Non-dualism and maya

In the philosophy of non-dualism, it is often the thinker’s goal to “go beyond” the multiple appearances which present themselves to the mind, and thus to commune with “pure being”. This transcendentalist ideal is rather common, and I think I was trying to get there myself as recently as my essay on the Hidden Door.

In the past month and a half, however, my objective has changed. Although I agree with the concept of maya – that we project our selfhood upon the infinite possibilities of the Divine, which becomes the world of our experience – I do not think our goal is simply to step beyond it. It would be sadly ironic if the purpose of life were merely to escape it.

Instead, I think our condition has itself a purpose, and a fulfillment. For instance: In its pure essence, light contains every color, and is completely white. The eye has the ability to see its different aspects when reflects from material objects, which filter the light by absorbing some of it to themselves. So when light emanates from the Sun, it is almost pure, complete; when it hits the Earth, it divides and fractures – and hence we are able to see its colors.

In a sense, maya is the many colors of the light, that we see in its countless, varying forms. The eye is able to perceive in these forms different aspects of the pure, undifferentiated light shone from the Sun. Yet there is great beauty in these colors and the things we see. I don’t think that the existence of light as a pure essence means that we need to see beyond color, and cause them to disappear from our vision. The beauty may be in the pure light, but it’s potential is manifested by its division in this world.

The real question, I think, is one of relationship. How we relate to the pure essence, on the one hand, and how we relate to its plural manifestations on the other. As for reality, only light itself is real: color is perceived. As for experience, only color is seen, with light serving as a foundation. The eye will never perceive pure light, even though light is the basis of its function, nor will it perceive color without implying the presence of light.

These two aspects: the undifferentiated light, and differentiated color, serve each other. Color shows us the beauty hidden in the light, and light reveals the glories manifested by color. The light begins its journey at the sun, and ends in the visual cortex of the brain. Trying to remove color from this dynamic – by apprehending directly the essence of the light – is little different from wishing we never had a cortex in the first place. It omits the manifest dimension of the light.

This idea is still non-dual, in the sense that there is only light. Perception does not add anything real to the experience, only our awareness of it. It is dual, in the sense that light has all of these capacities to amaze us, and reveal new secrets. Thus, it is both non-dual and dual, as regards its essence and its manifestation. It is one, in a way that includes even the many.

How do this relate to purpose? Instead of seeking to obviate the manifest dimension of the light – and remove from experience this aspect of being – I think we are just meant to enjoy it, explore it, revel in it. We are to know and worship the light, by apprehending the significance of color. Light is a message of love from the Sun, and color, its language. By reading it, we connect to the Sun, just as a lover connects to the heart of his loved one when he reads her letters. Since we cannot approach the sun directly – without consuming our delicate nature – these epistles of light form the bond. We bridge the gap of end space in our hearts, by using our minds on Earth. This is the special power of the soul: to transcend by faith, using common words.

Once this is done, the lover does not end his life. To do so would also end his love. Rather, he yields consciousness of anything but the beloved. He strives, not to end color, but to magnify and laud and revel in the beauties of light. He becomes an artist, extracting from its potential all the possibilities it contains. Such is his communion. He may never bridge the limits of space, but he can climb the ladder of his love, and never cease to grow in wonder.

To light, color is not real – but it is real enough to the eye. Maya is not what we see, rather it is the truth of seeing. Would not ending maya altogether be the same as blindness? Perhaps maya is the glory of the Infinite as it shines and reaches our eyes, with their inherent limitations. In this way, every aspect of being contributes to the same end, the purpose of the light’s shining.