Wednesday, March 18, 2009

maya, illusion, reality and craftsmanship

A friend of mine, in response to a conversation about our worsening economic times, said,"It's not real. It's maya." So I gently explained that the concept of maya doesn't mean that the world is not real, that real people are not being thrown out of real homes and losing real jobs in this recession, but that our perceived distinctions between things is illusory. The concept of narrowly defined self that drives our economy is illusion. There are no real boundaries between us as you can see from where ever you are sitting and reading this text.

There was an old Jackson Browne song that explained it, "From the time we've known that we each are a part of one another, we've lost as much as we have won." Our economy and culture have been built on the concepts of winning and losing and we are at the time of reconciliation, understanding of reality.

The misunderstanding of the meaning of Maya is hazardous. It allows individuals to disregard, diminish and disparage the reality of each other, marginalizing the significance of of what each of us is going through.

In life, we are given a choice of dwelling either in our separation from each other through close examination of boundaries, or by uniting with each other through examining the extended relationships that form the framework of greater self. It is the narrow definition of self that is the lie, the gross mis-perception.

There are things about craftsmanship that lead one beyond him or herself. The immersion in creative process, taking raw materials, reshaping them toward the objective of creating greater utility and beauty for the lives of others is a process through which we transcend the boundaries of self. The other side of the process is the difficult one, that tends to challenge me. It is where I must take personal gain from the process. I have to make money. It is required by existence on the physical plane in very real physical reality. It is no illusion when the bills arrive in the mail and must be paid. The challenge is in perception of balance.

No, life is not an illusion. Life IS profound and very real. We are deeply interconnected with each other in ways that defy understanding. And it's not just the hardwires and software of the internet that make it so for it has always been. We are inextricably a part of one another.

These times are interesting. The irrational greed of those from AIG and Wall St. juxtaposed to the incredible generosity of the common people. The difference between Maya and reality is brilliantly illuminated. When we connect with each other either in craftsmanship, or in service, we enter the real world. And it is no illusion.


Nic said...


Just found your blog the other day, and wanted to jump into the conversation. I find your connection of woodworking and Zen fascinating. The close attention required of the woodworker, the continual refocusing of the mind, certainly lends itself to Zazen comparisons.

I'm reminded of a passage in "Zen Mind Beginner's Mind" by D.T. Suzuki, he writes, "Calmness of mind does not mean you should stop your activity. Real calmness should be found in activity" What woodworker hasn't felt a sense of calm when he is in the flow of a project? Then again how quickly we anger when the inevitable mistake crops up. The challenge then it seems, in both Zen and woodworking, is to pursue the perfection of an art form with a continuously calm mind. A life goal to be sure...

Look forward to your future posts.


Doug Stowe said...

I learned something about mindfulness standing on the banks of the Mississippi River near Memphis. Just think how a single drop of water can be so loud as to disturb a nights sleep. And yet, the river, full of water, bank to bank can flow so quietly that you can hear for miles.

There can be stillness without repression or denial of thought.

Getting angry about mistakes is not a natural part of our humanity but is a response generated by a heightened sensitivity to the judgments of others. When I began noticing that all the important discoveries in my work were related to the mistakes I made, I stopped cursing and began welcoming them with a sense of equanimity.

ND said...

Thanks for showing the way to another intersting blog. Thanks for linking back to my blog, Mindculture, as well.
Both are on my favourites now.
I like seeing the other points of view, always. After all, that is how we grow.
Just as a lamp, ligting another lamp, does not diminish the brightness from the first, sharing and as you put it, connecting, make us all grow wiser, closer, and better.
ND - Mindculture