What is superimposition? This term has been used in the previous two articles. Placing one above the other is superimposition. For example, māyā is superimposed on Brahman. In other words, māyā is a separate entity covering or veiling or superimposing Brahman, resulting in concealment of Brahman’s true nature. Superimposition has two aspects known as āvaraṇa or concealing and vikṣepa or projection. Let us take the case of rope and snake. Āvaraṇa śakti conceals the real nature of rope and vikṣepa śakti projects the rope as a snake. This is the power of māyā. In the previous two articles, we have seen that māyā is upādhi to Brahman and viśeṣaṇa to Īśvara. Upādhi is superimposition and viśeṣaṇa is limitation. Hence, it is important that we understand the power of māyā, as everything happens only in māyā. We have also discussed that many Advaitins do not accept that māyā and avidyā are different.
How māyā affects us? As we know, Brahman is the cause for our very existence. As soon as māyā is superimposed on Brahman, the process of creation begins. Brahman becomes Īśvara and Īśvara becomes Kūṭastha and ultimately supports jīva. Brahman was so Pure before creation, says Yoga Vāsiṣṭha. As soon as māyā superimposed Brahman, the process of creation was initiated, due to the disturbance in equilibrium of three guṇa-s in māyā. From the point of view of Vedānta consciousness is the subtlest of all existents. Pure consciousness is the basis of varied existence of the universe. All these variations are due to the superimposition of names and forms by māyā which is the principle of appearance, that is neither real nor unreal. The Self-illuminating Brahman which is pure and limitless consciousness manifests as manifold Kūṭastha in living organisms. The manifestation of the Brahman is noticeable only in the living beings, whereas it stands hidden in non-livings. In the case of human beings, the pure and limitless consciousness manifest as Kūṭastha with independent mind, known as jīva. Māyā is a mystery of omnipresent power that works like a supreme faculty of self- transformation. It appears in the form of deceptive masks producing only illusionary effects. Māyā covers Brahman, that exists in all beings in this universe. This covering is like a sheath or a veil. Unless this veil is removed, the Brahman cannot be realized. For removing this veil, knowledge is required. As long as the veil continues to remain, one continues to remain ignorant (avidyā). Macro-cosmic reflection of the Brahman is māyā.
When the Self-illuminating power of Brahman falls on māyā, there arises Īśvara and when Īśvara arises, māyā is inherent in it. Thus Īśvara becomes Kūṭastha and māyā becomes viśeṣaṇa, causing discrimination, specification, and qualification as multitude of jīva-s, thereby causing the appearance of different shapes and forms. For the origin of man, cause is Kūṭastha and the effect is jīva. Again the effect is classified into two categories, corporeal and incorporeal. In spiritual path, incorporeal is important as everything is subtle including Brahman. That is why, it is always said that Brahman is to be realized; It cannot be seen with biological eyes, as Brahman has no shape and form. Indriya-s, antaḥkaraṇa, pañcamahābhūta fall under incorporeal category, through which only we can realize Brahman.