What is Maya, or Illusion?

Welcome to Part 15 of The Seeker’s Story, where Namit continues his exploration into yoga philosophy. This week, he discusses Maya or Illusion. What is that exactly and how are we deluded?

Previous Chapters:

Chapter 1 & 2 – Yoga Sutra – A Seeker’s Story Part 1.

Chapter 3 –      What is Yoga?

Chapter 4 –      Yoga’s Theory of Creation 

Chapter 5 –     Happiness and Oneness 

Chapter 6 –     Does Magic Really Exist? 

Chapter 7 –     Who is God?

Chapter 8 –    What is Karma?  

Chapter 9 –    What is Spirituality? What is Spirit? 

Chapter 10 –   What is Prana? Is it the Same as Breath? 

Chapter 11:    Why do We Do Postures in Yoga?

Chapter 12:  What’s the Point of Meditation? 

Chapter 13:  Why a State of Balance is Important for Enlightenment 

Chapter 14:  What are the Eight Limbs of Yoga? 

Chapter 15: Is Yoga a Religion or a Philosophy?

Yoga Sutra – The Seeker’s Story


Namit Kathoria 


What is Maya, or Illusion?

The next day came and I woke up thinking about how everyone there in India had an equal amount of respect for God regardless of what faith they had. I had met people from many different religious backgrounds before I had arrived in this village. As far as I could tell people from all the different religions had equal amounts of goodness inside them. 

Anyway it was time for me to think about what question I would ask that day. After my particularly unhealthy breakfast at the cafe that morning I went for a walk in a nearby wood and just thought. I had heard a lot of people on my visit to India talk about something called maya or illusion. To be honest I had no idea what they were talking about. So I decided on that day to make this my question for yogi ji. 

And yogi ji today was just being himself as usual. He was resting on his shoulders with his legs above, behind and out to the sides of him. He must be so incredibly flexible, I thought to myself. 

‘What is maya yogi ji? I asked. 

‘Wait for me to finish,’ he snapped back. 

‘He he sorry I forgot.’ 

I waited for yogi ji to finish and we started talking. It was exceptionally hot that afternoon so we both moved into the shade. 

‘Maya means illusion Jake. That means attraction to the matter in this world. Nothing made out of anything physical, that is matter, ever lasts in this world. Everything physical will eventually decay, get old or even break but it does not last. Attraction to something physical which does not last is maya Jake.’ 

‘Okay I agree that physical things either get old or deteriorate but how do you overcome any attachment to these things yogi ji?’ I asked. 

‘Realising the physical thing is only temporary makes you feel less attracted to it. The places that you see in your dreams, the happiness that exists in your mind, these are the important and permanent things. And by staying focused on these things and the spiritual things that we talked about earlier, things like friendship, you remain less attached to the physical things.’ 

‘But yogi ji does this mean that I should not feel happy when I see something beautiful?’ 

‘No not at all Jake, if you see something nice you should feel happy. It is automatic to feel happy. The person who created the beautiful thing would have been inspired by something he or she has seen in their dreams that has made them happy. You would naturally feel happy looking at it too. But do not let your happiness depend on a physical thing which is not permanent. This is maya. Be attached instead to the nice place that exists in the dreams of the person who created it in the first place. In this spiritual place you will find true permanent happiness.’ 

‘I will keep my attachment on this spiritual place that creates beautiful thoughts in that case yogi ji.’ 

I went for a walk around the trees for the rest of the day. The lake was starting to lose its charm for me. I guessed the physical lake was only giving me temporary happiness. I laughed to myself. To be honest it was the feeling of calmness of being by the lake that I was really attached to. That is what I wanted to experience always, pure tranquillity. 

[Stay tuned for Chapter 17: Light next week]

About Namit Kathoria

Namit Kathoria has a Bachelors Degree from King’s College London in Pharmacy and a Masters Degree in Clinical Pharmacy from Queen’s University Belfast. He is also a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain and has worked the Pharmacist Advisor to NHS Direct. He hence has a vast knowledge of health which he applies to his yoga teaching. He has studied yoga across the world including various parts of his native India including Dharamshala, Rishikesh and Mysore. He currently teaches yoga retreats in Spain at Yoga Sutra Shala in Sayalonga. To read more please visit www.retreats-yoga.com.

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