“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts….” – William Shakespeare, As You Like It
Creation stories are important. They are ways human beings understand who they are and why they are here on Earth. They are also ways humans understand their relationship to the Earth herself. Whether a culture’s creation story is one of tending to the Earth and working in partnership with her or whether it is one of dominating and subjugating the Earth, has significant implications as to how that culture will operate in the world.
Yoga, too, has a creation story. It is the story of lila. The word lila in this context is a noun. It means “play”. This indicates the nature of, and how we might best relate to, creation. Lila is the divine play of Shiva and Shakti, the masculine and feminine principles. Shiva is stillness, unchanging, and unmanifest. Shakti is fluid, dynamic, and manifest. Shiva is absolute, but without Shakti, Shiva cannot know himself. Lila is their cosmic dance.
Imagine you are watching a play. If it is a good play, you will care about the characters, get carried away by the plot, and when it is over it will have resonated with you on some level. However, you know yourself to be an observer and do not mistake the play as being real.
Lila is the play. Maya means illusion. It mistakes the play for ultimate Reality. Mistaking the play for ultimate Reality puts us on quite an emotional roller coaster ride! We become at the effect of what is happening in the play. Imagine going to see Shakespeare’s Macbeth and thinking it was actually happening… scary!
Identifying with maya is the cause of a great deal of suffering. When we mistake our true Self for our egos, we become quite attached to a false reality. We forget our connection to the Divine and to each other. This illusion of separation leads to intense feelings of isolation. When we believe we are alone, we become anxious and depressed. We learn to fear rather than love, hoard rather than share, and hate rather than forgive. In our confusion, we do the opposite of that which is in our best interest.
We begin to heal when our pain becomes unsustainable and are able to consider the possibility that there is a better way of doing things. Yoga is the process of recognizing our connection to the Divine and to each other.
Although it is not ultimate Reality, it is vital that we participate in the cosmic play. The world needs us! There is a divine spark in every human being that imbues us with creativity. What we do, how we think, the way we act matters within the realm of the illusion. We can create a comedy or a tragedy, but we are going to create something. Why not create a peaceful, loving world? We have the creative power to do so. The question is, do we have the will?
We are playwrights of the cosmic play and dancers in the primordial ballet. Next Monday is Earth Day. What better day to re-commit ourselves to working in partnership with nature to cultivate a world that is so close to heaven that the Divine itself will part the curtains and reveal the stage?