The Role of the Individual and the Concept of Maya

As we look at the relation between Brahman and Maya, we have not yet determined the relationship of the individual in the world and the concept of “maya”. Surely while Brahman cannot be misled by illusion, there is no doubt that the human mind, in its separative consciousness, is frequently misled by illusion and there is thus a residual sense and meaning to the concept of Maya that is not yet resolved.

Sri Aurobindo discusses this as follows: “The one thing that can be described as an unreal reality is our individual sense of separativeness and the conception of the finite as a self-existent object in the Infinite. This conception, this sense are pragmatically necessary for the oeprations of the surface individuality and are effective and justified by their effects; they are therefore real to its finite reason and finite self-experience: but once we step back from the finite consciousness into the consciousness of the essential and infinite, from the apparent to the true Person, the finite or the individual still exists but as being and power and manifestation of the Infinite; it has no independent or separate reality.”

The utility of a “separative” individual consciousness is that it allows a successive manifestation evolving through Time to take place within the Timeless Reality and Oneness of the Absolute. It allows the various transitory forms to appear and manifest out of their latent potentiality and to interact in a dynamic and creative way that would not be truly possible if the consciousness of Oneness were foremost in the manifested forms all the time. While we can step back and experience that oneness and transcendence, the dynamic form of the Brahman obtains its vital intensity specifically from the mechanism of the “separative individual forms.”

This does not however convict the world of being an illusion or consisting of purely illusory forms! “The world would be unreal only if itself and its forms were images without substance of being, figments of consciousness presented to itself by the Reality as pure figments and then abolished for ever. But if manifestation or the power of manifestation is eternal, if all is the being of Brahman, the Reality, then this unreality or illusoriness cannot be the fundamental character of things or of the cosmos in which they make their appearance.”

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 6, Reality and the Cosmic Illusion, 465-466

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