Vedanta is perhaps the most difficult darshana to comprehend especially in its purest monistic form. To even contemplate the state where there is only one Reality is difficult even for the adepts. Thus, there have arisen many fallacies and errors of perception for intellectuals think that Vedanta is a philosophy or abstract. But Vedanta is a living realization and the answers are not to be found via the means of thought but from other methods of Vedantic knowledge that are direct and acquired by identity. The philosopher analyses, dissects and speculates. The Vedantin goes beyond manas to Vigyanamaya, that seat of enlightened and integral knowledge that is inherent to one’s being. 

How will a thinker project the state of mind where there are no personal preferences or will or vrittis? And how will he judge the nature of action if he tries to study one truly living in oneness with the all-pervasive Reality or Brahman? That is why to resolve questions about Vedanta, one needs to live Vedanta and seek answer by direct pramana or evidence. Or take the word for one who lives in that state of awareness.

The answers given by Sri Krishna to Arjuna in the Gita are comprehensive, coherent and clear and do not reject any aspect of reality. He embraces life to the fullest, even the reality of war and its necessity in this state of the world. And he tells Arjuna, “Thou shalt not abandon thy dharma, and shalt fulfil it with all thy being.” Sri Krishna absorbs in his vast realization sankhya, yoga and Vedanta, and makes them more synthetic, dynamic and impactful. If India had followed the path shown by him, we would not have descended in the mire of tamas as a nation and would have been living up to our highest potential today.

Nowhere in the Gita does Sri Krishna call the world an illusion to be escaped. Rather, he enjoins us to see the Universe as a manifestation of his yoga-maya and abandon all paths and seek refuge in him alone, as the Purushottama, the Supreme Being, the Parabrahman. Vedanta is supremely life-affirming, not life-negating.

Somewhere we lost our way and got deluded with Mayavada, that maintains that the Universe is an illusion, a falsehood, to be shunned, to be dropped as the root of all evil so that one may dwell in the secret retreat of the Brahman. Sankara’s Jiva Brahmanaiva na parah somehow became a license for escapism and withdrawal. Thus, India lost its pre-eminent place among nations, and worse, the way of its being.

It was only after another 1200 years or so that Vedanta was again energized and made poorna again, in the lines laid down by Sri Krishna. Sri Aurobindo, accepting the authority of the Vedas, Upanishads, and the Gita, showed that if Brahman is truly all-pervasive, there is no manifestation that it is not. Nor is the world to be discarded as mithya.

For Maya, as he showed us, is utterly misunderstood. Maya is not illusion as the common but erroneous interpretation states. But it may be called the mode through which the Formless manifests into Form. The root of Maya in Sanskrit is ‘maa’ which means ‘to measure’ or ‘the mother’. Maya means ‘wisdom and immense power’ in some interpretations of older Sanskrit. However, PD Shastri takes the original Sanskrit word to mean ‘appearance’ and not illusion.  

Sri Aurobindo writes about Maya thus, “This power was known to the Vedic seers by the name of Maya. Maya meant for them the power of infinite consciousness to comprehend, contain in itself and measure out, that is to say, to form — for form is delimitation — Name and Shape out of the vast illimitable Truth of infinite existence. It is by Maya that static truth of essential being becomes ordered truth of active being — or, to put it in more metaphysical language, out of the supreme being in which all is all without barrier of separative consciousness emerges the phenomenal being in which all is in each and each is in all for the play of existence with existence, consciousness with consciousness, force with force, delight with delight. This play of all in each and each in all is concealed at first from us by the mental play or the illusion of Maya which persuades each that he is in all but not all in him and that he is in all as a separated being not as a being always inseparably one with the rest of existence. Afterwards we have to emerge from this error into the supramental play or the truth of Maya where the “each” and the “all” coexist in the inseparable unity of the one truth and the multiple symbol. The lower, present and deluding mental Maya has first to be embraced, then to be overcome; for it is God’s play with division and darkness and limitation, desire and strife and suffering in which He subjects Himself to the Force that has come out of Himself and by her obscure suffers Himself to be obscured. That other Maya concealed by this mental has to be overpassed, then embraced; for it is God’s play of the infinities of existence, the splendours of knowledge, the glories of force mastered and the ecstasies of love illimitable where He emerges out of the hold of Force, holds her instead and fulfils in her illumined that for which she went out from Him at the first.”

Maya too may have a higher and lower status, giving us formations of the truth or those of falsehood, according to Sri Aurobindo. Vivartvada gives us the right understanding of Vedanta when it states that any change in the world is only the same Reality in a different manifestation. Eventually, Vedanta goes through as deep as the truth of our existence and becomes anirvachaniya, that which cannot be talked about. But can be realized.

The Mahavakyas of Upanishads about the nature of Brahman are extremely helpful in giving us vital insights into the nature of Reality. But we must remember that Brahman, literally that which is growing, is not a static entity but that which is dynamic and constantly ‘enlarges its self-existence’.

DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.