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The Seven Malas of Maya

Moha is a particularly insidious form of morbid fascination which causes beings to become attached to evil deeds as if they were good deeds. In today’s governments, judicial systems, social organizations and religious institutions, for instance, beings are perpetuating all manner of detrimental actions and calling them beneficial. It is mass delusion on a collective level. Going to war to establish peace, judging people by a harsh and inflexible standard of law rather than with compassion, performing social service with selfish motives and hidden agendas and upholding false dualistic doctrines in the name of religion — these are some examples of moha in the individual and collective consciousness. Educating young minds by teaching only worldly knowledge while ignoring the source of all knowledge is another example.

Mada taints the mind with vanity and self-aggrandizement. Attracted by glory and fame, beings seek after and accept that which is base and ugly, thinking it to be desirable and beautiful. Attachment to the body which decays and dies, obsession with fame which only brings disenchantment and loss of peace of mind, seeking after power that gradually corrupts and destroys, collecting beautiful objects which grow boring and imprison one’s thoughts — these are instances of mada’s influence.

Raga, attachment, is a well-known obstacle in spiritual life. It cripples the human mind by robbing it of its freedom and spontaneity. It ties the body and its energy to the yoke of subservience and slavery. Such is its nature that it leads to deeper and deeper modes of bondage and will not fully let go its hold even after an object, action or thought is transcended. In this case, beings actually become attached to attachment and remain so for lifetimes. Embodiment in a form that repeatedly suffers the agonies of birth, disease, old age and death is a prime example.

Vishada is sorrow and grief. It pervades the mind with despondency and depression, making it unable to raise itself up and accomplish even menial tasks. The guna of tamas — slothfulness or inertia — is its close partner. Its presence can last for a lifetime as it blinds the individual with overwhelming dejection and unhappiness. Loss of fortune, unrequited love, unforgiven grudges, uncontrolled passions — these are open doors through which vishada can make its entrance. Once it enters the mind and establishes itself there, it becomes increasingly difficult to destroy its dark presence.

Shoka constitutes a vast set of afflictions that plague the mind and make it dull and lifeless. It saps body, mind and soul of vitality and motivation and fills it instead with doubt, reticence and complacency. Under the constant array of blows proceeding from life and its experiences, the struggling being staggers and falls and soon gives up. Spoiled dreams, dashed desires, elusive attainments, frustrated success and the like all inhabit the realm of shoka. In association with raga and vishada, shoka breeds well in the hearts and minds of living beings.

Vaichitra is a Sanskrit word for variety, and in this connection refers to the many distractions that tempt and haunt the mind, making it restless and imbalanced. Its presence brings about the loss of steadfastness, a quality which lends itself well to a wide degree of attainments ranging from basic happiness to meditation. For the sake of experiencing diverse pleasures in the form of tastes, feelings, sights, and even intellectual stimulation, beings take to vaichitra like an old friend. In conjunction with moha, it attracts the mind and senses to the many, thereby obscuring the one — a characteristic trick of Maya. It leads to unadvisable contact with the other malas, which all play into each other in insidious fashion.

Harsha, the seventh mala, is the delight which contributes to the desire for increased pleasure, particularly with regard to the amassing of huge amounts of wealth and the power this brings. Even after riches and influence are attained, it continues to evolve and leads to various unhealthy distortions centering around hedonistic pursuits. Thousands of beings are under its control. The greatest multinational conglomerate of this age, after merging all other interests under its umbrella, could very aptly name their organization Harsha Unlimited. The forces of Maya move far and strong under the steam of this powerful mala, and in union with moha, mada and raga, seduce beings into the unsavory realms of vishada, shoka and vaichitra.

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