Q: My understanding of original consciousness, mAyA, Ishvara is follows:
. Ishvara is the reflected conscious.
. mAyA( shudha satva prakRRiti) is the reflecting medium of original consciousness-Brahman.
. Ishvara controls or has full control over mAyA.
My question is how can the reflection (Ishvara) have control over the reflecting medium, mAyA? For example, if I see myself in a mirror how can my reflection (image) control the reflecting medium, the mirror?
Please let me know whether my understanding is correct and throw some light on this.
A (Ramesam): As you may be well aware, the main thrust of “teaching” adopted within the Advaita philosophical system goes towards pointing out one’s mis-directed worldview and reorientating his/her view towards Reality which is Absolute, Immutable and Attributeless.
Ordinary folk on the street believe that there is a ‘me’ confined and contracted within ‘my body-mind’ and a ‘world’ exists out there external to a ‘me’ which is inside. Similarly, they believe in the reality of the body because of the sensations and the existence of a mind because of the thoughts and images. The falsity of this belief structure and the illusory nature of the objective world (including all percepts – world, body and mind) have to be convincingly conveyed to the spiritual aspirant.
Several approaches are adopted by a teacher towards that end depending on the mental makeup and attitude of the inquirer. None, absolutely no one of these methodologies adopted by a teacher have unqualified validity or unquestionable sanctity. All these devices have to be ultimately discarded once the final understanding is attained.
For one who starts with a belief in the perceived creation, the model of Eswara, maya and reflected Consciousness is given as a first approximation. In this model, it is visualized that the attributeless unchanging Brahman (= original Consciousness) appears as the illusory ‘self’ which is comparable to a virtual image (reflection) seen in a mirror. The name given to the very first virtual image appearing is Eswara who is pure satva with a very very little amount of other gunas. Eswara is said to be the cause for the subsequent multiplicity (i.e. created world). When once you begin to believe in this model of creation, you will naturally get two doubts. By what powers does Eswara create the world and how does the world get controlled and managed?
Just like the saying — if you lie once, you are bound to lie a hundred times to protect yourself –goes, you have to fabricate further fiction to answer the above two doubts.
So the teacher talks of an inexplicable power of Eswara to explain his ability to create. This power is named ‘maya.’ By giving just a name, it does not mean that there is something real and tangible called maya on which you can put your finger. It has to be taken merely as an explanatory artifact.
Because the created world is illusory (like the virtual image in the mirror) and because it has emanated as an effect of ‘maya’, the reflected image (world) is also sometimes referred to as maya. So the word ‘maya’ connotes both the ‘power’ of the Creator, Eswara, and the ‘world’ which is the result of His creation.
Now what is it that corresponds to a mirror, the reflecting medium, in this whole game?
The honest answer is “none.”
Why so? In this entire analogy, nobody is talking of an actual reflection taking place. The comparison is only to the “virtual” nature of a reflected image in a mirror. You see big mountains and houses and plants in the mirror. Are there really mountains and houses and plants in or behind the reflecting surface of the mirror? If they are not there, how come they appear as if they are there behind the mirror, the reflecting medium?
The metaphor used tries to convey the “unreality” of the world by comparing to the “unreal” quality of a reflected image. So do not worry about where is the mirror placed, what sort of mirror it is and what is controlling the mirror. Focus only on the “unreality” aspect of the image.
Therefore, your question on how Eswara, who is a reflection, controls the medium (mirror) does not arise.
Incidentally, maya is not the reflecting medium. You can imagine it to be something like an ‘operator’ in a mathematical equation. Suppose you say,
x + y = z –1.
Correspondingly, you can write the equation,
Brahman maya thought = Eswara –2.
Eswara maya thought = world –3.
What has happened to “+” when you move to the right side in the equation (1)? Which member is controlling it? The role and significance of ‘maya’ in equations (2 and 3) is like “+” in the equation (1).
In Vedanta, all similes used are said to be “ekadesIya” – i.e. they are specific to a point being illustrated. You will lose the meaning and purpose if you stretch it or extend beyond the specific point under illustration. Hence, the moral of the story is: do not mix the similes or extend them beyond the point being discussed at that level.
A (Peter): Your understanding of these terms is not right, which is why there is confusion.
Hopefully, the following clarification of terms will help:
There is only one non-dual Brahman inseparably endowed with the potential to manifest – as the sun is inseparably endowed with the power of illumination and fire is inseparably endowed with the power to heat.
Brahman’s inseparable potential to manifest is called māyā. The other name for māyā is prakṛti.
Māyā or prakṛti is the name for the universe in an undifferentiated and unmanifest form (like a seed is a tree in an undifferentiated and unmanifest form, or the stillness of water is a wave in an unmanifest and undifferentiated form).
From the perspective of the manifest universe, Brahman with its potential to manifest is called Īśvara. It is merely a name, not a different character. Another name for Īśvara is saguṇa Brahma.
From the perspective of Brahman there is no controller, no reflection, no medium! There is only the Reality that is either manifest – when it gets the name ‘universe’ (jagat) – or unmanifest – when it gets the name Īśvara.
Analogies like mirror, reflection etc must be considered in the context in which they have been raised and cannot be stretched to make general points. For example, what we see when we see an opaque object is reflected light. What is the difference between light and reflected light? None. It is only give the term ‘reflected’ from the perspective of the seen object. Light is light. It is either manifest (when there is a manifesting medium like an opaque object) or it is unmanifest.
Hope this clears any vagueness or doubts.
A (Dennis): The main thing you have to understand is that, in reality, there is only brahman – brahman is all there is. All the teaching is aimed at providing this understanding. Along the way, however, it also has to provide interim explanations for the way things seem to be. Once you have the ‘final understanding’ (i.e. Self-realization, enlightenment or mokSha), you can drop ALL of the teaching as being mithyA. Ishvara is saguNa brahman – brahman in the ‘guise’ of creator of the universe. mAyA is the term used to ‘explain’ how Ishvara accomplishes this. Of course, it explains nothing – mAyA effectively means ‘magic’! I don’t think I have come across Ishvara being referred to as a ‘reflection’ or mAyA as a ‘reflecting medium’. Maybe you are confusing this with the concept of chidAbhAsa? (See http://advaita-academy.org/talks/The-Real-I-verses-the-Presumed-I—An-Examination-of-chidAbhAsa.ashx for an essay on this.) Ishvara is brahman ‘with attributes’ and those attributes include such things as all-knowing, all-powerful etc. I.e. Ishvara is certainly not an inert reflection! Maybe you can provide a source for the teaching you claim? If not, I would forget it and assume you were mistaken.