Maya, the Material Power,
Creates Many Worlds
The Shvetashvatar Upanishad explains that Maya is an eternal power of God that manifests many amazing worlds. According to current science, we have a better sense that there are an unlimited quantity of worlds that exist in the universe.
Since 1990, the Hubble Deep Field Telescope has taken pictures in deep space through a narrow "keyhole" view, covering a speck of the sky only about the width of a dime 75 feet away.
Though the field is a very small sample of the heavens, it is considered representative of the typical distribution of galaxies in space, because as far as we can tell, the universe is largely the same in all directions. Hubble uncovered a bewildering assortment of at least 1,500 galaxies at various stages of evolution.(Click here to read more.)
These are galaxies like the Milky Way Galaxy, not planets like our Earth. Undoubtedly more lies unseen, only due to the limitations of technology.
Hinduism also provides an answer to "how it all began". The sequence of the universe's expansion is detailed in the Bhagwatam:
These stages in detail are:
- Creation is inspired by God's will;
- Kal (time energy) and Maya are activated; this phase is called mahan;
- Mahan evolves into ahankar, cosmic ego;
- Pancha tanmatra, the subtle instincts or characteristics of the 5 elements, evolve;
- Pancha mahabhoot, the subtle form of the elements, evolves;
- Previously in a dormant state, God activates the souls and their karmas;
- Panchikaran, the individual elements merge with each other;
- Akasha, space, the first gross manifestation of the elements, emerges; uncountable pockets of space are formed;
- Vayu (typically translated as wind or air) evolves from akasha and creates movement; circular movement begins in space;
- Agni (typically translated as fire) evolves from vayu, which produces energy, heat and light in the form of evenly emerging sub-particles;
- Apah (typically translated as water) emerges; hydrogen atoms are formed from annihilated sub-particles;
- Prithivi (typically translated as earth) emerges and cosmic bodies are formed; gravity predominates.
Stages 1 through 9 are unperceived by modern science and unknown.
Our planetary system or brahmanada is included within the universal creation, but was manifested at a different time. It has a separate lifespan and immediate creator called 'Brahma'.
Our brahmanda is comprised of our earth, the sun and other visible celestial bodies, and a much larger portion is comprised of subtler, unseen worlds. All together this is our complete planetary system.
The Devi Bhagwat Purana also explains that it may be possible to count the grains of sand on this earth, but it is impossible to calculate the number of brahmandas that exist in the universe. There is life on all these planetary systems.
This is all the external creation of Maya, the material energy.
The internal world of Maya
Another subtle world that is more vast then any external world is the internal world of your mind. This is the field of your thoughts, feelings, attachments, hopes, ambitions, sorrows and disappointments.
We may oftentimes feel we are at the mercy of our physical environment and bodies, but the internal world of Maya actually exerts a much more powerful control over you than the external world.
The nature of your inner world is that it expands in the presence of the outer world.
Think back to your childhood and your favorite cookie. If you were convinced there were no cookies in the house, you would eat a banana. If your mother was fooling you, and you had a mere glimpse of a cookie, your previously extinguished desire would ignite -- and then there would not be a single fruit on this earth that could satisfy you. It would be, "Get the cookie or die trying."
We have experienced this external expansion since our childhood. Behind the expansion is our internal and constant demand for happiness, plus our assumption that happiness is here in the external world -- in someone or something. That 'someone' or 'something' is peculiar to you. There is no 'universal someone' or 'universal something' that everyone agrees is a source of happiness. We can only agree we need happiness.
Your longing plus your understanding inspires fulfilling desires related to your five senses. You desire things to see, hear, taste, smell and touch. You are on red alert every moment for what can satisfy your particular desires.
We will compromise for less than what we desire (think of the last time you went to your favorite restuarant and your favorite dish was removed from the menu), but ultimately this doesn't make us happy. We continue to have the gnawing sensation that something is missing. The question is: If you get what you really want, will you then be happy?