Following is the talks by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Maya (Ilusion) and Happiness.
Money gives one a sense of freedom and ownership. We feel that by having money, we can own anything or put a price tag on anybody’s services.
Ownership of something means total control of its existence from beginning to end. When we pay for a piece of land, we feel that we own it, although the land continues to exist even after the owner is long gone. How can you own something that outlives you?
Money also gives the idea that you are powerful and independent, blinding you to the fact that we live in a world of interdependence. We depend on farmers, cooks, drivers and the services of so many people around us. Even an expert surgeon cannot operate on himself; he depends on others. By paying a few currency notes we do away with the fact that we depend on them. Instead of feeling grateful we think it is we who oblige them.
If you take a look at why most people with money are arrogant you will find it is because of the feeling of independence that money brings. The awareness of dependence on the other hand makes one humble. The basic human tenet of humility is taken away by this false feeling of independence.
Human values have been eroded to such an extent that we even measure people in terms of their net worth on the money scale! Often in the west one talks in terms of “so and so is worth five hundred million,” etc. Can money really reflect the worth of a person? Calling someone a millionaire or a billionaire is not a compliment at all. Labeling a person so is actually a disgrace to the dignity of humanness. You cannot put a value to human life.
Wealth is attained through ones skills and abilities, inheritance or through corrupt means. Each means
of attaining wealth brings its own consequences. The very motive for corruption is peace and happiness. Yet peace and happiness remain elusive when the means are corrupt.
Due to the illusory notions of independence, ownership and security that it brings, money is considered a part of ‘ maya .’ In Sanskrit it is said- “miyate anaya iti maya” which means ‘that which can be measured is maya ’. Hence everything in the world that can be measured is considered maya, money being one such measure. Human values are eroded when you try to put a price tag on all that cannot be measured, like love, truth, wisdom and life itself.
On the other hand, there are those who criticize money and blame it for all the ills of society. There are some others who even consider it as evil. Not only does possessing money bring arrogance, rejecting it does too. Some people who renounce money take pride in their poverty just to draw attention and sympathy.
However, the ancient sages never denigrated money or maya. In fact, they honoured it as a part of the divine and thereby transcended the grip of its illusion. They knew the secret that when you reject or hate something you can never transcend it.
They honoured wealth as Goddess Lakshmi – the consort of Narayana. She is born out of yoga (yogaje yoga sambhute). It is yoga that transforms the bad karma and brings out latent skills and talents. It also brings up ashtasiddhis – the eight perfections, and nava nidhis – the nine wealths. It is this wisdom of yoga that transforms one from arrogance to self-confidence; from meekness to humility; from the burden of dependence to the realization of interdependence; from craving for freedom to the recognition of unbounded-ness, from a limited ownership to oneness with the whole.
In a state of ignorance, people forget that the most reliable thing in the universe is ourselves and start relying on money as a source of security. When people lack faith in divinity, in their own abilities and in the goodness of the society, they suffer from a
deep sense of insecurity. This is a major problem today. In this situation all that appear to provide security is money. They rely on something that is not certain, and they get upset.
Often people are certain about the world but uncertain about God. Uncertainty causes craving for stability. You can be at ease with the uncertainty of the world when you realize the certainty of the consciousness.
The world is of change; the Self is of non-change. You have to rely on the non-change and accept the change. If you are certain that everything is uncertain, then you are liberated. When you are uncertain in ignorance, then you become worried and tense. Uncertainty with awareness brings higher states of consciousness with a smile.
Often people think that certainty is freedom. If you feel the freedom when you are not certain, that is “real” freedom. Often your certainty or uncertainty is based on the relative world. Being certain about the uncertainty of the relative makes you certain about the existence of the absolute and brings a certain faith in the absolute.
Can one still be enthusiastic when one is uncertain? Yes, in knowledge you can be enthusiastic in uncertainty. Often people who are uncertain do not act; they simply sit and wait. Acting in uncertainty makes life a game, a challenge. Being in uncertainty is letting go. Certainty about the relative world creates dullness. Uncertainty about the Self creates fear.
Uncertainty about matter brings certainty about consciousness. When you feel time is too short, you are either restless or in a state of expanded awareness. When you feel time is too long, you are either miserable or keen-minded. When you are happy and love what you are doing, you lose track of time. When you are ahead of time, it is dragging and boring. When time is ahead of you, then you are surprised and shocked. You are unable to understand the play of events. In deep meditation, you are time and everything is happening in you. Events are happening in you like the clouds come and go in the sky. When you are with time, you are wise and at peace.
When the mind is happy, it expands; then time appears too short. When the mind is unhappy, it contracts; then time appears too long. When the mind is in equanimity, it transcends time. To escape from the two extremes, many resort to alcohol or sleep but when the mind is dull or unconscious, it is unable to experience itself. Samadhi – no-mindedness or timelessness – is peace, the real peace.
Just as the mind experiences time, this moment has a mind of its own, a Big Mind which has enormous and infinite organizing power. Thought is nothing but a ripple in this moment, and thus a few moments of samadhi infuse the mind with energy. Before you fall into slumber or as soon as you wake up from sleep, in the moments of twilight in the consciousness, experience timelessness.
When something is unbelievably beautiful or joyful, you wonder if it is a dream. Often what you perceive as reality is not joyful so when misery is there, you never wonder if it is a dream. You are sure it is real. This is like perceiving the real as unreal and unreal as real. In fact, all miseries are unreal. A wise man knows that happiness is real, as it is your very nature. Unhappiness is unreal because it is inflicted by memory. When you see everything as a dream, then you abide in your true nature.