~ A Force to be Overcome ~
Within the Hindu philosophy, maya is a term that is synonymous with “illusion.” Essentially, it is believed that the phenomenal universe that we see and know is illusory, and is therefore a manifestation of maya. It is also believed that beyond this universal maya is found Reality—an unchanging and eternal dimension that underlies the entirety of Creation. As a broad principle, esotericism finds much agreement with this notion. Yet within the nomenclature of Esotericism, this term is more narrowly applied. For maya represents the distortions arising from the ungoverned cravings of the physical body, as well as impetuous reactions to outer life events.
It must be remembered that there are countless environmental influences that seem to force us into activities that seem inconsistent with the soul’s higher calling. These forces invariably affect the etheric centers (chakras), often generating a reactive response. Whether considering a rash reaction to anger directed toward us, the power of societal laws that unduly create conformity, or the unregulated appetites of the physical body, these are just a few of the countless examples of maya playing out in one’s life. Behaviorally speaking, maya is the matrix from which instinctive and reactive consciousness arises.
When the disciple discovers how maya has been adversely influencing his or her life, a growing commitment to countering it eventually takes hold, initially through enforced disciplines of the body. Such things as diet, exercise, and hygiene become a preoccupation in one’s life. Through this effort, the disciple begins to consciously control his or her reactiveness toward bodily cravings. A more detached attitude toward various environmental forces (either alluring or distressing) is cultivated as well. These efforts represent attempts at overcoming maya and its restrictive influence in one’s spiritual life.
The complete elimination of maya is not afforded the disciple until enlightenment has been achieved. Indeed, where one stands upon the Path directly corresponds to the amount of maya still operative within one’s consciousness. Each step forward is facilitated when some aspect of maya has been eliminated.