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Maya Or Illusion Begins With The Thought I Am The Body

Though the body is needed for sadhana, one should not identify with it. We should make good use of it, and look after it well, but we should not pay too much attention to it.

There are so many thoughts in the mind. Thought after thought after thought, they never stop. But there is one thought that is continuous, though it is mostly subconscious: ‘I am the body.’ This is the string on which all other thoughts are threaded. Once we identify ourselves with the body by thinking this thought, maya follows. It also follows that if we cease to identify ourselves with the body, maya will not affect us anymore.

Maya is fundamentally non-existent. Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi said that maya literally means ‘that which is not’. It is unreal because everything that maya produces is an outgrowth of a wrong idea. It is a consequence of taking something to be true that is not really true. How can something that is not real produce something that is real? If a barren woman says that she has been beaten by her son, or that she has been injured by the horns of a hare, we would rightly take her to be deluded. Something that does not exist cannot be the cause of suffering or of anything else.

Maya may appear to be real, to have a real existence, but this is a false appearance. The truth is: it is not real; it has no existence at all.

How to get rid of this ‘I am the body’ feeling and of the maya that is produced by it? It goes when there is saman bhava, the equanimity or equality of outlook that leaves one unaffected by extreme opposites such as happiness and unhappiness, pleasure and pain. When saman bhava is attained, the idea ‘I am the body’ is no longer present, and maya is transcended.