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Article XCV: The Matrix and Maya

"Asato Ma Sadgamaya, Tamso Ma Jyotirgamaya, Mrityor Ma Amritamgamaya"
"From the unreal to the real, From darkness to light, From death to immortality"
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (1.3.28) -- These Sanskrit words are sung during the credits of the movie, Matrix Revolutions.

Maya is a crucial yet elusive concept in Vedanta. Maya is often translated as illusion, but Swami Vivekananda writes, "Generally it [maya] is used, though incorrectly, to denote illusion, or delusion, or some such thing."

Maya is the power which gives name and form. Our perception of the physical world is based upon name and form. Maya superimposes name and form upon the various aspects of the infinite, which gives the perception of the universe. By removing the name and the form of the finite, one can realize the infinite. The infinite, eternal, and immutable superimposed by maya creates the limitations of space, time, and causation. Enlightenment is transcendence beyond maya. In Vivekachudamani, Shankaracharya describes five sheaths of maya in great detail. The sheaths can be understood as a physical sheath, an energy sheath, a mental sheath, an ego-as-a-doer sheath, and an ego- as-an-experiencer sheath. By transcending these sheaths, one can reach enlightenment.

The movie, The Matrix, offers an interesting analogy of maya. In the matrix, one's reality is defined by a computer simulation until one is freed. Although existence in the matrix appears to be real, true reality lies beyond the matrix simulation. When one awakens from the matrix, one realizes their true form, free from the machines, which enslave the body. The experience within the matrix is only reality to those still entrapped within it.

Similarly, one's reality in life is defined by maya until one awakens to enlightenment. The existence within maya seems real, but a reality exists beyond the constraints of name and form. Reality exists beyond space, time, and causation. Unsheathing maya reveals Brahman, supreme consciousness-existence-bliss. Our true nature is peace and bliss, infinite beyond space, eternal beyond time, and immutable beyond causation. Vedanta offers paths to approach truth beyond maya. As one transcends maya, one experiences greater peacefulness and blissfulness. Ultimate transcendence of maya is the perfect bliss and peace of enlightenment.

East-West Counseling & Meditation -- Modern Psychiatry Integration -- Himalayan Philosophy -- Penn & Stanford Medicine
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