Excerpted from: Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramhansa Yogananda
The ancient Vedic scriptures declare that the physical world operates under one fundamental law of maya, the principle of relativity and duality. God, the Sole Life, is an Absolute Unity; He cannot appear as the separate and diverse manifestations of a creation except under a false or unreal veil. That cosmic illusion is maya. Every great scientific discovery of modern times has served as a confirmation of this simple pronouncement of the rishis.
Newton’s Law of Motion is a law of maya: “To every action there is always an equal and contrary reaction; the mutual actions of any two bodies are always equal and oppositely directed.” Action and reaction are thus exactly equal. “To have a single force is impossible. There must be, and always is, a pair of forces equal and opposite.”
Fundamental natural activities all betray their mayic origin. Electricity, for example, is a phenomenon of repulsion and attraction; its electrons and protons are electrical opposites. Another example: the atom or final particle of matter is, like the earth itself, a magnet with positive and negative poles. The entire phenomenal world is under the inexorable sway of polarity; no law of physics, chemistry, or any other science is ever found free from inherent opposite or contrasted principles.
Physical science, then, cannot formulate laws outside of maya, the very texture and structure of creation. Nature herself is maya; natural science must perforce deal with her ineluctable quiddity. In her own domain, she is eternal and inexhaustible; future scientists can do no more than probe one aspect after another of her varied infinitude. Science thus remains in a perpetual flux, unable to reach finality; fit indeed to formulate the laws of an already existing and functioning cosmos, but powerless to detect the Law Framer and Sole Operator. The majestic manifestations of gravitation and electricity have become known, but what gravitation and electricity are, no mortal knoweth.(1)
To surmount maya was the task assigned to the human race by the millennial prophets. To rise above the duality of creation and perceive the unity of the Creator was conceived of as man’s highest goal. Those who cling to the cosmic illusion must accept its essential law of polarity: flow and ebb, rise and fall, day and night, pleasure and pain, good and evil, birth and death. This cyclic pattern assumes a certain anguishing monotony, after man has gone through a few thousand human births; he begins to cast a hopeful eye beyond the compulsions of maya.
To tear the veil of maya is to pierce the secret of creation. The yogi who thus denudes the universe is the only true monotheist. All others are worshiping heathen images. So long as man remains subject to the dualistic delusions of nature, the Janus-faced Maya is his goddess; he cannot know the one true God.
The world illusion, maya, is individually called avidya, literally, “not-knowledge,” ignorance, delusion. Maya or avidya can never be destroyed through intellectual conviction or analysis, but solely through attaining the interior state of nirbikalpa samadhi. The Old Testament prophets, and seers of all lands and ages, spoke from that state of consciousness. Ezekiel says (43:1-2): “Afterwards he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the east: and, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory.” Through the divine eye in the forehead (east), the yogi sails his consciousness into omnipresence, hearing the Word or Aum, divine sound of many waters or vibrations which is the sole reality of creation.
Among the trillion mysteries of the cosmos, the most phenomenal is light. Unlike sound-waves, whose transmission requires air or other material media, light-waves pass freely through the vacuum of interstellar space. Even the hypothetical ether, held as the interplanetary medium of light in the undulatory theory, can be discarded on the Einsteinian grounds that the geometrical properties of space render the theory of ether unnecessary. Under either hypothesis, light remains the most subtle, the freest from material dependence, of any natural manifestation.
In the gigantic conceptions of Einstein, the velocity of light–186,000 miles per second–dominates the whole Theory of Relativity. He proves mathematically that the velocity of light is, so far as man’s finite mind is concerned, the only constant in a universe of unstayable flux. On the sole absolute of light-velocity depend all human standards of time and space. Not abstractly eternal as hitherto considered, time and space are relative and finite factors, deriving their measurement validity only in reference to the yardstick of light-velocity. In joining space as a dimensional relativity, time has surrendered age-old claims to a changeless value. Time is now stripped to its rightful nature–a simple essence of ambiguity! With a few equational strokes of his pen, Einstein has banished from the cosmos every fixed reality except that of light.
In a later development, his Unified Field Theory, the great physicist embodies in one mathematical formula the laws of gravitation and of electromagnetism. Reducing the cosmical structure to variations on a single law, Einstein(2) reaches across the ages to the rishis who proclaimed a sole texture of creation–that of a protean maya.
On the epochal Theory of Relativity have arisen the mathematical possibilities of exploring the ultimate atom. Great scientists are now boldly asserting not only that the atom is energy rather than matter, but that atomic energy is essentially mind-stuff. . .
“The stream of knowledge,” Sir James Jeans writes in The Mysterious Universe, “is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine.” Twentieth-century science is thus sounding like a page from the hoary Vedas.
From science, then, if it must be so, let man learn the philosophic truth that there is no material universe; its warp and woof is maya, illusion. Its mirages of reality all break down under analysis. As one by one the reassuring props of a physical cosmos crash beneath him, man dimly perceives his idolatrous reliance, his past transgression of the divine command: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”
In his famous equation outlining the equivalence of mass and energy, Einstein proved that the energy in any particle of matter is equal to its mass or weight multiplied by the square of the velocity of light. The release of the atomic energies is brought about through the annihilation of the material particles. The “death” of matter has been the “birth” of an Atomic Age.
Light-velocity is a mathematical standard or constant not because there is an absolute value in 186,000 miles a second, but because no material body, whose mass increases with its velocity, can ever attain the velocity of light. Stated another way: only a material body whose mass is infinite could equal the velocity of light.
This conception brings us to the law of miracles.
The masters who are able to materialize and dematerialize their bodies or any other object, and to move with the velocity of light, and to utilize the creative light-rays in bringing into instant visibility any physical manifestation, have fulfilled the necessary Einsteinian condition: their mass is infinite.
The consciousness of a perfected yogi is effortlessly identified, not with a narrow body, but with the universal structure. Gravitation, whether the “force” of Newton or the Einsteinian “manifestation of inertia,” is powerless to compel a master to exhibit the property of “weight” which is the distinguishing gravitational condition of all material objects. He who knows himself as the omnipresent Spirit is subject no longer to the rigidities of a body in time and space. Their imprisoning “rings-pass-not” have yielded to the solvent: “I am He.”
“Fiat lux! And there was light.” God’s first command to His ordered creation (Genesis 1:3) brought into being the only atomic reality: light. On the beams of this immaterial medium occur all divine manifestations. Devotees of every age testify to the appearance of God as flame and light. “The King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto.”(3)
A yogi who through perfect meditation has merged his consciousness with the Creator perceives the cosmical essence as light; to him there is no difference between the light rays composing water and the light rays composing land. Free from matter-consciousness, free from the three dimensions of space and the fourth dimension of time, a master transfers his body of light with equal ease over the light rays of earth, water, fire, or air. Long concentration on the liberating spiritual eye has enabled the yogi to destroy all delusions concerning matter and its gravitational weight; thenceforth he sees the universe as an essentially undifferentiated mass of light. . .
Through a master’s divine knowledge of light phenomena, he can instantly project into perceptible manifestation the ubiquitous light atoms. The actual form of the projection–whether it be a tree, a medicine, a human body–is in conformance with a yogi’s powers of will and of visualization.
In man’s dream-consciousness, where he has loosened in sleep his clutch on the egoistic limitations that daily hem him round, the omnipotence of his mind has a nightly demonstration. Lo! there in the dream stand the long-dead friends, the remotest continents, the resurrected scenes of his childhood. With that free and unconditioned consciousness, known to all men in the phenomena of dreams, the God-tuned master has forged a never-severed link. Innocent of all personal motives, and employing the creative will bestowed on him by the Creator, a yogi rearranges the light atoms of the universe to satisfy any sincere prayer of a devotee. For this purpose were man and creation made: that he should rise up as master of maya, knowing his dominion over the cosmos.
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”(4)
(1) Marconi, the great inventor, made the following admission of scientific inadequacy before the finalities: “The inability of science to solve life is absolute. This fact would be truly frightening were it not for faith. The mystery of life is certainly the most persistent problem ever placed before the thought of man.”
(2) A clue to the direction taken by Einstein’s genius is given by the fact that he is a lifelong disciple of the great philosopher Spinoza, whose best-known work is Ethics Demonstrated in Geometrical Order.
(3) I Timothy 6:15-16.
(4) Genesis 1:26.