Deeming False to be Real

The Gurbani reminds us:

  • ਸਚੁ ਜਾਣੈ ਕਚੁ ਵੈਦਿਓ ਤੂ ਆਘੂ ਆਘੇ ਸਲਵੇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਆਤਸੜੀ ਮੰਝਿ ਨੈਣੂ ਬਿਆ ਢਲਿ ਪਬਣਿ ਜਿਉ ਜੁੰਮਿਓ ॥੨॥: Sachu jaanai kachu vaidio too aaghoo aaghe salave…: (O Jeeva!) You believe what is false and temporary (i.e., Maya, material world…) to be true, and so you run after it to seize that. O Nanak! (This Maya or material world is) like butter that melts away in fire; and like the water-lily that fades away (when the water recedes). ||2|| (sggs 1095).

Maya is a Sanskrit word which literally means “that which is not” – “Ma” means “not”, “Ya” means “that”. Like mirage (“ਮ੍ਰਿਗ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ”), it never ends and never exists! Thus, Maya is that phenomena which produces the impossible – as the Gurbani indicates what we deem it to be, it is not like that.

  • ਮਾਧਵੇ ਕਿਆ ਕਹੀਐ ਭ੍ਰਮੁ ਐਸਾ ॥ ਜੈਸਾ ਮਾਨੀਐ ਹੋਇ ਨ ਤੈਸਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Maadhve kiaa kaheeai bhramu aisaa. Jaisaa maaneeai hoi n taisaa ||1||Rahaaou|| (sggs 657).

As indicated in the following verse of the Gurbani, the Maya is that Cosmic Illusion which makes us (1) forget our Mool (“Hari Visrai“); (2) gives rise to emotional attachment (“Moh Upjai”); and (3) creates duality (“Bhaau Doojaa“).

  • ਏਹ ਮਾਇਆ ਜਿਤੁ ਹਰਿ ਵਿਸਰੈ ਮੋਹੁ ਉਪਜੈ ਭਾਉ ਦੂਜਾ ਲਾਇਆ ॥: Eh Maya… (sggs 921).

Three qualities or Gunas – Saatav (Goodness…), Raajas (passion…), and Taamas (ignorance…) or Sat, Raj, Tam or Sato, Rajo, Tamo – are the flowers of this poisonous tree of Mayaic illusion. Combination of these three qualities (three thought-conditions or states of mind) in various permutation, determines one’s body-mind-intellect personality.

The Gurbani calls this material world or Maya as “Jhooth” (false or fake), “Mithyaa” (illusion), and ” Sapnaa” (dream).

  • ਜਿਉ ਸੁਪਨਾ ਅਰੁ ਪੇਖਨਾ ਐਸੇ ਜਗ ਕਉ ਜਾਨਿ ॥ ਇਨ ਮੈ ਕਛੁ ਸਾਚੋ ਨਹੀ ਨਾਨਕ ਬਿਨੁ ਭਗਵਾਨ ॥੨੩॥: Jiou supanaa… (sggs 1427).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਕਹਤ ਜਗਤ ਸਭ ਮਿਥਿਆ ਜਿਉ ਸੁਪਨਾ ਰੈਨਾਈ ॥੨॥੧॥: Nanak kahat jagat sabh mithiaa jiou supnaa… (sggs 1231).
  • ਮ੍ਰਿਗ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਜਿਉ ਝੂਠੋ ਇਹੁ ਜਗ ਦੇਖਿ ਤਾਸਿ ਉਠਿ ਧਾਵੈ ॥੧॥: Mrig trisnaa jiou jhootho ihu jag dekhi taasi… (sggs 219).

Calling this world false, illusion and dream does not mean this world is non-existent. If this world was nonexistent then it would not have been experienced by us. Then is it real? According to the Gurbani, it is not real. It can not be called real because it is subject to change every moment, like our mind. Thus, this material world is neither real nor unreal.

Anything that can not be described as real or unreal is called “Mithyaa” (also spelt Mithya) in Indian scriptures.

When we call this world “Mithyaa” (i.e., illusion, false, untrue…), it simply means that what we deem it to be, it is not like that (“ਜੈਸਾ ਮਾਨੀਐ ਹੋਇ ਨ ਤੈਸਾ”). For example, our doubt-ridden mind may take it to be permanent, but it is not; may take it to be nonperishable, it is not; may take it to be changeless, it is not; may take it to be eternal, it is not; may take it to be never-ending, it is not; may take it to be unlimited or infinite, it is not; may take it to be the Reality, it is not; and so on. If a person mistakes a rope for a snake (or a pole for a ghost) in the darkness of the night, then would the snake or ghost vision be real? No. The implication is that if one does not consider this world as Mithyaa, then it becomes the cause of attachment, repeated suffering…

Liberation from Maya dose not constitute disappearance of material energy or world. For, as the Gurbani indicates, Maya and the Brahm (Primal Energy…) are blended with everything.

  • ਮਾਇਆ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਰਮੈ ਸਭ ਸੰਗ ॥: Maya Brahm ramai sabh sang (sggs 343).

If liberation from Maya dose not constitute disappearance of material energy, then what is it? In nutshell, it is the change in one’s vision (“ਬੁਧਿ ਬਦਲੀ”-Budhi Badalee). To put it otherwise, it is the ceasing of the conditioned mind’s imagining (ਫੁਰਨੇ, desires…) or fascination for Maya. Thus, transcending Maya simply means living in the material world but not of it. It is complete liberation from doubts (Bharam), from Haumai (false ego-sense), from duality (two-ness, ਦੁਚਿੱਤੀ), from ignorance of the Mool (Source, Reality, Jot...), from all Mayaic intellect (“ਸਭ ਬੁਧੀ ਜਾਲੀਅਹਿ”)…

  • ਕਹਿ ਕਬੀਰ ਬੁਧਿ ਹਰਿ ਲਈ ਮੇਰੀ ਬੁਧਿ ਬਦਲੀ ਸਿਧਿ ਪਾਈ ॥੨॥੨੧॥੭੨॥: Kahi Kabeer budhi hari laee meree budhi badalee sidhi paaee (sggs 339).
  • ਸਭ ਬੁਧੀ ਜਾਲੀਅਹਿ ਇਕੁ ਰਹੈ ਤਤੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ॥੪॥: Sabh budhee jaaleeahi iku rahai tatu giaan (sggs 1413).

As indicated by the following verses, the Gurbani tells us that by becoming the Gurmukh, Maya can be killed with the Gur-Shabad (Gur-Giaan, Wisdom of the Gurbani…).

  • ਨਾਨਕ ਮਾਇਆ ਕਾ ਮਾਰਣੁ ਸਬਦੁ ਹੈ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਪਾਇਆ ਜਾਇ ॥੨॥: Nanak Maya kaa maaranu Sabadu hai gurmukhi… (sggs 853).
Filed Under: Gurbani, Maya, Illusion, Dream
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9 Comments Leave a Reply to Gen Mos

  1. Devinder Singh

    Maya; the lower nature of God
    “He permeates the winds and the waters. He is pervading in the four corners and in the ten directions. Without Him, there is no place at all. In the moon, the sun and the stars, He is the One. He Himself is unwavering – He never wavers. With absolute power, He plays His play. In all light, is His Light. Through and through, He is blended with His creation.” G A

    [Moderate: Sorry brother! Per our comment policy, we had to cut it short because it was unnecessary too long :)]

  2. Gen Mos

    Finally my mind wraps itself around the meaning of the word “MAYA”. Thanks for the insightful article. From a seeker of truth in this unbalanced world.

  3. Devinder Singh

    I am afraid my question has not been addressed. Gurbani says categorically, the world is real. As far as I understand, ‘exists’ means real, i.e. SAT. Maya you say is the material world. Maya to me means the power of the Lord. It is by the power of Maya that the world is created.

  4. Devinder Singh

    ”Exists, but is neither real nor unreal”.
    The Gurbani unequivocally affirms the world is real: Sacẖe ṯere kẖand sacẖe barahmand.
    True are Your worlds, True are Your solar Systems. Sacẖe ṯere lo▫a sacẖe ākār.
    True are Your realms, True is Your creation. SGGS 463
    Is the Gurbani contradicting itself?

    • T. Singh Post author

      Thank you Veer Ji for taking the time respond to this post. Welcome to the Gurbani Blog!

      Baabaa Nanak says:
      • ਝੂਠਾ ਇਹੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ਕਿਨਿ ਸਮਝਾਈਐ ॥: This world is false, but only a few understand this (sggs 147).
      • ਅਸਮਾਨੁ ਧਰਤੀ ਚਲਸੀ ਮੁਕਾਮੁ ਓਹੀ ਏਕੁ ॥੭॥ (sggs 64).
      • ਜੋ ਦੀਸੈ ਸੋ ਚਲਸੀ ਕੂੜਾ ਮੋਹੁ ਨ ਵੇਖੁ ॥ (sggs 61).
      • ਮੈ ਕਿਆ ਮਾਗਉ ਕਿਛੁ ਥਿਰੁ ਨ ਰਹਾਈ ਹਰਿ ਦੀਜੈ ਨਾਮੁ ਪਿਆਰੀ ਜੀਉ ॥੧॥ (sggs 597).
      • ਕੂੜੁ ਰਾਜਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਪਰਜਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਸਭੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ॥ (sggs 468).

      The message — for those mortals who are emotionally attached to this material world (i.e. Maya) — seems to be that whatever we see is fleeting, temporary, changing, impermanent, perishable, etc., thus “Jhooth, Mithyaa…”. Hence, live in the world, but detached.

      I don’t see any contradiction in the Gurbani.

  5. Karamjeet Singh

    Immensely educative piece on the riddle ….”Exists, but is neither real nor unreal”. Mithyaa.

    Thanks for the insightful elucidation of the word Maya – Ma + Ya .’That’ which is ‘Not’.

    Keep enlightening us with Gurbani reflections.

    Deep Regards.

    • T. Singh Post author

      Karamjeet Singh: Thank you Veer Ji for taking the time to comment on this post.
      • ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਜਲਾਇਆ ਗਿਆਨਿ ਤਤਿ ਬੀਚਾਰੀ ॥੭॥: Maya mohu sabadi jalaaiaa giaani tati beechaaree (sggs 911).

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