Kabir on maya and ego. Its easy to give one, but not the other

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By Bhupinder ‘Bo’ Singh | Gurmat |

ਕਬੀਰ ਮਾਇਆ ਤਜੀ ਤ ਕਿਆ ਭਇਆ ਜਉ ਮਾਨੁ ਤਜਿਆ ਨਹੀ ਜਾਇ ॥
ਮਾਨ ਮੁਨੀ ਮੁਨਿਵਰ ਗਲੇ ਮਾਨੁ ਸਭੈ ਕਉ ਖਾਇ ॥੧੫੬॥

“Kabir maiaa tajee ta kiaa bhiaa jau maan tajiaa nahee jai.
Maan munee munivar gale maan sabhai kau khai. 156.”
  (SGGS, Pg. No. 1372)

Translation: Kabir, what good is giving up Maya (illusionary material wealth), if the mortal does not give up his ego? Even the silent sages and seers are destroyed by ego; ego eats up everything. ||156||

Note: The literal translation of ‘maan (ਮਾਨ)’ should have been /pride or proud but looking at the usage of the word in the sentence the more appropriate translation is ego.

Explanation: Kabir is trying to tell us that giving up attachment to Maya (illusion of material wealth, mammon) is the easy part, but the real challenge is in giving one’s ego. The pull of Maya is so strong, that it has been called a universal seductress, whose allure traps everyone. It can be gauged from the fact that it is being chased by everyone in the world and unwilling to part from whatever has been acquired by them at any cost. The chase after material possessions is not just to save it for the rainy day alone, but to declare that I am more successful than you and ahead of you. This desire to be at the top on the totem pole is actually fueled by ego, the main ingredient of our identity.

In those days some people used to renounce the world of Maya becoming ascetics and head to forests in hopes of achieving salvation. Here, Kabir Ji is talking about those who have adopted this recourse and pointed out that even success there is not of much significance. In his eyes the real significant thing is to lose one’s ego. From his perspective the Maya is like a tree very visible, whose branches, limbs, and trunk can be cut and trimmed, but as long as the root is alive this trimmed outgrowth will return. So, he is advocating renunciation of ego.

He says ego ruins it all, even the sages who claim to have renounced Maya have been tricked, robbed, and ruined by it. Why it is difficult to get rid of ego? Because nobody desires to see his/her identity stripped in front of their eyes and mind. After all when ego is gone, what is left of the self – nothing. But when we let go of our ego, it is making room for the one higher energy that permeates in everyone to come in. When none other is left besides the One, than there is nobody to judge, or any need of self-judgement.

So, how do we start the journey? Start it by recognizing that I have ego, and pride. But then everyone else in this world is also afflicted by it, carrying the same virus. If one makes a conscious decision to part with it, then the first baby step will be becoming thankful I n life. Becoming thankful or living a life of gratitude is like shifting the spotlight from ‘me’ to ‘You’. ‘Y’ in You is capital as it is the one who is running this world game, where Maya and pride are occupying central stage and You is hidden. It is like a stage play where we see the puppets, but the real Puppeteer is hidden.

Another area to explore will be to become humble in life and be willing to be little. The pride expects to be served, while servanthood feels honored to be of service. Serving others shifts the focus from own wants to needs of others, thereby making us see something bigger than ourselves. So, let us all embark on this journey of discarding pride. But then these baby steps look easy, like walking daily. But really the hard part of the journey is to maintain the routine daily.

Bhupinder ‘Bo’ Singh, Houston. Born in Bhamo, Myanmar, he now lives in Houston, US, where he runs a manufacturing company formed with his son. A mechanical engineer by training, he has authored a number of books, including Connecting with the Master – A collection of essays on topics related to Sikhism (2006) and In Bully’s Eyes – An Illustrated Children’s book on Bullying (2019).

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