You can check out
for the basic Maya hardware configuration. A compatible video board would be the
important info here.
AMD CPU's and nvidia video cards are noisy (IMO).
I would consider getting a second monitor. You can pick up a no name 19/21 inch
flat screen CRT monitor cheap. With one monitor you end up opening and closing
small popup windows forever, with a second monitor you can leave outliner,
render, shader and hypergraph in tiled format for easy access (or you run a
tutorial movie and interactively follow the tutorial).
The more memory the better, normally rendering/animation requires huge memory
depending on the complexity of your scene.
Maya does not have a steep learning curve, it has a valley of death. If you know
Photoshops interface then Maya's interface is a full magnitude( x10) more
complex. You learn the interface and then creativity is the deciding factor.
Lots of website with all types of Maya info available but try
www.digital-tutors.com for a good introduction of Maya tutorial (you get to make
a Star Wars pod racer with full animation). -This was floating around the
newsgroups at one time but I haven't seen it lately.
HTH - Random.