Once upon a time*, Lord Vishnu was travelling with Narada Rishi. On their way, Naradaji asks Shri Hari, “What is this thing called Maya of yours? I have heard a great deal about it. I have heard that even great yogis have fallen for it, at times’.”

Lord Vishnu, with His pleasant countenance, asks Naradaji to fetch some water for Him first, pointing to an old dilapidated well nearby. Obeying the lord’s command, Naradaji leaves to get water. Once near the well, he notices someone has fallen into it and is screaming for help.

Naradaji reaches there, notices a lady is desperately trying to get out of the water. Naradji somehow pulls her out. The lady thanks Naradaji profusely for his timely help and saving her life. After hearing such good words from a young charming lady, Naradaji’s feeling which was of care until now, evolves into that of love and attraction.

He starts thinking that it won’t be such a bad idea to have a companion like many other ascetics, after all. Ultimately, they get into a relationship and start living in a nearby forest.

Few years pass by, Naradaji now has a few sons from this relationship. They all live happily in their ashram. Naradaji would divide his time between his prayers and his new family. His would cook for and look after all of them. He was now having a great time. Life was all hunky-dory.

One day, suddenly, out of nowhere, a huge wave comes crashing at the ashram, and takes away everything but Naradji with it. Upon losing his sons and beloved wife, Naradaji starts crying in pain. Suddenly, Lord Vishnu appears with his usual smile asking Naradaji the reason for his sorrow.

Naradaji, with a heavy heart, tells Him about his great loss — of his sons and the loving wife. Hearing this, Lord flickers a smile: ‘What sons? What wife? I asked you to fetch some water from this well (he says pointing towards the same old well). All of a sudden, Naradji understands what had just transpired. He bows to Shri Hari, “Lord, I have my answer. Now I understand what Maya is!”

Aren’t we all like Naradaji — We start our laptops to only check important emails, but then notice what is happening on the Indo-China border, how advanced is military technology these days, and after an hour, we might end up being educated on the Ayurvedic benefits of a random plant growing in South Africa, or maybe what came up in the NCB interrogation of some Bollywood actresses? 

I feel that if this physical world is Maya, then the virtual world is Maya squared (Maya² or Maya with double the power). If engaging in this world deteriorates the quality of our feeble meditation attempts, then engaging in the online world would hamper it even more.

Just like there is no escape from this physical world while alive; our work from home, online classes, and modern work culture make it impossible to not get online.

Someone might say, ‘But, but I use it to read about spirituality, follow online discourses, find information about different yogic practices^’. Let me tell you, it doesn’t matter how advanced the search engines become, one can never find enlightenment on it. T

he web** is a wonderful human invention making our lives better in many ways. But, the internet is a source of information, not a source of knowledge. We download information but knowledge sprouts. The choice is ours: We could either remain connected to our local area network (or even 4G/5G) or try to connect to the cosmic network on which our beloved Swamiji is.

Just imagine looking into a clear sky of Himalayan mountains. Imagine if you just look at a star and get to know everything about it. Is it a planet with life on it or a sun supporting another solar system? Maybe just a lonely celestial body with barren mountains and serene craters. Or maybe an entire galaxy hiding within it numerous solar systems.Maybe we will find that God is not an entity sitting somewhere or energy concentrated at one location.

I think that is how being on the cosmic network would be. Nothing is not known. Maybe that is what samadhi is. Being on the cosmic network.

I think the opposite of Maya would be consciousness or awareness.

These seven yogic practices, as explained by Swamiji, greatly enhances one’s awareness. In addition, in my personal experience, fasting helps — both digital and physical fasting. Fasting of thoughts, words, and actions.

One easy exercise is, to give up your phone for one day every week. No good morning messages, no sharing of useful quotes, no checking of national news, or even emails. Maybe you could answer calls, if you want to.

If giving up food for a day is difficult, the least you could do is eat consciously. Maybe someday I might write about my understanding of why intermittently giving up food builds super-consciousness. Right now, I need to check my Instagram feed***.

Cover pic: Hubble Deep Field

P.S.: * I don’t remember exactly, but I think I heard or read this in one of Swamiji’s discourses/articles somewhere. I tried to paraphrase it here to the best of my ability.

^ To be honest here, I myself have read (watched) almost all of the Swamiji’s article and YouTube videos. When I ran out of His books to read, I even ordered and read The Children of Tomorrow, even when I have no such weird plans.

** Now I wonder if the inventors of the internet knew beforehand that someday humans would be entangled in it like a moth in a spider web.

*** Just kidding. Os.me and LinkedIn are on the only social media platform I am available on.