Ancient Wisdom for Modern Maya

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In the early days of the Internet era, one fine day, Sri Swamiji jokingly mentioned that Maya, the divine deluding potency of Bhagavan, has taken a three-pronged incarnation in these times – TV, Cellphone, and the Internet! That was the time when even smartphones were not invented. Devotees of Sri Swamiji enjoyed the nice quip as if a casual banter from the Master. But is there any such thing as banter in the circle of the divine? Certainly not. Fast forward 20 years, and we can now slightly comprehend the gravity of that statement, because we, by experience, are seeing the effect of the internet upon our own lives, aren’t we?

Oh, the power of the smartphone! How long can we stay away from it? We are taken in by having the world on our palm. Not to mention the allure of the ping, the likes, the IMs, the tags, the emojis, the flattery, the feel-good feeling!

It all seems harmless enough though. What’s such a big deal here, we may think. It is in fact such immense progress. The world is getting to be a much better place. And I am in control! I can deposit my checks, wash my clothes, turn on the heater, secure the home, order groceries, dinner, or movies, and even earn my living, from my comfortable couch. I can talk to family and share memories instantly, follow what’s happening in the world, and learn about anything with just a few clicks.

Alas! The gullible human mind and its fancy to see and believe everything that is fed to it.

There’s an ‘other side’ to this game, my dear mind. The endless scrolling sites and apps, the appearance of ‘free’, the aesthetic placement of ‘our’ favorite things, the intelligence that innocently starts out to tell us what we may like (based on our own choices – clicks), but over time we feed it with a daily, hourly, by the minute and seconds, data that enriches its intelligence so much that it knows us better than we know ourselves. Certainly not in control, but instead so enslaved we are!

It’s a simple business equation for the Googles and Facebooks of the world. We engage, they run ads, they make money. End of story for the corporations. The insatiable need for corporate greed, with a free product for the users is a perfect recipe for lifelong financial success. Glory to the internet, there are millionaires everywhere.

For us however, it’s not as simple. We engage, they feed us more and more and more of the ideologies that shapes our view of the ‘truth’. We engage, and we are fed more and more of our once minor distractions that become a slow poison to corrupt our minds wanting more. We engage, and we lose precious time for our own objectives in life. We engage and become a version of ourselves that even we cannot recognize when we look back in time.

Maya – the deluding potency of Bhagavan, with its most powerful incarnation yet, is using our own innate nature to trick us into falling prey to our vasanas (tendencies). Our Facebook or YouTube page, the news feeds, the video recommendations, the ads, our friends, all these are nothing but a tangible representation of the bundle of our vasanas and our desires! It used to be subtle, only known to us, and our mind was our enemy to overcome in the journey of finding happiness. Now, Maya has upped the game. It’s no longer a personal game. She’s playing an external game as well. Someone outside of us knows what we like and not like and has the ability to shape us. This is dangerous territory, for the enemy is working in all directions.

Now Hiranayakashipu or Hitler feel more handle-able than this incredible enemy that is seemingly invincible. So, who is this enemy? Not the internet, not the governments without any regulations, not the companies that run their ads to gain our attention to sell their products, not the politicians who run up the fake news to earn our vote, not the bully who may stalk and exploit us. The enemy is nowhere to be found. Hence none to blame and so we dance, without knowing when and how we fell prey to this dangerous maya.

Is there an antidote? You bet there is!

Amayo yashcha bhUtAnAm jAyate yena suvrata
tad eva hyAmayam dravyam na punAti chikitsitam

(Does not a thing, applied therapeutically, cure a disease which was caused by that very same thing?)

That which infects, in itself in small parts can be fed into the body to immunize ourselves from it!  There is no problem in this world that does not have a solution.

We need to use the very artificial intelligence that has consumed us and sent us in the wrong direction, to route us back in the right direction.

Those with foresight say that just like how the fast-food industry had to course correct and start to sell healthy food to sustain themselves financially, a time will come when internet designers, for their own financial survival, will put the guardrails on, to ensure people don’t bail from their platforms. It will take a slow and sure revolution, but it can happen. The smart ones shall wake up and realize their opportunity to not fall prey but use the technology favorably.

But then again, we are playing the mind here! And it’s not going to go down that easily.

The true antidote is only in the form of a spiritual transformation. The most successful people in the world will emerge from the crop of those who didn’t fall prey to the internet. Those who didn’t fall prey to their own minds’ fancies. This too is by design. Are we playing the game, or are we being played? The choice is ours.

Sriram Ramanujam, Houston TX

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