Sri Ramakrishna would often caution his devotees about the power of maya. He would say that although the ultimate truth is so near and close to us, yet we are unable to perceive it because of the concealing power of maya. He would quote a beautiful example from Ramayana in this regard.
Just a day before being crowned the king of Ayodhya, Sri Ramachandra was banished to the forest and was commanded to stay there for 14 years by his father Dasharatha. His beautiful wife Sita and his devoted brother Lakshman followed him. Ramachandra was walking in the front and Sita was walking just behind him. She was following him just like his shadow. Lakshman was walking behind Sita. He was extremely devoted to his elder brother Rama and literally worshipped Sita as goddess mother. He wouldn’t even lift his eyes to look at her. He would only look at her feet, so respectful was he. Because of this, he could never see Ramachandra who was only just a few steps ahead.
But Sri Ramakrishna would interpret this incident beautifully, giving it a mischievous twist. He would say that Lakshman could not see Rama, the embodiment of Brahman or ultimate truth, because of the concealing or deluding power of maya in the form of Sita. Our scriptures talk about two powers of maya, namely awaran shakti or the power to conceal and vikshep shakti or the power to distort.
Sri Ramakrishna’s example resembles closely the concealing power of maya.
Thus he would say, although all of us are divine in nature, we are unable to realise our true nature because we get caught and distracted in several worldly pursuits due to the deluding power of maya which attracts us in ever so many ways in this world. Thus, man (human being) in spite of being of the nature of consciousness or atman or brahman thinks about or evaluates himself as limited and suffers endlessly.
-by Swami Shantatmananda, Sunday Guardian, 23rd Aug 2014