Before we understand what Maya is, we need to understand what srushtihi (creation) is. The vedantic view is that nothing is created here.
We all know that there is a samsara. We know that we take several birth and go through several death as a cycle as part of our prarabdharkarma. We also know that we have no say over birth or death. In between birth and death how foolish it is for us to think that we can change everything. All ordained laws are uncontrollable and within the realm of law and order (ishwara). This is not the end. One after another birth we go through pleasures and pain. Death is not the end of the journey for the sukshma. This is called samsara and we transmigrate till we know our true self and our sukshma itself disintegrate in that knowledge of ‘aham brahma asmi’.
What is the sole cause of samsara? The cause of samsara is ignorance. What is this ignorance? Why there is ignorance? For that we need to understand Maya and to talk about Maya we need to know what srushtihi is. It is a four step process which is explained below.
Srushtihi –> Maya-> agyanam – > samsara. This is the order.
We will cover the first step of understanding what srushtihi means is in vedantic term.
Let us assume that there is creation. E.g. there is a gold necklace and you say this is a creation. Creation is something bringing into something which was not there before. The goldsmith has created an ornament from gold. What has he created? Did he create the gold? No. The gold was already there, so what has he created? In fact, the ornament he created is just the Nama rupa. Even the name and form also he has not created. Form is also something which is already there. Gold is not created; the form also is not created. So what has he created? Gold was there before and after the creation of the ornament the gold is in the ornament. Gold alone is the substance which enjoys substantiality. The Nama rupa was already there in the gold. So Cause + added form and name = effect. Here the cause is the gold and the added form and name (necklace) = ornament. So Ornament is gold +added form = effect.
Another example would be Clay+ name and form = any name of earthen ware. Here the cause is clay and the name and form is (earthen pot) = effect
Prior to the ornament being created, the ornament was in unmanifest condition was in gold form. The goldsmith just brought into existence an ornament from unmanifest condition into manifest condition. Gold was already in the form of a biscuit and in the biscuit all the names are there e.g. bangles, rings, necklaces were there. But when we see gold, we don’t see any of these. As pure gold we cannot wear it, as we need the form and name for it to be known. E.g. a necklace, ring etc. But the forms and names are in unmanifest condition. This condition is called Avyaktaha Nama rupani. Avyaktaha means unmanifest.
The goldsmith does not create anything, but he brings into manifestation only what is already there. This is called creation or srushtihi. But one substance is the same throughout and does not change. The gold was there before and gold is now in the form of ornament. So gold is the only true substance.
Another example would be with reference to the ocean. The ocean has got waves and also still sometimes. The ocean is nothing but water and when the ocean is still, the waves do not get manifest, but they are already in the ocean, but we don’t see it. But, when the weather changes, the waves appear to be big or tall and the stillness is gone. Does it mean that the waves were created by the ocean or the stillness has disappeared? We have to understand here that waves or stillness are just another name for the water. Water is the substance and the waves were already there in the ocean, but we could not see it as it was in unmanifest condition. Just like the gold in the ornament, the water is the substance in waves as well.
Substance is one but names and forms are many. The manifest names and forms when becomes unmanifest again then it is called pralayaha. When the unmanifest names and forms becomes manifest, then it becomes srushtihi. From this example we can understand that there is no creation i.e. substance was, is and will be.
Modern science is still grappling with the theory that a big bang created this universe. But for the big bang to happen there should have been already some matter existing without which this would have been possible. But the matter was in unmanifest condition and due to ishwara’s Shakti, the unmanifest became manifest and we see this as jagat or the universe. The big bang can be compared to a goldsmith who created the ornament from gold.
The whole jagat which we see is an effect. Effect means Karyam. Karyam means cause + manifest names and forms. To understand, we need to remember some basic concepts about cause and effect. I.e. karana-karya sambandhaha.
Cause + manifest forms and names = jagat. (In our E.g. the gold + bangles, necklaces etc. = ornaments)
Cause + unmanifest forms and names = Ishwara. (E.g. gold. Gold is the cause as well it contains all the types of chains, necklace, rings but we don’t see it. So it is avyaktaha.