An oft misinterpreted term - one of the least understood concepts in Vedic literature. Yet people are wont to say, "Sab moh maya hai" - everything is illusion. More often than not, maya is (mis)interpreted as illusion. Some define Maya as "Existing bundle of inexplicable contradictions of the world". However, the best representative definition and explanation of Maya which I have come accross so far is the one provided by Swami Vivekanda. Maya is "A simple statement of facts – what we are and what we see around us .... We, for example, cannot explain the relation of the world to the ultimate reality and this inexplicability is Maya"
The question I pose to you is - Is Maya relevant in today's day and age? For the modern age Brahmin, how important is the understanding and appreciation of Maya? These are some of the aspects I touch upon in the next few paragraphs. I also try to relate Maya, apearence and reality in a scientific framework and provide a mathematical model to put things into perspective.
So many definitions, so many interpretations - when the modern age Brahmin reads all this and tries to assimilate and internalize, he would naturally tend to get overloaded with counter-intuitive reasoning, opposite viewpoints and multiple viewpoints - he is seeking rigor and clarity, but is being exposed to archaic imageries in an ancient language. Many of you, like me might have been exposed to the situation and in my attempt to bring some clarity I have come up with what I feel is a broad-based interpretation that reconciles old Vedic age to Gita age Maya interpretation.
As per my interpretation of older texts, Maya is the frame of reference through which human beings perceive the world and this frame of reference varies from person to person. Let me try to explain this last part with examples.
a. Ordinary Beings - For an ordinary human being (like me), Maya is a 2-parameter vector frame of reference (5,3) – a combination of the 5 sensory perceptions and 3 spatial dimensions. “The existing bundle of inexplicable contradictions” alluded to above are actually an outcome of Maya – the interaction effect of a human being and Maya (i.e., actor and frame of reference).
b. Evolved Beings - For evolved beings, ( Albert Einstein being a case in point), who could perceive the Universe through a 4-dimesnional space-time construct, the configuration of Maya would have been a (5,4) (4 dimensional space-time construct and 5 senses) frame of reference.
c. Highly Evolved Beings - For highly evolved beings like Swami Vivekananda, Ramkrishna Paramhansa, Jesus, Buddha, Sri Aurobindo, Mother Teresa or some of our ancient Vedic seers, who had the capability of visualizing progressively higher dimensional constructs (> 4), Maya would have been an (5, n) (where n > 4) frame of reference.
To give an example – assume that there is an object. If I view from the top, I see a square – however, if I view from an angle I see a cube – if I had an extra dimension I would have seen something else and so on. The more the dimensions I have the clearer will be my view of the object. Likewise, with an extra sense organ, I might be able to perceive more than just a cube. My interpretation of the Old texts is that as human beings evolve, they get the ability to perceive higher dimensions and this results in a corresponding clarity in appreciating the Truth. That’s why in the chapter of the Cosmic Vision, Arjuna was able to view the Lord through a higher dimensional frame of reference, provided to him temporarily by the Lord.
What one perceives through Maya might actually be quite different from what actually is. What this basically means, is that there is a big gap between appearence or perception and reality or Truth. Philosophers have debated on this for centuries and there is no dearth of arguments or counter-arguments in this regard. If we refer to some of the oldest Vedic texts, we find mention of the concept of Akasha and Prana, where Akasha is the Universal potential in it's actuality and Prana (kinetics) is what causes perturbations that lead to the eternal cycle of creation and destruction. If we wish to view the Universe as it really is, our frame of reference must have the same configuration as Akasha-Prana unity. For all practical purposes, we can try to perceive of Akasha-Prana as a tightly-coiled, tightly wound, infinte dimesnional unit.
An equation which I have come up with in this regard is:
Appearance = ( Dimensionality of Maya / Dimensionality of Akasha) * Reality
Let us try to analyze this equation. In theoritical physiscs, a lot of study is currently going on in something called M-theory where 11 dimensions are dealt with. Let us for the sake of illustration consider the configuration of Akasha-Prana unity to be (5,11) (11 dimensions and 5 sense). For an average mortal like me who perceives the world through 3 dimensions and 5 senses, Maya would be (5,3). Using simple vectoral distances, what I perceive given my (5,3) frame of reference is actually 48% of reality. However, given the nature of Akasha-prana combine, it is difficult to predict its configuration - it would be (n1, n2) where both n1 and n2 tend to infinity. So apperance at any point of time, is a tiny aspect fo Reality.
This has significant implications for the modern age Brahmin in understanding the evolutionary movement. As someone keeps on evolving and moving towards Brahman ( a stage where one has the capability to perceive infinite dimensional constructs – Akasha-Prana constructs), appearance would begin to converge with the Reality.
Makes you think, doesn't it?