Monday, January 26, 2009

Maya (माया or māyā)

Maya (माया or māyā): In philosophy the word origin of maya is derived from the Sanskrit roots 'ma' ("not") and 'ya', meaning "that". So the meaning of Maya is "that is not" but which appears to be real. Maya is held to be an illusion in philosophy & it is said to be a veil of the true Self - the Universal Spirit known as Brahman. Maya is a subtle force that creates the grand illusion that the phenomenal world that we see is real.

Maya is said to be neither true nor untrue. Since Universal Spirit (Brahman) is the only truth so Maya cannot be true. Since Maya causes the material world to be seen, it cannot be untrue also. Hence, Maya is described as indescribable. She has two principle functions - one is to veil the Universal Spirit (Brahman) and obscure and conceal it from our consciousness. The other is to present and promulgate the material world and the veil of duality instead of the Universal Spirit (Brahman).

In the darkness, just like a rope is confused for a snake & this illusion gets destroyed when true knowledge of the rope is perceived in the light. Similarly, in the darkness of the night, a pole may be mistaken for a ghost. As the darkness is removed, the ghost disappears; only the pole remains as reality. Similarly, Maya's illusion gets destroyed for a person when he/she perceives Brahman with transcendental knowledge & light. When the light of Universal Spirit (Brahman) falls on Maya, it disappears.

Purpose of Maya: In reality the purpose of Maya is to produce the duality in this world. Maya performs this role at the behest of the Supreme Lord only. God is not bound by Maya, just as magicians are not illusioned and deluded by their own magic.

Maya is beyond our sense-perception & is invisible but this universe which is its effect, is visible (or perceived by the senses). Maya is like night (or darkness) & is very difficult to be understood. Its nature is not perceived here.

In Hinduism, this world in which we live is called unreal not because of that it does not exist, but because it is unstable, impermanent, unreliable and illusory. It is unreal because it is transient & changing every second. Just check the things around you, these are changing every second. So this changing world, which is not permanent is called Maya or illusion & not real, the changeless.

Lord Krishna in Bhagwat Gita details about the 'Maya' in it's various chapters.

"mama yonir mahad brahma
tasmin garbham dadhamy aham
sambhavah sarva-bhutanam
tato bhavati bharata" (Bhagwat Gita: Chapter Fourteen verse 3)

"Sri Krishna said: O Arjuna, My womb is the great Nature (Prakriti or MAYA) which is the source of birth of all living entities, and it is in that I place the germ (embryo of life). Thus it makes possible the births of all living beings."

"sarva-yonisu kaunteya
murtayah sambhavanti yah
tasam brahma mahad yonir
aham bija-pradah pita" (Bhagwat Gita: Chapter Fourteen verse 4)

"Sri Krishna said: O Arjuna, It should be understood that all species of life, are made possible by birth in this material nature (Prakriti or MAYA), and that I am the seed-giving father."

"yavat sanjayate kincit
sattvam sthavara-jangamam
tad viddhi bharatarsabha" (Bhagwat Gita: Chapter Thirteen verse 27)

"Sri Krishna said: O Arjuna, Wherever a being is born, whether unmoving or moving, know that it is from the union between the field and the knower of the field. (Purusha is the knower of the field; Prakriti is the field; Shiva is another name for the knower of the field and Shakti is the field; Spirit is another name for the knower of the field and Matter (Prakriti) is the field).

"prakrityaiva cha karmani
kriyamanani sarvasah
yah pasyati tathatmanam
akartaram sa pasyati" (Bhagwat Gita: Chapter Thirteen verse 30)

"Sri Krishna said: O Arjuna, One who can see that all activities are performed by the nature (Maya) alone and sees that the self does nothing, actually sees." (The Self is the silent witness).

"ishvarah sarva-bhutanam
hrd-dese ’rjuna tishthati
bhramayan sarva-bhutani
yantrarudhani mayaya" (Bhagwat Gita: Chapter Eighteen verse 61)

"Sri Krishna said: O Arjuna, The Supreme God is situated in everyone’s heart, and moves them to act by his divine Maya, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy."

Ramakrishna on Maya

Ramakrishna acknowledged the power of Maya in life. He was all love and reverence for maya, perceiving in it a mysterious and majestic expression of Divinity. To him Maya was God.

In the guru Ramakrishna's experience, Maya was divine. Ramakrishna "did not, like a Vedantic scholar, repudiate the world as maya, but gave it a spiritual status, seeing in it the manifestation of Chit and Ananda." Ramakrishna had a "vision of the divine Maya, the inscrutable Power of God, by which the universe is created and sustained."

According to Ramakrishna, Maya projects and withdraws the world.
Further, "Maya . . . is the Mother of the Universe, identical with the Brahman of Vedanta and with the Atman of Yoga.

Ramakrishna discovered that maya operates in the relative world in two ways and he termed these "avidyamaya" and "vidyamaya.' Avidyamaya sustains lower planes, but vidyamaya is enlightening, including qualities like kindness. Vidyamaya elevates a man to a better consciousness. With the help of vidyamaya he then gets free of maya, if only for a while. The two aspects of maya are two forces of creation.

Ramakrishna said further: "When I think of the Supreme Being as inactive - neither creating nor preserving nor destroying - I call Him Brahman or Purusha . . . When I think of Him as active - creating, preserving, and destroying - I call Him Sakti or Maya or Prakriti, the Personal God.

To Ramakrishna maya itself was God - everything was God - [maya] was one of the faces of [the Godhead].

As per Ramakrishna: Maya can not be distinguished from the supreme [Godhead]

As per Ramakrishna: The mighty weaver (Maya) is none other than the Divine Mother.

As per Ramakrishna: Maya releases from bondage.

"I tell you the truth: there is nothing wrong in your being in the world." - Ramakrishna

Vivekananda on Maya
This universe is maya - Vivekananda

Maya is used incorrectly to denote illusion or delusion. - Vivekananda

Jai Shri Krishna


  1. i think maya is something which separate us from the divine power GOD. It can be anything like money,relationships,desire,selfishness anyhting......
    GOD itself created it so that everyone is get busy in materialistic world.
    if maya is not there than the existence of world cant be there.

    1. Exactly. That's why I say My life is a game, world is my playground, sky is the limit. So catch me if you can 😎

  2. Anonymous5:39 PM

    Thank you for all your posts... exactly what I was searching for... :)...

    I wish you all good luck...

    Thank you

  3. Namaste,

    The mistaking of rope for snake definition of Maya clearly talks about illusion, but other examples you have quoted talk about Maya as being temporary. Please decide which definition you want to choose.

    Maya as illusion faced a lot of criticism and advaitas were not able defend it, hence they kept pushing the boundary and metamorphosing the definition of Maya as is evident from this article.

    Maya's temporary definition is also not valid; if you are documented to be the son of Mr.XYZ; what exactly is temporary in that, can you change that ? Why is that not subject to Maya ? Even in future births, the fact will remain the same that in this birth you are the son of Mr.XYZ

    mama yonir mahad brahma
    tasmin garbham dadhamy aham
    sambhavah sarva-bhutanam
    tato bhavati bharata

    I'll give a very brief overview of this shloka.

    Sri MahaLakshmi takes the Roopa of Maya, Sri Krishna takes the roopa of Vasudeva. The sporting of Vasudeva and Maya is what creates the HiryanaGarbha in the sookshma srishti. Next step is the creation of the sthoola srishti.

    Maya when applied to feelings, does not mean illusion; but influence, sway, glamor, addiction.

    Mohini avataara is the best example, no illusion the daityas were completely enamored and under the sway of Mohini roopa Paramatma.

    This world is called Maya because it's the biggest addiction, in spite of suffering birth after birth; we have not yet achieved liberation and Moksha.

    Hope this clears the confusion. Tattvavada has cleared all such confusions.

    Jai Bharateesha,

  4. bijay dhungana11:59 AM

    maya is the feelings of inner desire which is the symbol of spritual makes a life different and lead to the havenly path but if you search the bodyly pleasure you may hide yourself in illusion and never get pleasure what you want..Maya is a such things which rotate the world peacefully.

  5. N.k.osho

    Maya is like little lake,
    Creating ripple and cripple in fake.
    But illusion and illumination are two sides.
    Once our mind recognise and cognize well... then we receive those cosmic consciousness of collective and manifest those sublime...subtle source of solace of divine domain....
    Be blessed!

  6. "Maya" depends on eternal Love, rooted in the infinite actuality of a Non-Numeric-Singularity beyond semiosis. 🙏😇

  7. The Eastern word "Maya" and the Western term "Salvation", both terms depend to each other and awake in my heart my small love for the open wideness of eternal Love , rooted in the infinite actuality of a Non-Numeric-Singularity beyond semiosis...