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Brahm, God, Guru, Maya, and you — don't get lost
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
14 min
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Questioner (Q): Isn't everything just Māyā ? Then what is God? What is the relationship of God with Māyā ?

Acharya Prashant (AP): You see, Māyā becomes all things, correct? Māyā becomes all things. So, you find it expressed in both ways. Sometimes, it is said— Māyā becomes all things and here, it is said— Brahm becomes all things. Both of these are correct. Both of these are right statements expressed at different levels.

Yes, all things are Māyā , but Māyā , we had just said, is nothing but a great power inherent in Brahm . Māyā is the very freedom of Brahm ‘to be’ and then ‘to not to be’. So, when you say, “This is all the game of Māyā ,” you are not at all wrong. And it is quite useful to say, “All of this is the game of Māyā ,” especially when you feel quite charmed and enthralled by all this. Then it pays to say, “All this is Māyā .”

At the same time, it has to be remembered that Māyā has no power or agency of its own. There aren’t two competent truths: Brahm and Māyā . And this is where the Upanishads greatly differ from many other philosophical streams. At the heart of religion is philosophy, right?

And it has been commonplace to say that there is God and there is Satan, and God and Satan have been shown as adversaries. That's not the way in Vedānta . In Vedānta , Satan doesn't compete with Brahm . In Vedānta , Satan, who can be broadly equated with Māyā , is rather the power of Brahm to do as Brahm pleases.

Therefore, just as Brahm is timeless and birthless, Māyā too is called anādī * —not having a particular beginning. Because the beginning of * Māyā is the beginning of Brahm . However, Brahm cannot come to an end, Māyā can come to an end. How does Māyā come to its end?—By involution. It retreats back into what it came from.

So, Brahm is the source of Māyā , the father of *Māyā*— Māyāpati . Brahm isn't competing with Māyā ; Brahm is rather commanding Māyā , mischievous! No?

That's the reason once I said that, “After the session is over Guru and Māyā take tea together.” Because both of these are just two names for the innate freedom of Brahm . There is the freedom of Brahm to forget itself, that's Māyā . There is the freedom of Brahm to remind itself of what it has forgotten, that's Guru .

Guru and Māyā are one in a very fundamental way. Māyā is trying to make you forget what you can never forget, and the Guru is reminding you of something you have never forgotten. Both are just playing games with you; therefore, they are “hand in glove” in the game which is called Saṃsāra (world). One builds the Saṃsāra ; the other dissolves it. Both of them are needed to keep the show running, getting it? You never know, it might be a double role.

What does that mean in terms of your day-to-day actions, and decisions, and everything? —Be very careful when a desire arises. Are you desiring to get rid of your shackles, or are you desiring a few more of them? Desire can work both ways; obviously, it does. Unfortunately, for most of us, desire works the wrong way.

What are you desiring? And you need to desire because you are stuck and shackled. So, you cannot say, “I don’t desire anything.” That kind of spirituality is best avoided where you just say, “I don't desire anything. I am above everything. I don’t need anything. I am nothing.” Sorry, you are much, at least in your own eyes.

So, you need to desire, you need to resolute, you need to want. You need to want, and if you want wrongly or badly then you have had it. So, you cannot ‘not want’, you are pushed into ‘wanting’. And if you want wrongly, the punishment will be that you need to want more and more.

Now that gives us a cue regarding the nature of the right want. The right want is that which will lead to progressively fewer wants. The wrong want is that which will lead to more and more wants.

Radioactive wanting, do you know radioactivity? —Particles from one radioactive disintegration happening in one molecule hit five other molecules. Therefore, one radioactive event leads to five more events, and in those five more events lead to... So, we are radioactive people, getting it?

That's just the right (correcting his statement), sorry—(Smilingly) Did I just say, the Guru and Māyā are one? Well, that’s just the wrong kind of desire. Ask yourself, ask yourself—if this particular desire that lords me right now is fulfilled, will that lead to freedom from subsequent desire or will that breed a thousand more desires? Ask yourself. And if you are honest in asking, then the answer will decide for itself.

If the answer is: The fulfillment of this desire will lead to a thinning out of subsequent desires—proceed. Do as you wish. Or will wants lead to more and more wants?

Caution: Don't think of yourself as some kind of a divine exception because you are not. Because all of us are fundamentally manifestations of the same ‘I’ tendency.

Therefore, others are a good example. See what happened to those others who took the same route that you are now contemplating. Because our lives are the same because our fundamentals are the same; therefore, our desires are also the same, right? We are hardly unique in any aspect of our life or wants.

So that, which you are desiring today has been desired by a billion people ahead of you, right? See what happened to them. Don't just keep deceiving yourself by saying, that, you know, “I know that if I fulfill this desire, I will not require anything else.” No. There have been so many others who did what you are thinking of doing now. What happened to them? The same fate awaits you. You cannot escape the fact.

See, if right now, you are desiring just the same thing that billions before you desired, are you really different from those billions? Aren’t you desiring exactly what billions before you have desired? Tell me, are you different from them? Look at the facts! Are you? Are you? No.

So then how do you convince yourself that once you have fulfilled this particular desire, your fate will be any different from that of those billion others? But that's the internal deceptive logic we offer ourselves: “My case is different.” Your desire is the same, but your case is different, exactly how?

“No, no, no, all took the same road and vanished into the darkness. But my case is different. I will take exactly the same road and return. And not only return but return illuminated. They were fools who disappeared.” They were not fools, they were just like you. The proof is... What’s the proof? They took the same road. So far, you have been exactly like them, how do you propose to be different a few hours hence?

That's the trick of the future. Because the future is not upon us yet; therefore, we get the dangerous freedom to hope. We hope that our fate will be drastically different from the others who went before us. You are not unique in anything! Not at all. Which is bad, but then we said, “Let's make the best of a bad situation,” which is very bad; you are not unique in anything. But what's the advantage it offers? —Because you are not unique in anything; therefore, you can use the example of others to see what’s going to happen to you.

Had you been unique then new things could have happened to you! Are you unique? Seriously? Look at the way you are looking at me, a billion people before you have looked exactly the same way at somebody. How do you think you are any different? Any particular thought that's original to you? Any particular act that you propose to patent? Yes? “I am the first one to come up with this.” Any little small thing?

If everything about us is just a rehash of ‘the primordial script’ then we better read the script, no? It has been enacted again and again, over and over again, no? Why not make good use of the various number of times it has been enacted? Are you getting it?

So be careful, if you desire what everybody has been desiring, you will get what everybody has been getting. And what everybody has been getting hasn't been too good. Has it been?

And, if it has been that good, why do you scoff at other people? Why do you spit at the past? Why don’t you like what your parents, and ancestors, and all the people around you have been doing? Strange is our situation: on one hand, we do not like what has been happening before us and around us. On the other hand, we do exactly what our ancestors and our neighbors have been doing. Superficially, we want to be different, right?

The brand of your jacket is probably not the same as that of your neighbor. But the jacket is the jacket; nevertheless, irrespective of the brand, no? We do not like what everybody does, but we do what everybody else does, and then we hope for a different result. We do not like how people are, but we emulate them. And to keep our dignity intact we tweak our actions just a little bit.

“You know, my uncle chose someone who wore a saree; I am choosing someone who wears a skirt. See I am different.” It doesn’t matter. You can hang yourself using a saree. You can also find ways to hang yourself using a skirt or something even shorter than that. There can be a million ways to die.

“But my death was unique, you see. My uncle died by hanging; I died by stuffing something down my throat. The thing was so little, I just gulped it and suffocated. I am unique. My fate will be different.”

Q: Acharya Ji, in the very beginning you said that the complete Brahm evolves into an incomplete mind-matter world. And later on, you also told us that Māyā can be triumphed by a process of involution.

So, my question is based on this evolution, involution problematic. Are you suggesting that evolution certainly is something non-spiritual? Or because there have been many modern philosophers like Frederick Nietzsche, Swami Vivekananda, and Śrī Aurobindo who have opined that this process of evolution itself can take us to Truth.

AP: From a pure perspective, evolution has never happened. Nothing has ever happened. Only Brahm is the Truth and nothing ever happens there. There is no evolution. But since you experience evolution, because since you take yourself as the product of evolution; therefore, for you is suggested ‘further evolution’ or ‘involution’. Only for you.

If at this very moment, you could see that you do not exist then you do not need any involution or any spiritual progress. Nothing really happened. It's just that you feel that a lot has happened and therefore, a lot has come into existence. But what do we do? Merely intellectually repeating that “nothing really happened,” does not rid us of the impact of our sensory experiences.

The world is announcing itself to be true by coming to us every moment through these senses, no? In fact, the world is beating us down into accepting itself. And how does the world do that? By making us firstly acknowledge that we exist. Now, if you exist, then the ground beneath your feet surely does exist; otherwise, how do you propose to be standing. Are you getting it?

Because we believe in all these things—therefore, some kind of progress is needed; therefore, we need to decide on the way ahead. If with one blow of your resolute determination, you could just in a flash see all this as false, then you don't need any progress.

Be very careful when you use the words: happens, happened, or existence, or exists. All these words are good only for day-to-day practical conversations. These words do not refer to the truth. Nothing happened and nothing exists. The happenings and existence are your bondage—illusion is another name for bondage. All happenings, all existence is illusory. But it doesn't help us to merely verbally know that.

Because as long as we are listening to this as persons, it is absurd to say, “I have just heard that I do not exist,” isn't it absurd? Therefore, let's keep this knowledge aside. Therefore, let's not entertain ourselves by saying, “Nothing ever happened, nothing exists, and neither do I.” We do exist in our own eyes, right? Then the topical question is, “Given that I exist, how must I exist? Given that I am alive, how must I live?”

That's the beneficial question to ask. But never for a moment, must you take your existence very seriously. Now it's a difficult thing to ask for. Because on one hand, you have to take decisions as the existing one. On the other hand, you have to try your best to remember that you really do not exist. It's a very difficult balance to achieve—to act vigorously while remembering that no action is going to change anything at all, because no action is really happening.

But that's the essence of all spirituality—to partake in these two opposites simultaneously. To concurrently act and know that all action is illusory. If you can't strike that balance, it's not even a balance, it's a concurrent happening. You have to exist simultaneously in two dimensions: the dimension of action and the dimension of non-action.

In the dimension of action, you are a prisoner, who must break free; therefore, he has to act vigorously to break free. In the dimension of non-action, you are the sky. Who can capture the sky? And you exist in both the dimensions. That's what I repeatedly emphasize on. Remember that you exist in both the dimensions, don't forget any or either of them.

If you forget that you are a prisoner, you will remain a prisoner, right? Because you will not even try to break free of the prison. And if you forget that you are the sky, then even if you break free from the prison, you will have nowhere to go. You will just land in a bigger prison because you have forgotten that you are the sky. How can there be freedom now?

You will move from prison to prison. You will know that you are a prisoner, and yet you will remain a prisoner. You will be very, very eager for freedom, and yet you will just move from one prison to the other if you do not remember that you are already the sky. So, you have to remember both these things, which is very difficult to do. It requires a lot of practice and determination.

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