The Unseen God dwells within (the Jeeva - an individual being), but (the Jeeva) cannot
see (understand, comprehend, etc.) This; (because, within the Jeeva) is the veil of egotism.
In emotional attachment to Maya, all the world is asleep. Tell me, how
can this doubt (of the Jeeva's) be dispelled? ||1|| (sggs 205).

We are the "Joti-Svaroopa" (Spirit Soul or Self), which is of the nature of Pure Consciousness-Bliss-Eternal. However, the Jeeva (conditioned individual being) forgets this Truth because of the adjuncts that make his body-mind-intellect personality. This mistaken identity is the seed of the false ego-sense (Haume), and arises because of the Cosmic illusion called Maya. Thus, due to our ignorance of our True Nature (Joti-Svaroopa), the attributes and the limitations of the body-mind-intellect personality are transferred to the Limitless Self, and thereby imposed on it, full or partial. In other words, although the Self present within the body is of the nature of the Absolute Reality, however, that Absolute Reality has been superimposed ("veil", "covering", "curtain" etc. of falsehood or Haume) with the din or uproar caused by the "mouse" of false ego-sense scurrying around within. Thus, Because of the mental conditionings, the Self becomes superimposed or covered by the false phenomena of Haume or psychological ego-sense. This world of gross objects is like the image of a city in the mirror. It emerges from the non-dual True Self due to illusion (Maya) or forgetfulness of one's Real Nature superimposition of false ego or Haume on the "Joti-Svaroopa".

  • ਅੰਤਰਿ ਅਲਖੁ ਨ ਜਾਈ ਲਖਿਆ ਵਿਚਿ ਪੜਦਾ ਹਉਮੈ ਪਾਈ ॥ ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹਿ ਸਭੋ ਜਗੁ ਸੋਇਆ ਇਹੁ ਭਰਮੁ ਕਹਹੁ ਕਿਉ ਜਾਈ ॥੧॥: Antar alakh na jaaee lakhiaa vich pardaa haumai paaiaa. Maya moh sabho jag soiaa ihu bharam kahahu kiou jaaee ||1||: The Unseen God dwells within (the Jeeva - an individual being), but (the Jeeva) cannot see (understand, comprehend, etc.) This; (because, within the Jeeva) is the veil of egotism. In emotional attachment to Maya, all the world is asleep. Tell me, how can this doubt (of the Jeeva's) be dispelled? ||1|| (sggs 205).
  • ਮਾਇਆ ਖੋਟੀ ਰਾਸਿ ਹੈ ਏਕ ਚਸੇ ਮਹਿ ਪਾਜੁ ਲਹਿ ਜਾਇ ॥: Maya khottee raas hai ek chase mahi paaj lahi jaai: Maya is false capital; in an instant, its false covering falls off (sggs 510).
  • ਹਉ ਹਉ ਭੀਤਿ ਭਇਓ ਹੈ ਬੀਚੋ ਸੁਨਤ ਦੇਸਿ ਨਿਕਟਾਇਓ ॥ ਭਾਂਭੀਰੀ ਕੇ ਪਾਤ ਪਰਦੋ ਬਿਨੁ ਪੇਖੇ ਦੂਰਾਇਓ ॥੩॥: Haou haou bheet bhaio hai beecho sunati desi niktaaio. Bhhanbheeree ke paat paardo bin pekhe dooraaio ||3||: (O my mother, I) hear this that the Lord dwells near (within, in my heart, etc.). (But) the wall of egotism and pride separates us. Like the wings of a butterfly, there is a veil between (Him and I); without being able to see Him (due to the curtain of egotism), He seems so far away ||3|| (sggs 624).
  • ਭਾਗਹੀਣ ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਨਹੀ ਲੀਆ ਤ੍ਰਿਣ ਓਲੈ ਲਾਖੁ ਛਪਾਇਆ ॥: Bhaageheen manmukh nahee leeaa trin olai laakh shapaaiaa: The unfortunate, Manmukh (material or ego being) does not obtain it (Divine Name); this priceless Jewel remains hidden behind a curtain of straw (sggs 880).
  • ਇਉ ਕਹੈ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਮਨ ਤੂੰ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਰੂਪੁ ਹੈ ਅਪਣਾ ਮੂਲੁ ਪਛਾਣੁ ॥੫॥: Iou kahai Nanaku man toon joti saroopu hai apanaa moolu pashaanu ||5||: Thus says Nanak - O mind! Your "Saroop" (your own, True State) is "Joti" (Divine Light)! Recognize your Mool (Source, Origin, Reality...) ||5|| (sggs 441).
  • ਤ੍ਰੈ ਗੁਣ ਮਾਇਆ ਮੂਲੁ ਹੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਿਸਾਰਿ ॥: Trai gun Maya mool hai vich hayumai Naam visaar: The tripple-qualitied Maya is the roots of worldly attachment, and in ego, the mortal fogets the Name (sggs 647).
  • ਮੋਹ ਪਟਲ ਸਭੁ ਜਗਤੁ ਬਿਆਪਿਓ ਭਗਤ ਨਹੀ ਸੰਤਾਪਾ ॥: Moh pattal sabh jagat biaapio bhagat nahee santaapaa: The veil of emotional attachment has been cast over the entire world, but it does not bother the Lord's devotee (sggs 658).
  • ਸੋ ਕਿਉ ਮਨਹੁ ਵਿਸਾਰੀਐ ਸਭ ਜੀਆ ਕਾ ਆਧਾਰੁ ॥: so kiyu manahu visaaree-ai sabh jee-aa kaa aadhaar: How could we ever forget Him from our minds? He is the Support of all beings (sggs 58).

How do thoughts (or mind) come into being? It is the false ego-sense (Haume) that gives rise to aggregate of thoughts called mind. As we can see, the mind, thoughts and ego are mere words, but in reality they all are one and the same. Now, where does the false ego-sense come from? If we engage in deeper Shabad-Vichaar, we will find that Maya (ignorance, duality, etc.) is the root of false ego. It is this Maya, the illusive power, that is responsible for the manifestation of this phenomenal material world of names and forms - subject-object relationship or the principle of duality. Being spiritually ignorant, it gives rise to false ego, which identifies the non-dual Self with the material body. In other words, under the spell of ignorance and doubts, the Pure Self (Pure Ego) becomes superimposed by the outer consciousness of the material world (i.e., false ego or Haume). By its very nature, thus, the outer consciousness of externalities of the world creates bondage or evil mentality. Maya - literally meaning "that which is not" - reflects the unreality. To say it in otherwise, Maya denotes presence of illusion and absence of Self-knowledge -Aatam-Giaan. The corrupted ego-sense (Haume) is saturated with this Maya (illusions, doubts, etc.), creating the false images in the "filthy" mirror of the finite mind. We can try understanding it with couple of illustrations from the Gurbani.

In the darkness when we do not have the True Knowledge of a rope, we may misunderstand it to be either a snake, or a piece of stick, or a streak of water, or a crack in the ground, and so on. Thus, due to initial non-apprehension of the rope, we could have misapprehensions of the various other objects superimposed on the rope. Similarly, the True Self is One, but in ignorance It has been imagined as the ego, the Praan, the mind, the intellect, the body, the senses, etc. In such dense conditioning, we then start superimposing upon the Self the qualities of likes and dislikes - desire and fear, joy and sorrow, knowledge and ignorance, success and failure, birth and death, disease and decay, good and bad, friend and enemy, praise and insult, and so on. In reality, the Pure Consciousness, Waheguru, is free of any such conditioning (Nirlep and Niranjan). Another illustration is the illusory water of the mirage (water seen in the solar rays in the desert), which cannot wet even a single grain of sand in the desert! But due to ignorance, we superimposed our egoistic idea of water on the sand. This superimposed vision of water in the mirage is illusory, and an illusion cannot condition the Reality. Similarly, due to conditionings, the illusory consciousness is superimposed on the One Reality. But as the non-dual reality is Eternal, It is conditioned neither by the cause nor the effect. Thus, the false ego-sense (Haume) is only delusory superimposition upon the True Self, because it is this Reality that pervades all including our relativist consciousness. The reason for misconceptions to rise in us is our ignorance of our True Nature as the "Joti-Svaroopa". This message is reiterated time and again in the Gurbani to hammer the true understanding into our deluded head. This non-apprehension of Greater Reality causes the misapprehension in the crippled, Mayaic mind. Maya is the looking-glass and the reflection - the principle of plurality or two-ness.

  • ਸਕਤਿ ਅਧੇਰ ਜੇਵੜੀ ਭ੍ਰਮੁ ਚੂਕਾ ਨਿਹਚਲੁ ਸਿਵ ਘਰਿ ਬਾਸਾ ॥: Sakti adher jevarhee bhram chookaa nihchal siv ghari vaasaa: In the darkness of Maya, I mistook the rope for the snake, but that is over, and now I dwell in the eternal home of the Lord (sggs 332).
  • Raaj bhuiang prasang jaise hahi ab kashu maramu janaaiaa || Anik katak jaiase bhooli pare kahate kahanu na aaiaa ||: Like the story of the rope mistaken for a snake, the mystery has now been explained to me. Like the many bracelets (made of gold), which were mistakenly thought (of separate or different from the gold); now, (I) do not say that (sggs 658).
  • ਹਉਮੈ ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹਣੀ ਦੂਜੈ ਲਗੈ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਨਾ ਇਹ ਮਾਰੀ ਨ ਮਰੈ ਨਾ ਇਹ ਹਟਿ ਵਿਕਾਇ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਪਰਜਾਲੀਐ ਤਾ ਇਹ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਤਨੁ ਮਨੁ ਹੋਵੈ ਉਜਲਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਵਸੈ ਮਨਿ ਆਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਮਾਇਆ ਕਾ ਮਾਰਣੁ ਸਬਦੁ ਹੈ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਪਾਇਆ ਜਾਇ ॥੨॥: Haumai Maya mohanee doojai lagge jaae. Naa ih maaree na marai naa ih haat vikaai ... (sggs 229).

Maya is Spiritual ignorance - corruption of our deluded consciousness. It is the ignorance of one's True Nature as Pure Consciousness (Joti-Svaroopa). Ignorance begets falsehood. For instance, in the foregoing illustrations, due to ignorance of the rope and the mirage, we superimposed our false egoistic ideas on the reality - the rope and the sand. The result was that our non-apprehension of the reality (i.e., rope and the sand) caused its misapprehension into a snake and water. Similarly, God alone is Real. However, our non apprehension of this Changeless Reality causes its misapprehension into a phenomenal world. Thus, under the influence of this spiritually ignorant Maya, the Jeeva (unenlightened individual being) forgets the Reality and acts as his existence is separate from the Reality.

  • ਏਹ ਮਾਇਆ ਜਿਤੁ ਹਰਿ ਵਿਸਰੈ ਮੋਹੁ ਉਪਜੈ ਭਾਉ ਦੂਜਾ ਲਾਇਆ ॥: Eh Maya jit Hari visrai moh upjai bhaau dooja laya: This is Maya, by which the Lord is forgotten; emotional attachment and love of duality is born (sggs 921).
  • ਮਾਧਵੇ ਕਿਆ ਕਹੀਐ ਭ੍ਰਮੁ ਐਸਾ ॥ ਜੈਸਾ ਮਾਨੀਐ ਹੋਇ ਨ ਤੈਸਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Maadhve kiya kaheeyai bhram aisaa. Jaisaa maaneeyai hoi na taisaa ||1||Rahaaou||: O Lord, what can I say about this illusion; what we deem a thing to be, in reality, it is not like that ||1||Pause|| (sggs 657).
  • ਮਾਈ ਮਾਇਆ ਛਲੁ ॥: Maayee Maya Chhall: O my mother, the Maya is deceitful (sggs 717).
  • ਮਿਲਿ ਮਾਇਆ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਗਵਾਈ ॥: Mil Maya surti gavaayee: By associating with the Maya (illusion), the mortal loses Divine Understanding (sggs 989).

We can look at it from yet another angle as follows. Haume or "I-am-the-body" idea is the sense of doership and enjoyership which constitutes the individualized ego-sense. Thus, "I-am-ness" is the first misapprehension projected by the spiritually ignorant Maya, the non-apprehension of the Reality. This is the egocentric selfhood that is a mere superimposition upon the Pure Awareness. To understand this phenomenon of mutual superimposition, we can take the example of iron that is black in color and cold to the touch. But when the piece of same iron is placed in the fire, it becomes golden in color and hot to the touch. The golden color and heat of the fire are superimposed upon the black and cold iron. However, in their mirage like wedlock, the iron and fire present themselves to our perception as golden and hot. Similarly, agitation or movement in the Pure Awareness - the rise of false ego-sense or thoughts shining in the light of Pure Awareness - gives us a vivid illusion of an intelligent sense of individuality. This mirage like wedlock between the Pure Awareness of the Self and the inert inner equipment (Antahakaran) gives rise to the body-consciousness or "I-am-the-body" idea. Let us consider an another popular illustration,which may further help us understand this point. In the dark night, a pole may be mistaken for a ghost. As the darkness is removed, the ghost disappears; only the pole remains as reality. Ignorance begets false ego. Due to our ignorance of the rope and the pole, we superimposed our false egoistic ideas on the reality, that is, the rope and the pole. The result was that our non apprehension of the reality (i.e., rope and the pole) caused its misapprehension into a ghost. Similarly, the Self alone is Real. However, our non apprehension of this Changeless Reality causes Its misapprehension into a phenomenal world. Thus, under the influence of imaginary limitations, we forget Reality and acts as our existence is separate from the glorious Truth that illumines it.

  • ਝੂਠਾ ਤਨੁ ਸਾਚਾ ਕਰਿ ਮਾਨਿਓ ਜਿਉ ਸੁਪਨਾ ਰੈਨਾਈ ॥੧॥ ਜੋ ਦੀਸੈ ਸੋ ਸਗਲ ਬਿਨਾਸੈ ਜਿਉ ਬਾਦਰ ਕੀ ਛਾਈ ॥ ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਜਗੁ ਜਾਨਿਓ ਮਿਥਿਆ ਰਹਿਓ ਰਾਮ ਸਰਨਾਈ ॥੨॥੨॥: Jhoothaa tann sachaa kar maanio jiyu supnaa renaaee. Jo deesai so sagal binaasai jiyu baadar kee shaaee||1|| Jan Nanak jag jaanio mithiaa rahio Raam sarnaaee||2|||2|||: The body is false (i.e., fleeting, perishable, etc. ), but (the man) believes it to be true (i.e., permanent); it is like a dream in the night (in sleep, the man thinks his dream to be true) ||1|| Whatever is seen, will all pass away, like the shadow of a cloud (that is fleeting). O servant Nanak, one who knows the world to be unreal (fleeting, perishable, etc.), dwells in the Sanctuary of the Lord ||2|||2||| (sggs 219).
  • ਮਨੁ ਤਨੁ ਫੀਕਾ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ॥: Mann tann feekaa doojai bhaai: Through the love of duality, the mind and body are made insipid (ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਤੋਂ ਫਿੱਕੇ - devoid of the radiance of spirituality) (sggs 230).
  • ਰਜ ਗੁਣ ਤਮ ਗੁਣ ਸਤ ਗੁਣ ਕਹੀਐ ਇਹ ਤੇਰੀ ਸਭ ਮਾਇਆ ॥ ਚਉਥੇ ਪਦ ਕਉ ਜੋ ਨਰੁ ਚੀਨ੍ਹ੍ਹੈ ਤਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਹੀ ਪਰਮ ਪਦੁ ਪਾਇਆ ॥੨॥: Raj gun tam gun sat gun kaheeai ih teri sabh maya. Chauthe pad kau jo nar cheenai tin hee param pad paaiaa ||2||: (O Lord) Raajas, Taamas, and Saatav modes are the creations of Your Maya. The man who realizes the Fourth State; he alone obtains the Supreme Status ||2|| (sggs 1123).

The primary purpose of human life is to realize God (one's True Nature), here and now. Therefore, it is vital that the rare privilege of human birth is not frittered away. Since the time span of an individual's life is kept hidden, religious teachings emphasize the urgency to seek to understand the ultimate purpose of life and strive for liberation from bondage during one's lifetime, while cautioning mankind against attractions of the mirage-like world. How can we remove the curtain of the false ego-sense superimposed on our True Nature? This is the subject matter of the accompanying article entitled "De-superimposition".

  • ਸਹਸਾ ਮੂਲਿ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਹਉਮੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਜਲਾਇ ॥ ਕੂੜੈ ਕੀ ਪਾਲਿ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਨਿਕਲੈ ਸਚੁ ਵਸੈ ਮਨਿ ਆਇ ॥ (sggs 591).

— T. Singh