Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Project Idea: Maya

Maya is a key concept in the Indian cultural tradition, but it is difficult to translate into English: the most common word used is "illusion," but it's not just a matter of simple trickery or deceit. Maya is about the fundamental unreality of what we like to call reality; it is the veil of appearances beyond which true reality is hidden.

Research Tip: Start with the Wikipedia article about Maya, and you will see how the term has had different meanings over time and in different Indian philosophical schools. Then, you can start looking for stories from the epics the exemplify the traps. Like Karma and Dharma, Maya is a universal concept: Maya is at work in every story at all times; it's for you to decide which stories you want to retell in order to explore the concept of Maya as you see it.

You might also enjoy the amazing legend of the Maya Sita: according to this version of the Ramayana, Sita never went to Lanka at all; that was just a phantom Sita. The real Sita was returned to Rama by the god Agni when the phantom Sita entered the fire. Even more amazing: a similar story is told about Helen of Troy!

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