī sabẖ mĝ▫i▫ĝ. Cẖa▫uthe paḝ ka▫o jo nar cẖīnĥai ṯinĥ hī param paḝ pĝ▫i▫ĝ. (2)
Raajas, the quality of energy and activity; Taamas, the quality of darkness and inertia; and Satvas, the quality of purity and light, are all called the creations of Maya, Your illusion. That man who realizes the fourth state - he alone obtains the supreme state.(2)

Detail

The Advaitic conception of maya endows it with unique and matchless powers. It is conceived as parallel to Brahm, for both are treated as beginning-less (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 Brahm 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 to it the character of a metaphysical category in the framework of their scriptural compositions. Of course, the figures of Brahma, Visnu and Shiva, as also of maya, frequently find place in Gurbani (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 gurbani. 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, maya or phenomenal Nature is neither beginningless nor self-sufficient. 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 ontological 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 Sankara and Ramanuja taking their positions as complementary, at least six meanings of the term maya, other than ‘grand illusion’, have been discerned. These are: 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 ( maya-sakti); duality of all things in the world-process, a mixture of spirit and nature; primal matter (prakriti), 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 gurbani, 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 ever-lasting from the ephemeral, the essence from mere appearance. In a word, maya in Sikhism connotes avidya, 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 state wholly exempt from the trance of maya, a state of being liberated from its web and being one with the Absolute.


SGGS Gurmukhi-English-Punjabi Dictionary

(1) ਭੁਲੇਖਾ, ਭ੍ਰਮ, ਅਵਿਦਿਆ, ਅਗਿਆਨਤਾ। (2) ਧਨ, ਦੌਲਤ। (3) ਮਾਤਾ। (4) ਹੇ ਮਾਂ ! ਹੇ ਮਾਤਾ। (5) ਭਲਾਉਣ/ਭਰਮ ਉਪਜਾਉਣ ਵਾਲੀ ਸ਼ਕਤੀ। (6) ਸਰੀਰਕ, (ਭਾਵ) ਦੁਨਿਆਵੀ। ਉਦਾਹਰਣ: ਅਨਿਕ ਮਾਇਆ ਜਾ ਕੀ ਲਖੀ ਨ ਜਾਇ॥ {ਸਾਰ ੫, ਅਸ ੨, ੧0:੧ (1236)}। ਕਰਮ ਧਰਮ ਨਹੀ ਮਾਇਆ ਮਾਖੀ॥ {ਮਾਰੂ ੧, ਸੋਲਾ ੧੫, ੮:੧ (1035)}।

SGGS Gurmukhi-English Dictionary P. n. Māyā, the world and its entanglements. SGGS Gurmukhi-English Data provided by Harjinder Singh Gill, Santa Monica, CA, USA.

English Translation n.f. strach, farina; goddess of wealth, Lakshmi; wealth, riches, money, mammon,; illusionary or illusory world of senses, material world; illusion, illusory phenomena.

Mahan Kosh Encyclopedia {ਸੰਗ੍ਯਾ}. ਮਾਤਾ. ਮਾਂ. "ਆਪਿ ਪਿਤਾ, ਆਪਿ ਮਾਇਆ". (ਸੂਹੀ ਛੰਤ ਮਃ ੫) "ਤੂ ਹਰਿ ਪਿਤਾ ਮਾਇਆ". (ਸ੍ਰੀ ਮਃ ੫)। (2) ਸੰ. ਮਾਯਾ. ਕਪਟ. ਛਲ. ਦੰਭ. ਦੇਖੋ, ਮਾ ਧਾ. "ਇਹੁ ਤਨੁ ਮਾਇਆ ਪਾਹਿਆ ਪਿਆਰੇ, ਲੀਤੜਾ ਲਬਿ ਰੰਗਾਏ". (ਤਿਲੰ ਮਃ ੧)। (3) ਭੁਲੇਖਾ. ਭ੍ਰਮ. ਅਵਿਦ੍ਯਾ. "ਕੋਈ ਐਸੋ ਰੇ ਭਗਤੁ ਜੁ ਮਾਇਆ ਤੇ ਰਹਿਤ". (ਧਨਾ ਅਃ ਮਃ ੫) "ਏਹ ਮਾਇਆ, ਜਿਤੁ ਹਰਿ ਵਿਸਰੈ ਮੋਹੁ ਉਪਜੈ ਭਾਉ ਦੂਜਾ ਲਾਇਆ". (ਅਨੰਦੁ)। (4) ਲਕ੍ਸ਼੍‍ਮੀ. ਧਨ ਸੰਪਦਾ. "ਮਾਇਆ ਕਾਰਨਿ ਧਾਵਹੀ ਮੂਰਖ ਲੋਗ ਅਜਾਨ". (ਸਃ ਮਃ ੯)। (5) ਜਗਤਰਚਨਾ ਦਾ ਕਾਰਣ ਰੂਪ ਈਸ਼੍ਵਰ ਦੀ ਸ਼ਕਤਿ. "ਮਾਇਆ ਮਾਈ ਤ੍ਰੈ ਗੁਣ ਪਰਸੂਤਿ ਜਮਾਇਆ". (ਮਾਰੂ ਸੋਲਹੇ ਮਃ ੩)। (6) ਮਯਾ. ਕ੍ਰਿਪਾ. ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦ. "ਤਿਂਹ ਮੇਲਹੁ ਜਿਂਹ ਕਰਹੋ ਮਾਇਆ". (ਗੁਪ੍ਰਸੂ) "ਨਹੀ ਮਾਇਆ ਮਾਖੀ". (ਮਾਰੂ ਸੋਲਹੇ ਮਃ ੧) ਨ ਮਯਾ ਹੈ ਨ ਮਾਸ (ਕ੍ਰੋਧ) ਹੈ. ਦੇਖੋ, ਮਾਖੀ ੪। (7) ਬੁੱਧ ਭਗਵਾਨ ਦੀ ਮਾਤਾ। (8) ਹਿੰਦੂਆਂ ਦੀਆਂ ਪ੍ਰਧਾਨ ਪੁਰੀਆਂ ਵਿੱਚੋਂ ਇੱਕ ਪੁਰੀ. ਹਰਿਦ੍ਵਾਰ ਤੋਂ ਕਨਖਲ ਤੀਕ ਦੀ ਆਬਾਦੀ. "ਮਥੁਰਾ ਮਾਇਆ ਅਜੁੱਧਿਆ". (ਭਾਗੁ ਕ). Mahan Kosh data provided by Bhai Baljinder Singh (RaraSahib Wale); See http://www.ik13.com

Bibliography

  • 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 Guru Granth Sahib. Madras, 1960
  • 4. Sher Singh, The Philosophy of Sikhism. Lahore, 1944
  • 5. Avtar Singh, Ethics of the Sikhs. Patiala, 1970
  • 6. Jodh Singh, Bhai, Gurmat Nirnai. Lahore, 1932


Above adapted from article By Wazir Singh

See also