FREEDOM IN THE MIDST OF MAYA

Says Nanak, by the Guru's Grace (Grace of the Gur-Giaan...), those who
enshrine love for God (ਇਕ ਮਨ ਇਕ ਚਿੱਤ ਹੋਕੇ) find Him in the midst of Maya (sggs 921).
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As defined in the Gurbani, Maya is that cosmic charmer which makes us forgetour Mool or Source ("Hari Visrai"), gives rise to emotional attachment ("Moh Upjai"), and creates duality ("Bhaau Doojaa") where there is none.

Through this mysterious illusory power, the non-dual, free and omnipresent Mool (Source, Origin, Jot...) appears as if of the changeful world of names and colors and becomes completely bound to it. In other words, the false "I-ness" (Haume) known as Jeeva arises as a reflected reality (ignorance) in the mind of the ignorant alone. Consequently, just as a drunkard sees phantoms in the empty sky, the ignorant sees pulsation in this world. This is how Maya holds the body-mind in bondage where bondage is the mind's identification of itself with the body and its sense-pleasures. Freedom is liberation from this illusion of the three qualities or Gunas of Maya — Saatav (Goodness), Raajas (passion), and Taamas (ignorance) or Sat, Raj, Tam or Sato, Rajo, Tamo. In nutshell, when there is false ego there is bondage; when there is no false ego there is freedom.

  • ਤ੍ਰਿਹੁ ਗੁਣ ਬੰਧੀ ਦੇਹੁਰੀ ਜੋ ਆਇਆ ਜਗਿ ਸੋ ਖੇਲੁ ॥: Trihu gun banddhee dehuree jo aaiaa jagi so khel: The three qualities of Maya hold the body in bondage; whoever comes into the world is subject to their play (sggs 21).
  • ਏਹ ਮਾਇਆ ਜਿਤੁ ਹਰਿ ਵਿਸਰੈ ਮੋਹੁ ਉਪਜੈ ਭਾਉ ਦੂਜਾ ਲਾਇਆ ॥: Eh Maya jitu Hari visrai mohu upjai bhaau dooja laya: This is Maya, by which (1) "Hari" (Mool) is forgotten; (2) (worldly) attachment is born, and (3) the love of duality is set (sggs 921).
  • ਕਹਿ ਕਬੀਰ ਜਿਸੁ ਉਦਰੁ ਤਿਸੁ ਮਾਇਆ ॥: Kahi kabeer jis udar tis Maya: Says Kabeer, whoever has a belly to fill, is under the spell of Maya (sggs 1160).
  • ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹੁ ਅਗਿਆਨੁ ਗੁਬਾਰੁ ॥: Maya mohu agiaan gubaar: Attachment to Maya (worldliness or illusion) leads to the darkness of ignorance (sggs 1262).
  • ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹਿ ਸਭੋ ਜਗੁ ਸੋਇਆ ਇਹੁ ਭਰਮੁ ਕਹਹੁ ਕਿਉ ਜਾਈ ॥: Maya moh sabho jagu soiaa ihu bharamu kahahu kiyu jaaee: In emotional attachment to Maya, the whole world is asleep. Tell me, how can this doubt be dispelled? (sggs 205).

If Maya is bondage than how can one be freed from it while living in it? Does not it sound contradictory? Dose not this seem paradoxical? However contradictory or paradoxical it may appear to be, but the Gurbani (SGGS) suggests this is the ideal state for all of us to pursue and attain, in this very life. But how?

First, freedom in Maya means to be free while incarnated in the body. Simply put, it is one's turning to Divine Life or Gurmukh Lifestyle right now, in the midst of one's all worldly affairs and difficulties. Second, if the freedom from Maya is the life's ultimate aim, then it should be realized while alive (also called the state of Jeevanmukta — living liberated.) and not after death of the physical body. Because what happens after death is immaterial. Therefore, freedom attained after the destruction of the body is worthless. For it to be meaningful, freedom has to be achieved while alive, NOW.

  • ਨਾਨਕ ਜੀਵਤਿਆ ਮਰਿ ਰਹੀਐ ਐਸਾ ਜੋਗੁ ਕਮਾਈਐ ॥: Nanak jeevatiaa mar raheeai aisaa jogu kamaaeeai: Says Nanak, remain dead while yet alive - practice such a Yoga (sggs 730).
  • ਸੇਇ ਮੁਕਤ ਜਿ ਮਨੁ ਜਿਣਹਿ ਫਿਰਿ ਧਾਤੁ ਨ ਲਾਗੈ ਆਇ ॥: Sayi mukat je man jineh fir dhaat na laagai aayi: He alone is liberated, who conquers his mind; Maya does not stick to him again (sggs 490).

But, are not we free now? Not really! If we were free we would not be suffering. If we were free we would not get old, diseased and we would not face death. Man's all actions are directed toward gaining happiness or avoiding unconducive circumstances. Because we all want to be happy in life, forever. Nobody wants to suffer. Yet we all suffer! More often we feel unhappy in spite of all our efforts to avoid pain and sorrows. Why? Because we are bound. We think we are fully free, but not all circumstances and happenings are in our control. If it were then nobody would be suffering in this world. But as Baabaa Nanak says, "O Nanak, the whole world is suffering." Thus, in reality, the man is free to some extent but beyond that he is not free.

  • ਹੰਉਮੈ ਮਾਇਆ ਮੈਲੁ ਹੈ ਮਾਇਆ ਮੈਲੁ ਭਰੀਜੈ ਰਾਮ ॥: Haumai Maya mailu hai Maya mailu bhareejai Raam: Ego-Maya is filth; mind is filled with this Maya filth (sggs 570).
  • ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹਿ ਕੜੇ ਕੜਿ ਪਚਿਆ ॥: Maya mohi karre karri pachiaa: In love and attachment to Maya, the mortals grieve, and become consumed by grief (sggs 1140).
  • ਮਨਮੁਖ ਅਗਿਆਨੀ ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹਿ ਵਿਆਪੇ ਤਿਨ੍‍ ਬੂਝ ਨ ਕਾਈ ਪਾਇ ॥: Manmukh agiaanee Maya mohi viaape tinu boojh na kaaee paai: The ignorant Manmukhs, materialists, are engrossed in the love of Maya; they have no understanding at all (sggs 511).
  • ਮਿਲਿ ਮਾਇਆ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਗਵਾਈ ॥: Mil Maya surti gavaayee: By associating with the Maya (illusion), the mortal loses Divine Understanding (sggs 989).

So what can we do in this situation? One thing is for sure, that is, the world is molded in such a way we cannot escape it. This is to say, to escape the world or to abandon it is not the way out. Given the circumstances or conditions, what we can do is free ourselves to the extent that we will not be adversely affected by the happenings of the external world and the phenomena of the deluded mind. In other words, we must realize the Truth-Knowledge-Bliss of the Self and its indivisibility so that we are unaffected by the objective conditions, good or bad "likes" or "dislikes". We can remain unaffected by keeping ourselves awake, aware, alert and unattached. In other words, we can attain freedom in the midst of Maya by being in the world but not of it!

  • ਬੇੜੇ ਨੋ ਕਪਰੁ ਕਿਆ ਕਰੇ ਜੇ ਪਾਤਣ ਰਹੈ ਸੁਚੇਤਿ ॥: Berhay no kapar kiaa karay jay paatan rahai suchet: What can the whirlpool do to the boat, if the boatman remains alert? (sggs 1382).
  • ਜਾਗ ਲੇਹੁ ਰੇ ਮਨਾ ਜਾਗ ਲੇਹੁ ਕਹਾ ਗਾਫਲ ਸੋਇਆ ॥: Jaag laehu rae manaa jaag laehu kahaa gaafal soeiaa: Wake up, O mind! Wake up! Why are you sleeping unaware? (sggs 726).
  • ਮੋਹਿ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ਭਇਓ ॥: Mohi bairaag bhaio: I have become detached (sggs 870).

Whatever we see is all ephemeral. Everything that appears must disappear. Nothing lasts forever in life, as life itself is impermanent. Even the body which was born with us will banish one day. All things are short-lived, both good and bad. Wealth, possessions, kith and kin, name, fame, titles, and so on, in these nothing is permanent. Good is followed by bad and bad is followed by good. This is why all that is visible is said to be perishable, fleeting, false, illusory or mirage-like.

  • ਦ੍ਰਿਸਟਿਮਾਨ ਹੈ ਸਗਲ ਮਿਥੇਨਾ ॥: Dristimaan hai sagal mithnaa: All that is seen is an illusion (sggs 1083).
  • ਇਹੁ ਮੋਹੁ ਮਾਇਆ ਤੇਰੈ ਸੰਗਿ ਨ ਚਾਲੈ ਝੂਠੀ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ਲਗਾਈ ॥: Ih moh Maya terai sang na chhallai jhoothee pareet lagaayee: This emotional attachment to Maya (worldliness, illusion, etc.) will not go with you; false is to fall in love with it (sggs 78).
  • ਝੂਠੀ ਮਾਇਆ ਦੇਖਿ ਕੈ ਭੂਲਾ ਰੇ ਮਨਾ ॥: Jhoothee maya dhekhi kai bhoolaa re manaa: Gazing upon the falseness of Maya, you have gone astray, O my mind (sggs 486).
  • ਲਾਗੀ ਭੂਖ ਮਾਇਆ ਮਗੁ ਜੋਹੈ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਮੋਹਿ ਖਰੇ ॥: Laagee bhookh Maya mag johai mukat padaarath mohi kharay: Driven by greed, one sees the path of Maya's riches; this emotional attachment takes away the treasure of liberation (sggs 1014).

The rise of the phenomenal world (creation of the Mayaic-mind) is but agitation or movement in Pure Consciousness (Joti-svaroopa, Mool...). This long dream seems to exist because of our imperfect vision or limited understanding. The realization of this truth is freedom. In other words, if this truth is understood then Maya banishes, and it becomes the source of real happiness and the realization of the Mool within. And then God, Jeeva, mind, duality, doer, concepts, actions and the world will all be seen as synonymous with the one non-dual Boundless Consciousness. If we can remain steady and calm or if we can take each and every condition or circumstance with even mindedness or equal vision, then we are free. Simply put, freedom is a state of the mind the mind completely detached from the sense-objects, which has withdrawn itself within itself. The best example given in the scriptures is that of a lotus flower (Kamal); that is it lives in the water but its leaves remain untouched by it.

  • ਬਿਨੁ ਬੈਰਾਗ ਨ ਛੂਟਸਿ ਮਾਇਆ ॥੧॥: Bin bairaag na shootas maya ||1||: Without detachment, Maya cannot be gotten rid of (cannot be liberated from Maya, etc.) ||1|| (sggs 329).
  • ਨਾ ਮਨੁ ਮਰੈ ਨ ਮਾਇਆ ਮਰੈ ॥: Na man marai na Maya marai: Maya can not be conquered without annihilation of the mind (sggs 1342).
  • ਵਿਚਹੁ ਆਪੁ ਮੁਆ ਤਿਥੈ ਮੋਹੁ ਨ ਮਾਇਆ ॥: Vichahu aap muaa tithai mohu na maya: When selfishness and conceit (false "I") are eradicated from within, then there is no attachment to Maya (sggs 121).
  • ਜਿਉ ਜਲ ਮਹਿ ਕਮਲੁ ਅਲਿਪਤੋ ਵਰਤੈ ਤਿਉ ਵਿਚੇ ਗਿਰਹ ਉਦਾਸੁ ॥: Jiyu jal mahi kamal alipte vartai tiyu viche girah udaas: As the lotus flower floats unaffected in the water, so does one must remain detached in his own household (sggs 949).

But, it is a "difficult game" to play. Our deluded mind creates waves on the ocean of the Mool (Source, Origin, Jot...). This disturbance gives rise to the phenomenal world of names and shapes. This is the jugglery of Maya; which creates a division in consciousness into subject and object. Maya is the cataract that blinds us to the sun of Truth. Caught in the vertex of this realm of relativity the subject-object relationship or the dreadful ocean of world-appearance we swing like a pendulum between joy and sorrows or happiness and unhappiness. Although our True Nature is Eternal Happiness or Pure Awareness (Joti Svaroop), however, due to our love for Maya, we have forgotten our godly status and experience charming hallucinations. In this ignorance, we chase after the mirage of Maya, and end up wandering in the desert of material existence. In reality, even the wise are overpowered by this jugglery of the Maya. The freedom is in arresting this out going mind and making it surrender to the Mool within.

  • ਮ੍ਰਿਗ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਜਿਉ ਜਗ ਰਚਨਾ ਯਹ ਦੇਖਹੁ ਰਿਦੈ ਬਿਚਾਰਿ ॥: Mrig trishnaa jiyu jag rachnaa yah dekhahu ridai bichaar: Reflect in your Heart and see that this world creation (Maya) is like a deer's illusion, a mirage (sggs 536).
  • ਮਨਮੁਖੁ ਮੋਹਿ ਵਿਆਪਿਆ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ਉਦਾਸੀ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥: Manmukh mohi viaapiaa bairaagu udaasee na hoi: The materialists (Manmukhs) are engrossed in emotional attachment; they are not balanced and detached (sggs 29).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਮਨ ਹੀ ਤੇ ਮਨੁ ਮਾਨਿਆ ਨਾ ਕਿਛੁ ਮਰੈ ਨ ਜਾਇ ॥: Nanak mann hee te mann maaniaa naa kish marai na jaae: O Nanak, through the mind, the mind is satisfied, nothing comes or goes (sggs 514).
  • ਮਾਇਆ ਮੁਈ ਨ ਮਨੁ ਮੁਆ ਸਰੁ ਲਹਰੀ ਮੈ ਮਤੁ ॥: Maya muee na mann muaa sar laharee mai matt: Maya is not conquered, and the mind is not subdued; the waves of desire in the world-ocean are intoxicating wine (sggs 992).
  • ਮਾਇਆ ਨਾਮੁ ਗਰਭ ਜੋਨਿ ਕਾ ਤਿਹ ਤਜਿ ਦਰਸਨੁ ਪਾਵਉ ॥: Maya naam garabh joni kaa tih taj darsan paavo: Maya is the name of the power which is the cause of the birth; renouncing it, we obtain the Divine Darshan (Mool-realization). (sggs 693).

The true freedom is working selflessly for others. Working selflessly for others is working for God. Working selfishly for oneself is bondage. In other words, the real freedom is inner renunciation: live in the world but not of it. This is the state of truthful living or "Truth in action", in which one is desireless, detached or unselfish. It is self-effacement, wherein one sees the same One Mool in all. So liberated, one is active outwardly, but within he is peaceful, serene and unattached. Because mentally he feels he is doing nothing. He is in full control of his mind and things he is engaged in. He lives in the midst of all, and yet detached from all. Once free, there is no more illusion of being finite and empirical. It's like standing in a fire without getting burnt!

  • ਸਭ ਕੈ ਮਧਿ ਸਗਲ ਤੇ ਉਦਾਸ ॥: Sabh kai madhh sagal te udaas: Live in the midst of all, and yet detached from all (sggs 296
  • ਅੰਜਨ ਮਾਹਿ ਨਿਰੰਜਨਿ ਰਹੀਐ ਜੋਗ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਇਵ ਪਾਈਐ ॥: (Yoga) is attained by remaining unblemished in the midst of the worldly filth (Maya) — this is the way to attain Yoga (sggs 730).
  • ਸਭ ਕੈ ਮਧੇ ਅਲਿਪਤ ਨਿਰਬਾਣੇ ॥: Sabh kai madhe alipat nirabaane: In the midst of world happenings, remain detached and balanced in Nirvaana (sggs 102).
  • ਗ੍ਰਿਹਸਤ ਮਹਿ ਸੋਈ ਨਿਰਬਾਨੁ ॥: Grihasat mahi soee nirabaan: In the midst of your household, remain in Nirvana (sggs 281).
  • ਪੁਤ੍ਰ ਕਲਤ੍ਰ ਵਿਚੇ ਗਤਿ ਪਾਈ ॥: Emancipation (ਉੱਚੀ ਆਤਮਕ ਅਵਸਥਾ) is obtained in the midst of children and spouses (i.e., in the midst of family). (sggs 661).
  • ਹਸੰਦਿਆ ਖੇਲੰਦਿਆ ਪੈਨੰਦਿਆ ਖਾਵੰਦਿਆ ਵਿਚੇ ਹੋਵੈ ਮੁਕਤਿ ॥: Hasandiaa khelandiaa painandiaa khaavandiaa viche hovai makat: While laughing, playing, dressing and eating, become liberated (sggs 522).
  • ਕਹੈ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦੀ ਜਿਨਾ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਗੀ ਤਿਨੀ ਵਿਚੇ ਮਾਇਆ ਪਾਇਆ ॥: Says Nanak by the Gur-grace (Grace of the Gur-Giaan, Wisdom…), who are connected with one-pointed consciousness (singule mindedly, ਇਕ ਮਨ ਇਕ ਚਿੱਤ ਹੋਕੇ) they realize (Him) in the midst of Maya (sggs 921)..
  • ਵਿਚਹੁ ਆਪੁ ਮੁਆ ਤਿਥੈ ਮੋਹੁ ਨ ਮਾਇਆ ॥: Vichahu aap muaa tithai mohu na maya: When selfishness and conceit (false "I") are eradicated from within, then there is no attachment to Maya (sggs 121).

How can we achieve such a state? In other words, how can we renounce everything that is selfish and see Unity in diversity; that is "Sabh Gobind Hai Sabh Gobind Hai"? How can we free our vision from the cataract of Maya's dualistic principle? Since the incentive behind work is gain, why one should work selflessly? We must because there will be the real wealth or gain waiting for us — freedom (Mukti). As repeatedly indicated in the Gurbani, we can realize this state by becoming a Gurmukh. So the Gurbani asks us to annihilate the "I-am-ness" and set ourselves free. Shabad-Vichaar and living by the Gurmat are the means.

  • ਮਾਇਆ ਮਮਤਾ ਮੋਹਣੀ ਜਿਨਿ ਵਿਣੁ ਦੰਤਾ ਜਗੁ ਖਾਇਆ ॥ ਮਨਮੁਖ ਖਾਧੇ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਉਬਰੇ ਜਿਨੀ ਸਚਿ ਨਾਮਿ ਚਿਤੁ ਲਾਇਆ ॥ ਬਿਨੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਜਗੁ ਕਮਲਾ ਫਿਰੈ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਨਦਰੀ ਆਇਆ ॥ : Maya mamataa mohnee Jini bin dantaa jag khaaya...: The love of Maya is enticing; without teeth, it has eaten up the world! The Manmukhs (material beings) are eaten away, while the Gurmukhs (spiritual beings) are saved; they focus their consciousness on the True Name. Without the Name, the world wanders around insane; by becoming a Gurmukh, this Truth is seen (sggs 643).
  • ਤ੍ਰੈ ਗੁਣ ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹੁ ਹੈ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਚਉਥਾ ਪਦੁ ਪਾਇ ॥: Trai gun maya moh hai Gurmukh chauthaa pad paai: The three qualitied Maya's Moh (worldly attachment) is (prevalent). Who becomes the Gurmukh attains the Fourth State (the state that transcends Maya) (sggs 30).
  • ਬਿਨੁ ਬੈਰਾਗ ਨ ਛੂਟਸਿ ਮਾਇਆ ॥੧॥: Bin bairaag na shootas maya ||1||: Without detachment, Maya cannot be gotten rid of (cannot be liberated from Maya, etc.) ||1|| (sggs 329).
  • ਤ੍ਰਿਬਿਧਿ ਬੰਧਨ ਤੂਟਹਿ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦੀ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦੀ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਕਰਾਵਣਿਆ ॥: Tribidh bandhan tooteh gur sabdee gur sabdee mukat karaavaniaa: The bonds of the three-phased Maya are broken by the Gur-Shabad. Through the Gur-Shabad, liberation is achieved (sggs 127).

— T. Singh
www.gurbani.org