Brahman and Maya: The Sole Existent and the Illusory Universe

Sri Aurobindo starts from the Reality of Brahman in his review of the nature of Maya: “As only Brahman is real, only a consciousness or a pwoer of Brahman could be a real creator and a creator of realities. But since there can be no other reality than Brahman pure and absolute, there can be no true creative power of Brahman. A Brahman-consciousness aware of real beings, forms and happenings would signify a truth of the Becoming, a spiritual and material reality of the universe, which the experience of the supreme Truth negates and nullifies and with which its sole existence is logically incompatible.”

He contrasts this to the conception of Maya: “Maya’s creation is a presentation of beings, names, forms, happenings, things, impossible to accept as true, contradictory of the indeterminable purity of the One Existence. Maya then is not real, itis non-existent: Maya is itself an illusion, the parent of numberless illusions.”

We nevertheless can experience the overpowering force of the concept of Maya and must still come to terms with it. Since Brahman is the “one without a second”, we have to accept that it is Brahman who perceives the forms created by Maya. Sri Aurobindo frames the paradox for us “But if Brahman is the percipient, how is it possible that the illusion can persist for a moment, since the true consciousness of the percipient is consciousness of self, an awareness solely of its own pure self-existence?”

The undeniable conclusion we can draw from looking at Brahman and Maya from various angles, is that the universe must be REAL, and that there cannot be such a thing as “Maya” in the sense of a pure illusion imposed upon the sole and absolute, unchanging entity of Brahman. It is therefore most likely that our definition of Maya and its relationship to Brahman is limited, incomplete or inaccurate; and that the solution lies in forming a different view of the role and working of Maya as an instrument of Brahman for the expression of Real-Ideas inherent within the sole Existent as possibilities.

We will continue our exploration of this relationship in the next post.

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 6, Reality and the Cosmic Illusion, pp. 442-443

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