Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Lila/Maya in Indian Religions

In Hinduism, the entire universe is seen as an incarnation of God (Brahman), rather than God as separate from the universe. All the evolutionary processes of the universe are the unfolding of God’s very being.

What we see as the created universe is really God’s Lila or play. Like in Buddhism, all conditioned things (Maya) are empty of inherent existence. The reason for suffering and evil in the world, aside from the law of karma, is to advance our spiritual development.

The entire purpose of evolutionary history was for beings like us to emerge, to ultimately reject the cosmic illusion (Lila/Maya) and realize God as the True Self, an experience equivalent to Buddhahood or Nirvana.

The ultimate nature of God in Hinduism is transpersonal (beyond attributes, beyond the notion of a personal God), just as Dharmakaya and Nirvana in Buddhism are transpersonal.

When God is depicted in a personal form, such as Shiva or Vishnu, it’s a provisional aid to ultimately realizing atman, the individual self, as Brahman. This is like how all the celestial buddhas and bodhisattvas are ultimately provisional aids to realizing one’s own Buddha-nature as one with the Dharmakaya.

I am attempting to explain these concepts in as simple of terms as possible, which isn’t easy to do. I also realize that there are differences between Mahayana and Theravada, which has maybe a “less developed” metaphysics than Mahayana Buddhism, and therefore doesn’t have concepts like Buddha-nature or the Dharmakaya.

In Theravada Buddhism, nonetheless, the statue of a Buddha is ultimately symbolic of enlightenment itself, since the Buddha is seen as inacessable in his state of Parinirvana, rather than as a personal god. The purpose of devotionalism in Theravada Buddhism is to humble one’s ego so that Nirvana may ultimately be attained.

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