Maya

In French, there is no difference between "conscience" and "consciousness." In Japanese, there is a word that specifically refers to the splittable wooden chopsticks you get at restaurants. The German word “fremdschämen” encapsulates the feeling you get when you’re embarrassed on behalf of someone else. All of these require explanation in order to properly communicate their meaning, and are, to varying degrees, untranslatable. Choose a word, tell us what it means, and then explain why it cannot (or should not) be translated from its original language.


Every day in my life the rational conflicts with the illogical. A carefully planned endeavor is often blindsided by an unreasonable spasm in the universe’s workings. I always ask myself the question: if nothing can be predicted, then what is real? Is it the lucid certainty of a constant truth, or is it the capricious irregularities that give the world its charm?

The ancient Indian concept of Maya addresses this. In Sanskrit, Maya is the truth that connects the absurd to the cogent, a way to see how our universe is governed. Simply put, Maya tells us that the true meaning of life is not in material things, such as money, fame, or power, but in different aspects of spirituality, such as altruism and self-growth. While ruthless politicians or rich businessmen might be powerful and wealthy, their success is not “real” unless they have grown as people. Over the years, the realization of Maya has been accepted into countless sects of Hinduism and Buddhism as a sign of enlightenment. Many works of literature have been written to explain the phenomenon that is spiritual irregularity, but none have been able to explain the concept fully. Each explanation relies on past works and spiritual history. Maya is impossible to translate,...

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