माया महा ठगनी हम जानी
तिरगुन फांस लिए कर डोले, बोले मधुरे बानी
केसव के कमला होई बैठी, शिव के भवन भवानी
पंडा के मूरत होई बैठीं, तीरथ में भई पानी
योगी के योगिनी होई बैठी, राजा के घर रानी
काहू के हीरा बन बैठी, काहू के कौड़ी कानी
भगतन की भगतिनी होई बैठी, ब्रह्मा के ब्रह्माणी
कहे कबीर सुनो भई साधो, यह सब अकथ कहानी
Maya is the biggest con I know of
She roams around with three guna trap you in her hand, & speaks the sweetest words
At Keshav’s home she lives as Kamala, at Shiva’s as Bhavani
For Pandits she becomes the Murti, for pilgrims she becomes water
With Yogis she lives as Yogini, with kings as their queen
For some she becomes a diamond and for others just a penny
For Bhaktas she is the devotee as she is Brahamani with Brahma
Kabir says, O my dear Sadhus – it is a story you can’t tell
Reflections on Maya Mahathahini…
Maya – the illusion or the manifestation we all see, hear, smell and experience with all our senses is not an easy subject to understand. Maya is everywhere and yet no one seems to understand her. Every learned person has tried their best to explain Maya but they have managed to only achieve limited success. Even when people have understood it themselves, it is not easy to explain it to others.
When I read the works of Gopinath Kaviraj, I could sense the same limits. He knows and understands but what he can communicate through words is very limited.
Kabir in his impeccably simple style puts it in simple words.
In this pada, he calls Maya, a Mahathagini – one of the biggest con that he knows off. Right, who can be a bigger con that Maya, whose illusions keep us trapped for not just this life but all possible lives that we can live. She makes us believe that the world we are living in is real, while it is just her Leela – her playful creation.
How does she do it? Well, she roams around with a noose of Trigunas or the three Gunas, with which she created and sustains this whole universe. When you read Pradhanik Rahasya in the Angas of Devi Mahatmya, you learn about the Mahalakshmi splitting her own Nirakar (without and shape and form) and Nirguna (form that is beyond the 3 gunas) self into three forms called Mahasaraswati, Mahalakshmi and Mahakali representing the Sattva, Rajas and Tamas gunas. Roughly translated they mean the pure energy, active energy and restless energy. With the interplay of these three energies she created all the diverse living and non-living things in the world.
So, Kabir says these 3 gunas or Trigunas are the trap that she has in her hand. She is not sitting at one place but she moves and roams around holding this noose. On top of it, she speaks in the sweetest words to keep you entrapped in Maya or the web of illusions.
Some singers sing it as Nirguna Phasa – but that does not make sense as Nirguna does not creates any boundaries, it actually opens all the bonds leaving you independent or to merge back with the ultimate consciousness we know as Brahman.
Listen to the rendition of this Shabda by Pt Chhanulal Mishra
Then he moves on to tell you that if you think you can get out of this trap, let me take you to all the people holds in her trap in her myriad forms. With Keshav or Vishnu, she lives as Kamala or Lakshmi, and in the home of Shiva she lives as Bhavani. You think you can escape her if Vishnu and Shiva cannot escape her!
For the Pandits she manifests as a Murti or Vigraha. At pilgrimage places, she takes the form of water in which everyone takes a dip, soak themselves. How are you going to escape her!
Listen to folk rendition of this Pada by Prahalad Tippaniya ji
In the next three lines, he takes us to the people who are at different ends of a continuum or poles apart. At one end are those we think do not affected by Maya and at other end those who seem completely soaked in Maya. Kabir indicates that what we perceive may not be right, for Maya is always present, sometimes obvious and sometimes not so obvious.
Yogis, whom we all think to be detached from the world, she surrounds them as Yogini. On the other end of the spectrum, the kings who lead luxurious life have Maya in the form of their queens.
For some she takes the form of material wealth like the shining diamonds, we usually think of these people as rich people. At the home of a poor she takes the form of Kani Kaudi – this was the smallest currency denomination during the times of Kabir. Even when she seems to be in her feeble form, she is there, omnipresent.
In a devotee’s life, she exists as their Bhakti or devotion. On the other hand, in the life of those who receive this devotion like Brahma, she lives as Brahmani – the shakti of Brahma.
Listen to Kumara Gandharva version this poem
Kabir finally addresses his listeners who he calls Sadho – the good people, and says – this is an unnarratable story. I tried to explain, but this is the limit of my explanation. Beyond this you must experience it yourself. That is Maya!