If All Is Maya

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

In Vedanta there is only one truth, called Brahman, the supreme being, the absolute. Everything else is called maya. Maya means the divine illusion, which does not really exist, but which you see and feel. That is called maya, a non-existent principle of which you have an experience, like dreams. In dreams you see an elephant but there is no elephant in reality. In dream you see a snake crawling over you or even biting you, but actually there is no snake. This is called maya, an experience which really doesn't exist, but which you experience as real.

According to Vedanta, the whole universe is maya. As such, the universe doesn't exist. The sun does not exist, the moon does not exist, the solar systems do not exist, the earth does not exist, you don’t exist, I don’t exist, because reality is only one; it is absolute. All else that you see and experience through your mind and senses is illusion; it’s a dream.

In modern science also, they have been talking more or less on the same lines. They are coming to the conclusion that creation as we see it, does not exist. Whatever we see in any way, the sun, moon and stars, you, me, my mother, your mother; it is all time, space and object – hallucination. When time, space and object come together in a particular fashion, an experience takes place. That experience is dependent on the mind, and mind is nothing but a combination of time, space and matter.

If you can extricate time, space and matter from the mind, the mind doesn't exist, just as the golden bangle doesn't exist if you take away the gold from it. No gold – no bangle. In the same way, no time, space and matter – no mind, and if there is no mind, there is no creation. Creation, existence, according to the scientists, is an experience. They haven't said it openly as yet, but they are coming to this point and maybe after two, three or four decades, the scientists will be saying, ‘You see this bit of timber, but it’s not there at all; you are just seeing it.’ This is exactly what they say in Vedanta.

Vedantic philosophy, which is the most ancient philosophy of India, is based on this. There is only one reality; the absolute, and nothing else exists. Whatever you see happening, that is your own dream, your own maya, your own imagination. Vedanta is a very high philosophy.

You see it is true that everything is fleeting, everything is based on our emotions and on the error of our perception, everything is essentially not true, but then, how to get out of it? If a thorn is sticking into you, you have to use another thorn to take it out and then throw them both away. In the same way, it is through the practices of yoga that a proper vision will be restored and a proper quality of mind will emerge. When you develop that quality of mind, then you can say that this is maya and this is truth, this is reality and this is fiction, but now if you say the whole world is maya, everything in existence is illusion, it’s not true. If you get cancer, how much you suffer, how much it affects you! Why can’t you say that is also maya?

If the whole existence is maya, it is okay, I agree, then your agonies are maya, your happiness is maya, and your cancer is also maya, blood pressure is also maya, diabetes is also maya. Your wife or husband has divorced you – it’s all maya! It’s all happening in dream. If you can come to this point of realization, if you can arrive at this experience, where every happening in your life does not affect you, as in a dream, then of course, you don’t have to practise yoga at all. You should not practise mantra. You should not go after gurus. You should not take sannyasa. You should not come to ashrams. You can just remain wherever you are because you are a jnani.

The man of supreme wisdom is called a jnani. For him, disease and death are both dreams. Prosperity and poverty are both dreams. It doesn’t matter what is there and where is there and which is there. Such jnanis are not born every day. They come only once in many thousands of years. To consider the whole of existence as nothing is so difficult, so impossible. A little dream in the night terrifies you so much. Tonight if you dream your house is burning down, tomorrow you will pack and go from there. You will say, ‘My God, I saw my house burning in a dream!’ Even if you know it is a dream, a fantasy created by your subconscious mind, still it has an effect.

When you are affected by the fantasy of the subconscious mind, how can you say that you are beyond maya? You are in maya. You will be in maya. You are in illusion. You are a part of illusion. In order to get out of one illusion, you have to take the help of another illusion, That is yoga.

22 November 1983, Satyananda Ashram, Mangrove Mountain, Australia, published in Teachings of Swami Satyananda Volume V