Mayavada: The Theory of the Cosmic Illusion

Sri Aurobindo describes Mayavada: “In the classical theory of Illusionism a sole and supreme spiritual Existence is accepted as the one Reality: it is by its essentiality the Self, yet the natural beings of which it is the Self are only temporary appearances; it is in its absoluteness the substratum of all things, but the universe erected on the substratum is either a non-existence, a semblance, or else in some way unreally real; it is a cosmic illusion. For the Reality is one without a second, it is immutable in eternity, it is the sole Existence; there is nothing else, there are no true becomings of this Being: it is and must for ever remain void of name, feature, formation, relation, happening; if it has a Consciousness, it can only be a pure consciousness of its own absolute being.”

This formulation of course does not actually work out the nature of the Illusion and its relationship to the Reality. By what means, and for what purpose does the One, Absolute, Eternal and Immutable Being, Brahman, either create or permit to be created, this world of Illusion, and why? Mayavada does not really attempt an answer to this question, as it concerns itself primarily with escaping the illusion and identifying the consciousness with the Immutable Brahman.

If we accept the premise that only Brahman is real, and that “all this is the Brahman”, and that there is “one without a second” the implication is that this world of forms and names and changing circumstances is also the Brahman, is also Real, and is part of that One. Mayavada avoids this conclusion by never asking the question or accepting the logical conclusion of its own basic tenets.

We shall explore the nature of Mayavada and its relationship to the Brahman in the next post.

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 6, Reality and the Cosmic Illusion, pp. 441-442


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