Maya: a competent translation of ancient Buddhist scriptures

saying of the Buddha about language

Consider that when translating ancient sayings in to English, the competency of the translator (their comprehension of the subject matter) can be very relevant. In the sky there is no linguistic category of east and west, no linguistic barrier or distinction or boundary between the two. People create categorical distinctions out of their own language and then presume that the categorical distinctions in language are not just categorical distinctions in language.

For instance, what is an “injustice?” What is a “travesty?” These are linguistic categories derived from what Terence McKenna might call “cultural programming.” The words refer to an internal experience, a way of RELATING TO or LABELING external events, and yet we may mistake the internal reaction AS the external event (or as the result of the external event).

The basic point of Buddhism and lots of spiritual traditions is that human experience is INTERPRETATIVE. Our experiences are organized FROM external sensation, but not BY external sensation. We organize sensation and then call that perception (AKA “belief”). We are selective, presumptive, and biased.

All perception is a DISTORTING (re-organizing) of physical sensation (like we distort sounds of a human voice in to language. The language is not “in” the sounds, but in our decoding of coded symbols of sound.

That is the basic principle of [this Sanskrit word:] Maya. Many so-called Buddhists may have absolutely no comprehension of the word, even though they may use it “religiously.” That is also a normal developmental stage!


As a sidenote, we are trained in government-regulated schools (or government-operated schools) that OUR government keeps us safe and has our best interests in mind. We are also trained about some other governments that are violent and deceive the masses… unjustly. We may even be tested on multiple choice tests about whether we should go “liberate” places like Boston from government oppression by sending in government military forces. (By the way, the correct answer, if you want to go up to the next grade level in the government bureaucratic pyramid, is “C.”)

So, what does Maya mean? Does it mean illusion or delusion? Or does Maya simply refer to the fact that language is always interpretative (poetic)? Linguistic categories vary in precision. An apple is a fruit, and yet it may also be a Granny Smith apple even though it is also a fruit. Those are just variations in precision.

However, that is just part of the linguistic distinction Maya. It is not ultimately about language, but about perception itself. All human experience is relational (relative), interpretative, organized by neurological programs. The entire realm of language is “a neurological program,” but so is something “objective” like vision!

What we see is NOT what is actually out there. What we see is a representation or distortion or interpretation of what is out there. We can dream of a snake when there is no snake but only a rope. We can dream of a snake when there is no snake and no rope. We can dream of a snake when there is in fact a snake.

However, Maya (or “the dreams or distortions of conscious experience) is not about whether there is a snake or rope or neither. Maya is about the HUMILITY and MATURITY to recognize that what we experience or perceive (“dream”) is just one possible INTERPRETATION. This is why the ancient teaching of Maya is the same principle (but in a different language) as the Christian principle of humility as “the key to entering the kingdom of heaven.”

If you think you know what the “kingdom of heaven” means, but you do not even know the difference between arrogant sincerity and humility, then you might be at least slightly inaccurate. However, that can change rather suddenly.

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One Response to “Maya: a competent translation of ancient Buddhist scriptures”

  1. Id – The ego of Maya, the Shadow | Neon Plastic Lotus Says:

    […] Maya: a competent translation of ancient Buddhist scriptures (jrfibonacci.wordpress.com) […]

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