“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||
Picture this scene. You’re outside taking a walk. You’ve been stuck in the house for an entire weekend with a fever and flulike symptoms. You barely left your bed. You hated it. It was like going to hell and not having an escape in sight. Now you’ve returned back from that horrible condition. In good health you decided to go outside and take in some fresh air.
When you left the house it was sunny outside. A perfect day for a walk, you thought. The problem is that the sun intermittently gets covered up by the clouds. It’s a little windy too, so without the sun’s direct light you feel cold. As soon as the clouds part again, you feel the soothing warmth. Each time the sunlight goes away, you can’t wait for it to come back.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the complete light for the living entities otherwise deluded by the illusory energy known as maya. In the above referenced verse from the Dohavali, Goswami Tulsidas uses the sun example, but with respect to the shadow it creates as it moves across the sky in the daytime.
When the sun is directly overhead, there is no shadow. You’re getting its light shining straight down upon you. As soon as it moves in either direction, a shadow gets created. The further the sun goes away, the larger the shadow becomes. Maya is like this. The more one forgets God, the more they become entrapped by the illusory energy. The more they remember God, the less influence maya has upon them.
The analogy is nice because to remember means to keep something in the mind. The mind is at the top of the standing body, similar to how the sun would be overhead in the sky. God in the mind is like the sun shining directly down. The sun is full of heat and light. This is the dharma of the sun. Dharma is an essential characteristic. Without heat and light the sun wouldn’t be the sun.
The real dharma for the living entity is service. There are other properties based on the type of body the individual accepts at the time of birth, but these dharmas are not eternal. They remain for some time and then change. Think of the police officer. When they are on duty, they have specific roles to fulfill. If they don’t fulfill them, they are not an accepted police officer. Yet when they go home, they play a different role. They are a spouse. When the children enter the picture, they are a parent. Thus the duties constantly shift.
The dharma at the core of the individual is eternal. This is because the individual’s core is spiritual. Religion in the Vedic definition is thus known as sanatana-dharma. It is the engagement that maintains the essential characteristic of the spirit soul. Association with maya is asanatana; it does not last forever. Maya creates the illusion that the temporary things matter more. That new car you’re thinking of buying - occupy your time with that. That college you’re applying for - make sure you always think about it. Basically, think of anything and anyone except God.
While it is seemingly impossible to break out of this illusion, the escape method is actually quite simple. It is made so because of God’s properties. He is easy to think of. He has transcendental features that can be pondered, studied and glorified to the end of time and beyond. Love God until whatever endpoint you think exists, and when you reach it, He’ll create new situations for you to continue in your worship.
Tulsidas loves God as Shri Ramachandra. This is God the person in His spiritual manifestation as a warrior prince. Rama is not a made-up God. He is not an object of worship created out of sentiment. The Supreme Lord is not identical to every worshipable figure, but He does not limit Himself to a single form. In His original manifestation, He is Shri Krishna, the all-attractive one. To help an innocent five-year old transcendentalist against the danger of powerful atheistic forces, He becomes Narasimha, the half-man/half-lion.
To the individual struggling with the large shadow of maya, Rama sends an empowered representative. That person prescribes direct sunlight for twenty-four hours a day in the form of Krishna consciousness. That is created easily through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This transcendental sound is completely spiritual, creating bright sunshine in a life that otherwise seems dreary and cold.
By birth, disease and age coming old,
Life in maya seeming dreary and cold.
For mood and outlook to make bright,
Accept Rama’s heat and transcendental light.
Like taking a human body standing,
And in his mind this consciousness landing.
Then the life of maya no more,
Only God the person to adore.