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Maya – It’s all an illusion!

In Indian philosophy, Maya represents an illusion, suggesting that our sensory perceptions of the world may not reflect its true nature. To transcend Maya, one must cultivate detachment and seek deeper truths through practices like meditation and self-reflection. Maya conceals reality, causing separation and ignorance, impeding spiritual enlightenment until one pierces through its veil to recognize their inherent divinity. This understanding leads to realizing Brahman—an immutable, supreme reality underlying the universe—and achieving liberation from the cycle of suffering and illusion.

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According to Indian philosophy:

Maya means that, what we see and feel, may not be exactly how things really are.

It’s like when we see a mirage and think there’s water, but it’s actually an illusion. It reminds us that there’s more to reality than meets the eye.

We can counter Maya by cultivating detachment and seeking the truth beyond appearances. By recognizing that the world is impermanent and constantly changing, we can detach ourselves from the illusions and desires that cause suffering.

Through practices like meditation, self-reflection, and seeking knowledge, we can attain a deeper understanding of reality and find lasting peace and contentment.

What is Maya?

Maya is popular as a name everywhere. It’s a cool name. But what is it?

Maya is a Sanskrit word that means “illusion” or “magic.”

Maya is a concept that holds great significance in various philosophical and spiritual traditions of India, most notably in Advaita Vedanta.

Maya refers to the illusionary nature of the world and the veiling power that creates a distorted perception of reality.

Maya is the power that creates the world of appearances. It is the power of illusion that makes us see the world as separate from Brahman or the Divine

The Upanishads

It is often associated with the idea of cosmic illusion or the deceptive power that hides the true nature of existence.

In Hindu philosophy, particularly in Advaita Vedanta, the ultimate reality is considered to be Brahman, the unchanging, infinite, and transcendent absolute.

What is illusionary nature?

Illusionary nature is a concept in Indian philosophy that refers to the fact that the world we perceive is not as it really is. The word illusionary means something that is not real or true. It is an illusion, a false appearance.

The world we perceive is a product of our senses and our minds, and it is not an accurate representation of reality.

In Indian philosophy, Maya is the power that creates the phenomenal world, which is seen as an illusion or a dream like projection of the ultimate reality, Brahman.

The concept of illusionary nature is a complex one, and it has been interpreted in different ways by different philosophers.

Some examples of illusionary things:

A mirage: A mirage is an optical illusion that creates the appearance of water on a hot road or desert. The water is not real, it is just an illusion created by the heat.

An optical illusion: An optical illusion is a visual illusion that tricks the brain into seeing something that is not really there. For example, the famous Müller-Lyer illusion makes it look like the two lines are of different lengths, even though they are actually the same length.

A dream: A dream is a series of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that occur in the mind during sleep. Dreams are not real, they are just illusions created by the brain.

Hallucinations: Hallucinations are sensory experiences that occur in the absence of any external stimulus. For example, a person who is hallucinating might see, hear, smell, taste, or feel things that are not really there. Hallucinations can be caused by a variety of factors, including mental illness, drug use, and sleep deprivation.

It is important to note that not all illusions are negative. Some illusions can be fun and entertaining, while others can be used to create art and beauty. It is also important to be aware of that illusions are not real and that they should not be taken as a representation of reality.

It is a central concept in Indian philosophy, and it has been influential in other traditions as well, such as Buddhism.

Here are some of the ways in which illusionary nature has been interpreted:

  • The world we perceive is a projection of our minds. This means that the world as we see is not an accurate representation of reality, but rather a product of our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.
  • The world we perceive is like a dream. This means that the world we see or how we perceive it – is not real, but rather a figment of our imagination.
  • The world we perceive is like a game. This means that the world we see is not serious, but rather a playful illusion.

The concept of illusionary nature of the world can be a liberating one. It can free us from attachment to the things of the world, and it can help us to see the world in a new way.

It can be difficult to let go of our attachment to the things of the world, and it can be hard to see the world in a new way.

However, the rewards of doing so can be great. When we let go of our attachment to the things of the world, we can find true happiness and peace.

What is the problem with Maya, then?

Due to the influence of Maya, individuals perceive the world as separate entities and experience duality, such as subject-object relationships, pleasure and pain, birth and death, etc.

Maya creates a sense of separation, ignorance, and attachment to the material world, preventing individuals from realizing their true nature as identical to Brahman.

Maya is seen as a fundamental obstacle to spiritual enlightenment and self-realization.

It is believed that through knowledge (jnana) and understanding, one can pierce through the veil of Maya and attain liberation (moksha) or union with the ultimate reality.

By transcending Maya, individuals can overcome the illusions of the material world and recognize their inherent divinity.

The material world is transient and impermanent, and true fulfillment lies in realizing the eternal and unchanging reality beyond Maya!

What are the practical implications of Maya?

The concept of Maya also has practical implications for leading a meaningful and purposeful life.

It reminds individuals that the material world is transient and impermanent, and true fulfillment lies in realizing the eternal and unchanging reality beyond Maya.

It encourages individuals to cultivate detachment, discriminate between the real and the unreal, and seek spiritual growth.

The understanding and interpretation of Maya may vary across different philosophical schools and traditions within India. While Advaita Vedanta considers Maya as the ultimate illusionary power, other schools like Vishishtadvaita Vedanta and Dvaita Vedanta may have nuanced views on the nature and role of Maya in relation to the ultimate reality.

A more simpler explanation

Imagine you’re watching a magic show. The magician performs tricks that make things appear and disappear, and it all seems quite real and amazing.

But deep down, you know that it’s all just an illusion. The magician is using tricks and techniques to create the illusion of magic.

In a similar way, Maya is like the magician’s tricks, but on a much grander scale.

It’s the idea that the world we see around us is like a big illusion because of Maya!

We think that everything is separate and real, but in reality, it’s all connected and not as solid as it seems. Maya makes us believe that we are separate from others, that things are permanent, and that our happiness comes from the outside world.

But just like you know that the magician’s tricks aren’t real magic, there are philosophical schools of thought in India which says that Maya: or the world as we perceive it – isn’t the ultimate reality either.

They say that behind this illusion is something much bigger and unchanging.

They call it Brahman. Brahman is like the true magic behind the illusion. The goal is to see through the illusion of Maya and realize our connection to Brahman.

It’s like waking up from a dream and realizing that what you thought was real was actually just a creation of your mind.

When we understand that this world is the illusion of Maya, we can break free from its hold on us and experience the true reality of oneness and freedom.

So, Maya is an important concept in Indian philosophy because it teaches us to question what we think is real and to seek a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world.

It helps us realize that there’s more to life than what meets the eye and encourages us to explore the spiritual and philosophical aspects of our existence.

What is Brahman?

Brahman is like the ultimate reality or the big truth behind everything.

It’s a bit like the energy that is in everything and connects everything in the universe.

It’s like the ocean, and we are like the waves in that ocean. We may think we are separate, but we are actually made of the same stuff as everything else.

Brahman is often considered synonymous with the divine.

The concept of Brahman is central to various philosophical traditions in India, including Advaita Vedanta, where it is believed that realizing one’s true nature as Brahman leads to spiritual liberation and union with the divine.


It is a Sanskrit word that means “the Absolute” or “the Supreme” or “the Divine”.

In Indian philosophy, Brahman is described as the ultimate reality, the supreme cosmic power, and the underlying essence of the universe.

It is often understood as the divine or the absolute reality that transcends all limitations and forms. It is the source of all that is, and it is the goal of all spiritual striving.

Brahman is considered to be infinite, unchanging, and full of peace and love.

It’s like the source of everything that exists.

Some people also think of Brahman as a divine power or a higher consciousness that is beyond our normal abilities to understand.

Brahman is often described as being formless and nameless.

However, Brahman or the Divine can be experienced directly through meditation and other spiritual practices.

Realizing Brahman

When we talk about realizing Brahman, it means understanding that we are not separate from it. It’s like realizing that we are not just individual waves, but part of the whole ocean. It’s like waking up to the idea that we are connected to everything and everyone around us.

That which is the inner Self of all beings, dwelling within them, but different from them, is Brahman

The Upanishads

To realize Brahman, people often practice things like meditation, self-reflection, and seeking wisdom. They try to go beyond the surface-level appearances and understand the deeper truths of existence. It’s like trying to see the world with a different perspective, beyond the illusions of Maya.

The idea is that by realizing our connection to Brahman, we can experience a sense of oneness, inner peace, and fulfillment. It’s like discovering a deeper purpose and understanding of life.

The realization of Brahman is the goal of all Indian spiritual practices. When a person realizes Brahman, they realize their true nature, which is one with Brahman. This realization brings liberation from suffering and the attainment of supreme happiness.

So, Brahman is this big, infinite, and unchanging reality that connects everything in the universe. Understanding and realizing our connection to Brahman is a central goal in many Indian philosophical traditions.

Maya is the power that creates the world of appearances. It is the power of illusion that makes us see the world as separate from Brahman

The Upanishads

Image at the top: Photo by Randy Jacob on Unsplash

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