The ancient Indian philosophies say the world is Maya. Maya is a Sanskrit word used to describe the unreality of the world. What does it mean to say the world is unreal?
First, it is important to see there are really two worlds. There is the world as it exists, a world without judgments, without names, and even without divisions. It is One world.
Then, there is the world that we see. And to be more accurate, there are billions of worlds that are seen, because each person sees their own world. We can experience this daily by watching different news reports. One television commentator sees the world differently from another. But it is not just political visions that differ. An environmentalist and an industrialist will not see the same world. A poet and a scientist will not see the same world. A Christian and a Moslem will not see the same world. Even two lovers will not see the same world. So, the question is which vision is real?
All worlds are colored by prejudices, philosophies, religions, moralities, histories, desires, and fears. And because these qualities are projected on to the world by the personality – they are not real. If we can look at the world without any words, and that means without thought, then only can we see the real world. When we look at the world as we do most of the time, through the lens of our conditionings, past experiences, and hopes for the future — we are seeing maya, an unreal world projected on top of a very real existence.
At an even deeper level, when we look at the so called “real world,” scientists will tell us that it is not as it appears. We look out into the world and see separate distinct objects, but physicists will not agree. They see organizations of elements made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons surrounded by vast amounts of space that stay together for some time before disbanding and joining up in other groups. So, the idea of real distinct solid objects is simply a fantasy. It is an appearance for some time, only to disappear later. It too is maya.
Understanding that the world is indeed maya frees us from the tyranny of our mind, of our projections. We begin to withdraw some of the support that sustains this unreal world — our belief in it. We understand that indeed the world is not black and white, in fact, it is not even in color because colors too are false distinctions with labels supplied by our conditioning. We begin to rest more in the perceiving than the perceived. And it is this ending of projecting the unreal that restores our bliss of being that has been constantly dissipated by creating and maintaining the world of maya.
From this vantage point, we look at a sunset, and even that is an inaccurate description of the situation. We see a happening (what we refer to as a sunset) without comparing to yesterday’s event, without wondering where we will see it tomorrow, without even naming it or pasting qualities onto it. We simply allow the event to unfold without either grasping or rejecting.
From this vantage point existence or life simply is What Is. It follows then that to live in the “real world” it is necessary to live in a place that is outside of, free of, the mind and all of its projections. When I Am without any past, without projecting into the future, without dividing an otherwise indivisible whole, then, and only then, Life is Real.
This is from the collection of stories, essays, poems and insights that is compiled to form the book From Lemurs to Lamas: Confessions of a Bodhisattva. Download a PDF or order the book Here.