June 2016 Subject of the Month ~ Maya and Prajna

Through the Looking Glass: Maya and Prajna

fun house

 The play between maya (my-ah, our illusions and expectations) and prajna (praazh-na, pristine wisdom and clear seeing of reality) leads to our greatest frustrations and our greatest learning opportunities in life. These are not opposites, rather two different reflections through the mirror of our perception. One view reflects clearly what is happening and is rooted in prajna, and the other is a distorted representation like a fun house mirror and is rooted in maya (how we see what is happening). Based on which way we look, the world appears completely differently, but we often do not realize how much our own thoughts and emotions distort what really happened. The trick becomes to recognize in ourselves the “stuck” and murky places in our expectations that distort our view, and use that knowledge to smooth the mirror of our perception toward the maturity, skillfulness and ease of clear seeing.

I remember watching the movie “500 Days of Summer” many years ago, and being struck by the impact of a split scene sequence in which the lead character was going to a party that his ex- girlfriend was also attending. He was convinced she was still into him, even though she had made it very clear that they were done. One side of the screen was “reality” and one side “expectation”. The split screen played out side by side the happenings at the party as seen through the warped mirror of expectations of the guy versus what was actually happening. And as you can guess, they were two very different stories! He constantly missed opportunities and squandered any chance of enjoyment in the whole party stuck in his narrow world of neediness and resentment!

expectations vs reality

We’ve all been there! We can often end up looking at life through the fragmented lens of our own needs and wants. When we want or don’t want something badly, or feel attacked or overlooked, we can shut down or fire back quickly if it doesn’t go “our” way. We demonize the other, or become defensive, aggressive or simply stop caring at all. Maya is the energy of the illusion that keeps us in this struggle as long as we steep in the blame, guilt, and resentment that fuel our clouded view. And maya is also the energy that allows for the lifting of the veil of our disappointment and anger long enough for a glimmer of wisdom, an opportunity to move toward the clear seeing of limited our experience. This wisdom holds the big picture and is inclusive and brilliant. It will inform us on what is really happening and what is needed to serve harmony and wholeness, letting us expand from our own small viewpoint. It will allow us to see the world as it is, not as we want it to be. How long we stay in the struggle until then is our choice, so the teachings say!

This month, let’s look for the moments in difficulties when maya lifts the veil long enough for us to glimpse the beauty and radiance of the wisdom mind. We can do this in class and in life by practicing the five qualities, or paramitas, that stabilize a mind cultivated in prajna;  generosity, discipline, exertion, patience and meditation. With clear motives, pick one and practice it with dedication for a month and see what changes!

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