Since I am an Indian, the word maya was not new to me when I joined
ISKCON. I may have been familiar with the word, but I had a very limited
understanding of what maya actually is. I knew that material life is
maya, that family attachment is mdyd. This concept is very common,
even among people in general. When I joined ISKCON, I started to hear
this word maya more frequently. At that time, the devotee who was my
supervisor would use this word quite often. If I did anything he didn’t
like, he would say, "This is mayd, prabhu! You are in maya, prabhu!"
Whenever | didn’t get up for mangala-drati, he would say, "You are in
maya, prabhu." Whenever I did not want to go out for book distribution,
he would say, "You are simply in maya, prabhu." I used to hear the word
maya so many times throughout the day. It is quite possible that we
heard the word mayd more often than the word Krsna. In those days
my concept of maya was different than it is now. That concept was not
incorrect, but it was very limited. Now, after having read and studied
Srila Prabhupada’s books thoroughly, I have come to know so much
more about maya and about its manifold aspects. Much of what I have
learned about maya will be described in this book.
Maya is a word that has many different meanings. For example, the
verse of the Bhagavad-gita that ends sambhavadmy dtma-mayayda (Bg.
4.6) has been explained by our dcaryas in a variety of ways, often giving
a variety of definitions for the word mayd. Those explanations and
definitions will be discussed in this book in a separate chapter.
Despite those varied definitions, in this book we will use the word
maya mainly in connection to the energy of Lord Sri Krsna. The Lord’s
unlimited energies fall primarily into three different categories: the
internal potency, the external potency, and the marginal potency. The
internal potency is also known as the svarupa-Sakti or the antaranga-
Sakti or the cit-Sakti. The external potency is also known as the
bahiranga-Sakti or the mayd-Sakti of the Lord. That bahiranga- or maya-
Sakti is also known as maha-mayéd or the external energy. Through that
external energy the Lord produces this material cosmic manifestation;
the creation, maintenance, and annihilation of this material world all
take place with the help of the bahiranga-Sakti, maha-maya.
The Supreme Lord’s internal potency, which is active in the spiritual
world, is known as yoga-maya. By this potency the Lord manifests the
spiritual world. All the activities in the spiritual world take place by the
power of yoga-maya.
Whenever the Lord descends into this material world His appearance
and activities also take place with the help of His yoga-maya potency.
ajo ‘pi sann avyayatma
bhutdnam isvaro ‘pi san
prakrtim svam adhisthaya
"Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates,
and although I am the Lord of all living entities, I still appear in every
millennium in My original transcendental form." (Bhagavad-gitd 4.6)
In this verse Gtma-mdayd refers to yoga-maya, or the svarupa-Sakti of
the Lord. Yoga-maya is beyond the three modes of material nature,
whereas maha-maya is tri-gunatmikd, a manifestation of those three
material modes. Since the birth and activities of Lord Sri Krsna take
place through the agency of yoga-mayd they are known as divya or
transcendental; they are transcendental to the three modes of material
nature. In the Bhagavad-gita (4.9) Lord Krsna says:
Janma karma ca me divyam
evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma
naiti mam eti so ‘rjuna
"One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and
activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this
material world but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna."
Living entities in the spiritual world work under the influence of yoga-
maya, and thus they remain engaged in the service of the Lord. Living
entities who desire to enjoy separately from Sri Krsna are captured by
krsna bahirmukha haji jiva bhoga-vanfcha kare
nikata-stha maya tare japatiya dhare
"Turning his face away from Krsna, the jiva develops the desire to enjoy.
Standing nearby, Maya slaps him and seizes hold of him." (Jagadananda
The maya that traps the conditioned soul is called bahiranga maya.
There are two types of bahirangd mayd. One is called praksepatmika
and the other advaranatmika.
Any living entity who desires to enjoy separately from Sri Krsna is
separated by praksepatmikd maya from the spiritual realm and thrown
into the material world. Since time immemorial, such living entities
find themselves in these unfortunate circumstances, in which maya
metes out punishment by subjecting them to an unlimited variety of
sufferings, especially the sufferings associated with the cycle of birth
krsna bhuli’ sei jiva anddi-bahirmukha
ataeva maya tare deya samsara-duhkha
"Forgetting Krsna, the living entity has been attracted by the external
feature from time immemorial. Therefore the illusory energy [maya]
gives him all kinds of misery in his material existence." (Caitanya-
caritamrta, Madhya-lila 20.117)
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