“As the shadow grows when the sun is far away and then comes right below the feet when the sun is directly above the head, so the illusion of maya increases the more one is further away from Rama and decreases when He is inside the mind.” (Dohavali, 69)
rāma duri māyā baṛhati ghaṭati jāni mana mām̐ha |
bhūri hoti rabi dūri lakhi sira para pagatara chām̐ha ||69||
Boiled down to the essence, the existence of the individual soul can be likened to a basic choice. Which shelter do you prefer? Do you want to go it alone, where you etch out your own path in life? Do you want to seek happiness through your own effort, though remaining under the control of the strict laws of nature? Or would you rather accept the shelter of the Supreme Lord, whose association is not very difficult to attain? Goswami Tulsidas nicely explains each choice in the verse quoted above. On one side is maya and on the other is God.
The closer you get to either side, the further you get away from the opposite. Like if you make a right turn on the road, you automatically travel further away from what was on the left side. The same goes for making the choice of the left side. With respect to the individual’s decision in life, the two sides are not equal. The choice of God’s association brings bliss and happiness, while the other side is illusion.
The illusion is known as maya. It actually comes from God; it is His energy. In this sense there is always theism; there is always association with the Divine. Atheism is merely choosing in favor of God’s external energy. It is like a shadow that continues to grow as you go further away from the Supreme Lord’s personal presence, referenced here through the name of Rama. Rama is the worshipable deity of Tulsidas. Rama is God the person, full of transcendental attributes.
The analogy to the shadow is appropriate because choosing in favor of maya doesn’t look all that different from choosing in favor of God. Maya is like the shadow resulting from the light that is God. The devotee of Rama always chants the holy names, like those found in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. They eat food on a regular basis. They do work around the house if necessary. They enjoy spending time with like-minded individuals.
The person who chooses maya does seemingly the same things. They sing songs. They like to eat good food. They spend time with friends and family. Then what is the difference? One word: consciousness. Who is in the mind? What thoughts fill the time during the day? If they are of Rama, then the shadow decreases. It is like having the sun directly above your head. When the sun is further away, the shadow increases.
The illusion that is maya is hinged upon the idea of becoming God. Just work hard enough and one day you’ll be the richest person. Just accumulate enough good karma and you’ll get to enjoy like the king of heaven. Even renunciation can be in maya. With enough detachment you’ll merge into the Absolute. Just repeat to yourself over and over that you are God. Then you will become Him.
But there is only one God. His post is not up for grabs. He is completely satisfied in Himself, atmarama. He does not need to do work or practice yoga. Effortlessly He creates this and many other universes. He maintains them without a thought and He decides when the time for dissolution should come.
Anyone who thinks they can become God is certainly in illusion. They are under the sway of maya, which acts at Rama’s direction. The illusion seems to be a cruel trick played on the individual, but it is merely a reflection of their desires. They don’t want God in their mind. They don’t want to be conscious of Him. That choice is respected all the way to the point that the Supreme Lord will send the strongest illusory energy to act on the desires.
The wise souls know that God is the real thing. Therefore they try to maintain His association as much as possible. Who would choose ignorance over intelligence? Who would choose forgetfulness over remembrance? These things may alleviate pain for the time being, but ultimately they don’t do much good. Strength, faith, knowledge, perseverance and kindness are found in full in God. They are also found in devotion to Him, which is the only way to keep maya far away.
Bewildered by maya they are,
So to them Rama remaining far.
Like when the sun away creeping,
Resulting shadow then increasing.
Illusion from the choice that is made,
But devotees in right direction swayed.
Chanting, worshiping of consciousness pure,
Lone way to keep maya away for sure.