Mahamaya

From Rikhiapeeth Satsangs 3, Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Are desire, anger, greed and the ego present because of one’s samskaras or due to physiological imbalances?

It is not like that. Nature created desire, anger, greed, attraction, and so on, for the upliftment of humankind. Nature has given human beings tendencies that are coloured by tamoguna, rajoguna and sattwa guna, and they have been given so that one keeps on doing something or the other. If desire, anger or greed were to be finished in a he would end up as a mud statue; he would become a vegetable and he would not do anything at all. Desire, anger, greed and attraction become the motivating factors or energies in a person. If there is no desire, he will not act. When a person does not experience desire or wishes, the mind is depressed. The condition of depression is such that a person can even commit suicide. Most of the people who commit suicide do so in states of depression.

Desire, anger, pride, greed and attraction all motivate people towards action. Humankind has been motivated to action and thus made houses, society, religion, temples, kings and emperors, castes and creeds, arms and weapons, keys and locks. Take a careful look at the basic tendencies of dogs, cats, elephants, camels, snakes, frogs or birds. These tendencies are in every one; no living creature is free from them.

Whether it is desire or anger, greed or attraction, we have given these specific tendencies a name. When we want something, we call it desire. When we don’t like something, we call it anger. When there is something very good and we want to have it too, we call it greed. When a dog sees a bone and his mouth waters, that is greed. These tendencies have been with us from time immemorial, through eighty-four hundred thousand life forms, and that is how maya, cosmic illusion, has spread her net. The spread of maya has taken place because of these tendencies. Otherwise, the almighty Paramatma is an akarta, non-doer. It is said in the Srimad Bhagavatam, the Ramayana, the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads that God is a non-doer, the soul is a non-doer. The real doer or agency of action is maya shakti, the power of illusion. She is the doer and the enjoyer. Purusha is the non-enjoyer, the non-doer. Maya is the shadow of Purusha; she is his companion, a part of him. Maya is also of two kinds: one is pure maya, like Devi, Chandi, and so on, and the other is impure maya, the maya of the world. This maya is also a form of God and it is she who does everything. Whatever Nature does is supported by the three gunas or qualities of sattwa, rajas and tamas. Sattwa means peacefulness, rajas means dynamism and tamas means total darkness. It is from different combinations of these three that innumerable names and forms come into existence.

The elements that are mixed together to make languages such as English, Hindi, Arabic or Persian, which are spoken the world over, are three in number. There are just three sounds: A, U and M. It cannot happen with just two; you need three. All the speech in the world, all the sounds, languages, literature and words are an expansion of AUM. In the same manner, all of creation is an expansion of sattwa guna, rajoguna and tamoguna. Sometimes sattwa guna is predominant, sometimes rajoguna and sometimes tamoguna. In this age, rajoguna and tamoguna are predominant; sattwa guna is less prominent.

This is why desire, anger, pride, jealousy, greed, attraction are not considered to be redundant. It is necessary for a person to have hatred and dislike; however, it should be directed at the inauspicious, not the auspicious. There should be anger toward the demonic nature, not the divine nature. There should be desire; however, the desire should be for liberation, not towards ends that tie you down. This means changing the direction and purpose of these very rules. Surely you can do that much.

Desire is simply the strong wish to attain something. How many types of wishes like this exist? All the desires in the world can be classified into three categories: vitteshana, putreshana and dareshana. There is no fourth desire, only these three. The first, vitteshana,is the desire to acquire wealth, money, property, farms, orchards, clothes, jewellery, and things like this. The second, putreshana, is the desire for a child; one wishes for a son, a daughter, a grandson, a family, an heir. The third is dareshana, the desire for a woman, for a man; the wish to be married. All desires are part of these three.

What is desire? Our rishis and munis say that the basis of all desire is related to objects, and in the Bhagavad Gita (2:62–63) it is said:

Dhyaayato vishayaanpumsah sangasteshoopajaayate; Sangaatsanjaayate kaamah kaamaatkrodho’bhijaayate. Krodhaadbhavati sammohah sammohaatsmriti vibhramah; Smritibhranshaad buddhinaasho buddhinaashaat pranashyati.

When a man thinks of the objects, attachment to them arises; from attachment desire is born; from desire anger arises. From anger comes delusion; from delusion the loss of memory; from loss of memory the destruction of discrimination; from the destruction of discrimination he perishes.

When your mind comes into contact with some object, you wish to have it. Up until the time you saw a television set, you had no desire to have one. Our ancestors had never seen a car and hence they had no desire for a car. The people in England have not seen an elephant and so no one in England has a desire to have an elephant.

The saints and great souls keep repeating that when desire, anger, greed or attraction become intense, try to control them. Once the excess is under control, you can try to bring the rest under control. As long as they are carrying on in a balanced way, do not interfere with them because unnecessary interference with them finishes off any prospect of progress and success in a person’s life.

Desire is a very strong force. If you don’t get married, don’t have children, don’t have a family, don’t have parents, what will you wish for? All you will wish for is some food. To desire only food, what kind of a life is that? The wish for enough to eat has been talked about only by those people who have controlled their other desires completely, like an elephant is controlled by its driver. All I need is some food and two pieces of clothing because no desires are left within me; I am talking about myself here. Yet, I still have a resolve within me. Please remember that there is a difference between a resolve and a desire, even though one cannot see the difference externally. After all, there is no external difference between gold and brass; zinc and silver look alike; glass and diamond also look alike. A resolution is another thing altogether. A desire is for oneself; a resolve is for others. When a resolve is created in one’s mind and the desires for oneself are finished, then one can say, “Just some food and some cloth.”

The essence of Sri Krishna’s teachings to Arjuna in the entire Bhagavad Gita is that there is no harm in performing actions. Krishna explains that this is our right (2:47): Karmanyevadhikaraste – “You have a right to action, you can perform action,” but, maa phaleshu kadachana – “You have no right to the fruits of that action.” There is nothing wrong in performing action. You can set up home and hearth, amass money, bring up children, open an orphanage, visit the homes of the poor, host a big communal meal, feed people rice and dal, give them milk; there is no harm in that. However, it should not be motivated by desires; rather, it should be inspired by a resolve.

Desire, anger, greed and attraction: these are all forms of Mahamaya, the great illusion. If you read the 108 names of Chandi, the 1,000 names of Lalita, or the names of any devi, you will find that all these emotions are described as her aspects. They say, “You are the form of desire”; “You are the form of anger.” These are all forms of Mahamaya. It is not possible to completely remove these from your life; even the rishis and munis were unable to do so.

—25 September 1997, Rikhiapeeth,