When one accepts entry into the game as a player, awareness of unity is lost in the obsession (fascination) of play. This taking over of consciousness is the fun of play. The One becomes many, to play a game of cosmic hide-and-seek with itself. To fulfill his ego, the player sets up the game and its rules and commits himself to playing them out to the end.
The One is reality. Multiplicity is illusion. This illusion of multiplicity is created by the veiling power of the One (the Supreme Consciousness). This veiling power is called Maya Shakti, or maya. This veiling power creates the illusion of me and mine, or thee and thine, which creates ignorance in the individual consciousness. Those who realize this ignorance call it avidya (a = no; vidya = knowledge; thus ignorance, or absence of knowledge). So maya is also called avidya by yogis. This ignorance comes to individual consciousness through the mind; that is why yoga is a practical device to stop the modifications of mind, and yoga’s aim is to arrest mind, to stop the inner dialogue, to go beyond the mind and realize one’s true nature, beyond the illusion of me and mine.
The world of names and forms is maya. Maya is the stage and setting within which the player enacts his microcosmic tragicomedy. Maya is the play itself, presenting the player with situations and patterns that offer him subtle clues to the understanding of his own true nature.
This illusion can be seen at every level. The human body itself is not a unit of existence, but is composed of countless numbers of cells and micelles. If each cell starts growing a sense of me and mine, each human body will become a subcontinent. It is the individual ego (ahamkara) that creates separate units of existence — but this in itself is maya (illusion). Ego cannot function without mind, as mind cannot without sensory organs. So it is only after the mind is brought to a suppressed state that the sense of me and mine can be completely annihilated. By yoga alone can this state be achieved and an end brought to this illusory sense of being an independent unit. After realization of truth through a direct experience of reality in samadhi, Maya Shakti can be understood and the human psycho-drama can be observed as divine play, as Leela.
Maya Shakti is the power that brings forth the evolution of the phenomenal world. It makes this possible by an interplay of the three gunas: sattva, rajas, and tamas.
Cosmic Consciousness becomes individual consciousness by its own maya. In Hindu literature maya has been described in very many contexts, and yet it is impossible to explain all about it — it is as infinite as Cosmic Consciousness itself.
The only job confronting the player is the realization that he is a player, that the sense of separation he feels is illusory. All that the player perceives of the phenomenal world exists within himself in the form of sensory input and is illusory. Modern sciences that try to investigate the nature of truth verify this statement. Both modern science and ancient wisdom believe in a single primordial substance to which the various forms of matter can be reduced. All phenomenal existence is but one of the many manifestations of the same underlying unity. The elements are varied forms of this one substance. The variety of our experience is due to the permutation and combination of atoms of the matter into which this primordial energy materializes. This diversity in unity is illusion and is caused by the veiling power of the Supreme Consciousness. All that the player perceives of the phenomenal world exists within himself. One takes birth to play the game, to discern the subtle principles at work within the gross. The game is to reach unity, to end duality.
The number 2 signifies duality, which is illusion. Two comes into being when 1 repeats itself. Two is maya, because both were present in the One. The two are the internal and the external world; the unmanifested and the manifested, Shiva and Shakti, male and female, sun and moon, gross and subtle, Absolute and maya, noumenon and phenomenon. Two is therefore the number of maya. Two is an even number and, in common with all even numbers, is a member of the moon family; it is especially related to the moon and lunar energy.