The problem is that what becomes illusory in the experience of enlightenment cannot be conceived of as illusory by people who are not enlightened. How can you think that your wife, your husband, your house, your car, your neighborhood…that all this is just a dream?
It is not a dream the way you know dreams are; hence the word maya has to be kept untranslated, because maya does not mean dream. It simply means that things which are not eternal cannot be accepted as real. They are born, they are there, and they are constantly dying. From the very moment something is born, it starts dying – what kind of reality is this?
Your birth was the beginning of death. Since then you have not been doing anything except dying – every day, continuously – although the process is very slow. It may take seventy years or eighty years to reach your grave, but you have been moving towards it since you left your cradle…consistently…never taking a single holiday, never going astray. There is no way of going astray! Whatever you do, wherever you go, you are going towards the graveyard. One day you were not…one day you are again not – although you existed for seventy years.
Your dream also exists, for the time being. It may be only seven minutes, or seventy minutes, but that does not make any difference. The dream is born, it remains there…you are affected by it, as you are affected by anything real, and then it dies.
The same is the nature of our so-called reality. Perhaps it is on a bigger scale, the dream lasts longer. But millions of people have lived here before us, and we don’t know even their names. We don’t know that they had fallen in love, that they had fought, that they had killed, murdered, that they had committed suicide, that they had become prime ministers, presidents, super-rich…and they have all disappeared as if they were nothing but writing on water – or at the most writing on the sand. It lasts a little while, then a strong wind comes and all the writing disappears.
According to the people of enlightenment, that which is just writing on the water…or it may be writing on the sand, or it may be writing on the granite lasting for thousands of years – the difference is only of time; otherwise there is no difference. The difference is only of the medium – water, sand, or granite. The writing is the same: one day it was not, for some time it remains, one day it is again not.
Everything comes from nothing and everything moves into nothing: that is the meaning of maya. It does not mean unreal, because even the writing on the sand is real. Even the writing on water has its own reality, although it is very fleeting – you have not even written and it has disappeared! The writing on granite will last for thousands of years. Yet one thing is certain: they are all real, but one day they come out of nothing, and one day they go back into nothingness. That is the meaning of the word maya. It is not equivalent to illusion.