Mindfulness of Maya

Brahma Satya Jagat Mithya ~ “pure consciousness is the only reality; the physical world is virtual reality.”

On a recent visit to Bruges, it occurred to me that this charming city could be a brilliant metaphor for the ancient Indian concept of Maya. On the surface, it’s a beautiful and vibrant town that attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year, but, looking deeper, one can see that the main reason it’s a vibrant town is because of its superficial appearance, and its economy is based on this attraction to such an extent that the city itself feels more like a theme park than a real town. The illusion both feeds off itself and is perpetuated by itself: people come from around the world to experience a quaint town called Bruges, which exists in it’s current form only because people come from around the world to experience a quaint town called Bruges… and the funny thing is that our everyday life is also a lot like this!

The Sanskrit word Maya is often translated as illusion – in the sense of something not being what it appears to be – or the appearance of that which exists but is constantly changing. When we reflect upon life itself – whether through yogic inquiry or the practice of mindfulness – we can quickly see that things are not as they appear at first glance. On one level, being mindful means paying attention in the present moment, but true mindfulness also requires looking more deeply at the reality of life’s interconnectedness – there are no edges to separate me from you in reality, and there is nothing exclusively “me” about me, either. As Thich Nhat Hanh would say, I am made up of “non-me” elements, so the “me” I am is only apparent – this is one way to understand the Buddhist concept of Shunyata, or “emptiness”. Since 1930, Quantum Physics has been refining our understanding of these ancient concepts by showing that indeed, the deeper we look into matter, the more space we find! In the Buddha’s teachings of ‘Perfection of Wisdom’, “Form is emptiness and emptiness is form.”

Yet here we all are running around stressed and excited about whatever it is we are stressed and excited about, believing – inter alia – that we belong to one tribe or religion and that we are more (or less) special than another. It’s on the nightly news, where the good guys are cheered until they morph into the bad guys and a new set of good guys emerges. At some point, the suffering that results from this delirium becomes so intense that we are compelled to wake up. Sometimes, challenging life events force us instantly to see a deeper reality than we were perceiving up to that point. This is one way of describing Dharma (there are many – that’s another blog!): it is through our struggles that we try to come to terms with our humanity, and we are either prodded into looking more deeply at life or we end up buried under the weight of our own suffering.

Which way would you like to go?

Come along to one of the free information sessions to learn more about the next Mindful Living Course or simply to enjoy a chance to practice with us, and discover in a very pragmatic way how to cut through your own illusions and more clearly see your way through life’s ups and downs. I hope you can join us on Thursday 26 February 19-20:30, or Sunday 8 March 19:15-20:45 at Inspiration.

Much love and light to you,