When we the prisoners fall in love with our captors
By Purushottam Nitai Das
To control the elephant is humanly impossible. So as soon as the baby elephant is born, the elephant trainer ties him with a rope to a pole. Initially the baby elephant tries his best to break the rope but because of his tender body he fails. The newly born elephant tries again and again but every time he fails. The baby elephant gets convinced that he is not strong enough to break it. He accepts it to be his destiny and continues to be tied. And even when he grows up acquiring a gigantic form he can still be tied by a rope. Although he can now easily break the rope but remains bound because since his infancy days his mind has been programmed to believe without any doubt that he does not have the strength to free himself from the bondage.
This is the same trick which maya, the illusionary energy of the Supreme Lord, applies. She captures the soul as soon he falls in the material realm and puts him in illusion. Maya binds the soul tightly using the shackles of 5 senses and the mind. To make sure that we remain under her complete subjugation she goads us to feed our senses. She convinces us that sense enjoyment guarantees unlimited happiness in this world. But the more we gratify our senses, the stronger it becomes and the grip of maya over us tightens. Subsequently, we lose all hope to free ourselves from the clutches of maya and we helplessly become the permanent resident of this material world.
Maya adopts various strategies to bind the living entities in the material world. A substandard product is immediately rejected by the customers. But it is said that a shrewd salesperson can even sell a refrigerator to an eskimo. Let us understand this by an example. In America during 1920s the cigarette industry was nearing market saturation. During that time it was only men who smoked and most men were now smoking so the tobacco industries were facing difficulty in expanding their business. And most of the women were non-smokers because as per the social norms the cultured women were not supposed to smoke. So the marketing strategists came up with an idea. The idea was to make women believe that by smoking cigarettes they were waging war against gender discrimination. So they advertised cigarettes as “Torches of Freedom” and thousands of women bought the narrative and became smokers.
Maya too attractively packages the objects of this world and sells it to us. She tricks us to believe that by enjoying the senses we will enjoy the world and can live happily here forever. Enjoying senses is akin to smoking cigarettes. As cigarettes slowly but surely burns us inside similarly sense gratification for sure becomes the cause of our suffering and bondage.
Although held hostage by maya the living entities considers her as her best well-wisher. Psychologists call it Stockholm syndrome. Stockholm syndrome is a condition wherein hostages develop psychological alliance with the captors and starts sympathizing with their agendas and demands. The victims live in enforced dependence, are subjected to torture and are forced to live in horrible conditions but their desire for survival is so great that a small or rare acts of kindness they interpret it as great favor.
We the living entities too live in the subjugation of maya and in the turbulent waves of material existence we are continuously tossed up and down. The astute maya pops up some morsels of material success occasionally towards us. Upon receiving it we suffering souls dance in joy, we consider her to be the most benevolent and we the prisoners fall in love with her. We quietly allow her to take control of our life. While we suffer we keep our hopes alive and believe that one fine day goddess maya will allow the destiny to smile upon us.
Whatever material stuffs maya throws at us does not satisfy our hearts. Neither the fame nor the fortune nor the flickering relationships of this world provide much pleasure to our hearts. Maya is extremely powerful and clever, so in front of her we are insignificant. The great Vaisnava poet Vidyapati says, “What can one drop of water do for watering the dry desert of the heart?” To water the desert millions of gallons of water is required. But this drop of water too has great potency because it is a reflection of the unlimited ocean.
Similarly, maya being the reflection of the unlimited energy of the Supreme Lord is enormously powerful. Svetasvatara Upanisad 4.10 says, “Although maya [illusion] is false or temporary, the background of maya is the supreme magician, the Personality of Godhead, who is Mahesvara, the supreme controller.” Maya cannot do us any good but she has the great potency to bewilder us in this world. Krishna in Bhagavad Gita 7.14 clearly states, “This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome.” Maya binds us tightly here by the ropes of illusion.
So what is the hope for us? Are we destined to remain the prisoners of maya forever?
Although maya is too powerful but she is not the most powerful. She being the energy of Krishna is subservient to Him. So if we want to escape from maya’s captivity then we have to seek protection of Krishna. Without the help of Krishna or His pure devotees we cannot wage a war against maya. We will be easily defeated. Srila Prabhupada explains, “Kṛṣṇa, being the Lord of the illusory energy, can order this insurmountable energy to release the conditioned soul. He orders this release out of His causeless mercy on the surrendered soul and out of His paternal affection for the living entity, who is originally a beloved son of the Lord. Therefore surrender unto the lotus feet of the Lord is the only means to get free from the clutches of the stringent material nature.” Gita 7.14 Purport
We tiny little living entities can be put in illusion by maya at any moment and we can again fall in love with her and forget Krishna. Krishna is aware about our predicament. So many times he personally intervenes or sends his messengers who are free from any illusion to remove the veil of ignorance. Our only hope is Krishna. So let us fervently pray to Krishna, the master of maya, to free us from her clutches and fill our dry heart with flood of mercy.