The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.
Questioner (Q): Isn’t everything just Māyā? Then what is God? What is the relationship of God with Māyā?
Acharya Prashant (AP): You see, Māyā becomes all things, correct? Māyā becomes all things. So, you find it expressed in both ways. Sometimes, it is said — Māyā becomes all things and here, it is said — Brahm becomes all things. Both of these are correct. Both of these are right statements expressed at different levels.
Yes, all things are Māyā, but Māyā is nothing but a great power inherent in Brahm. Māyā is the very freedom of Brahm ‘to be’ and then ‘to not to be’. So, when you say, “This is all the game of Māyā,” you are not at all wrong. And it is quite useful to say, “All of this is the game of Māyā,” especially when you feel quite charmed and enthralled by all this. Then it pays to say, “All this is Māyā.”
At the same time, it has to be remembered that Māyā has no power or agency of its own. There aren’t two competent truths: Brahm and Māyā. And this is where the Upanishads greatly differ from many other philosophical streams. At the heart of religion is philosophy, right?
And it has been commonplace to say that there is God and there is Satan, and God and Satan have been shown as adversaries. That’s not the way in Vedānta. In Vedānta, Satan doesn’t compete with Brahm. In Vedānta, Satan, who can be broadly equated with Māyā, is rather the power of Brahm to do as Brahm pleases.
Therefore, just as Brahm is timeless and birthless, Māyā too is called anādī* — not having a particular beginning because the beginning of *Māyā is the beginning of Brahm. However, Brahm cannot come to an end, Māyā can come to an end. How does Māyā come to its end? — By involution. It retreats back into what it came from.
So, Brahm is the source of Māyā, the father of Māyā — Māyāpati. Brahm isn’t competing with Māyā; Brahm is rather commanding Māyā, mischievous! No?
That’s the reason once I said that, “After the session is over Guru and Māyā take tea together.” Because both of these are just two names for the innate freedom of Brahm. There is the freedom of Brahm to forget itself, that’s Māyā. There…