This is a famous line in one of my favourite movie ‘The Prestige’ by Christopher Nolan. The magician performs tricks, purposely distracts us lest we ‘find out too soon!’ but at the same time sprinkles out ample hints for those who watch closely.
The world is a stage with amazing magic tricks performed on us! Master provides this mathematical definition of Maya in his Autobiography:
Cosmic illusion; literally, “the measurer.” Maya is the magical power in creation by which limitations and divisions are apparently present in the Immeasurable and Inseparable.
Emerson wrote the following poem, to which he gave the title of Maya:
Illusion works impenetrable,
Weaving webs innumerable,
Her gay pictures never fail,
Crowd each other, veil on veil,
Charmer who will be believed
By man who thirsts to be deceived.
The consummate magic plot is we, ourselves, just as Swami quotes in his Raja yoga book:
“Men travel to gaze upon mountain heights and the waves of the sea, broad-flowing rivers, and the expanse of the ocean and the courses of the stars, and pass by themselves, the crowning wonder.” – Saint Augustine
We get trained by the world with things outside of ourselves. We are conditioned to think food is outside, wealth is in money, wisdom is in books. And most of all, we join as members of ‘happiness- is-in-things’ club. If only, we could watch closely, we begin to realise that the source of all happiness is within. Swami writes in one of his beautiful songs, Come Gather ‘Round:
It’s in your heart
The songs of joy resound:
You’ll hear but echoes
In the world around.
Wind on a hill
Sounds lonely if you’re sad,
Free if you’re free,
Cheerful if you’re glad.
When I was taking up the Raja yoga class, during the Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga chapter, each of the students were asked to talk about one of the eight angas. I was assigned the topic on Pratyahara. I summed up the concept with a story that I had heard:
Let me begin with,
Once upon a time
God wanted to come and live with men. But as soon as he arrived, he was chased by the crowd with questions, complaints and favors. He wanted a hiding place. He found a place that most men wouldn’t seek unless their gaze is turned within.