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Maya (illusion)
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Maya (illusion)

Table of contents
1 Maya in Hinduism
2 Maya as Adopted And Viewed By Other Religions
3 Parallels To Maya In Other Religions

Maya in Hinduism

In Vedic philosophy, maya is the illusion of a limited, purely physical and mental reality in which our everyday consciousness has become entangled, a veiling of the true, unitary Self, also known as Brahman. Maya originated in the Hindu scriptures known as the Upanishads. Many philosphies or religions seek to "pierce the veil" in order to glimpse the transcendent truth, from which the illusion of a physical reality springs, drawing from the idea that first came to life in the Hindu stream of Vedanta.

In Hinduism, Maya must be seen through in order to achieve moksha (liberation of the soul from the cycle of death and rebirth) - ahamkar (ego-consciousness) and karma are seen as part of the binding forces of Maya. Maya is seen as the phenomenal universe, a lesser reality-lens superimposed on the one Brahman that leads us to think of the phenomenal cosmos as real. Maya is also visualized as part of the Divine Mother (Devi) concept of Hinduism. In the Hindu scripture 'Devi Mahatmyam,' Mahamaya (Great Maya) is said to cover Vishnu's eyes in Yoganidra (Divine Sleep) during cycles of existence when all is resolved into one. By exhorting Mahamaya to release Her illusory hold on Vishnu, Brahma is able to bring Vishnu to aid him in killing two demons, Madhu and Kaitabh, who have manifested from Vishnu's sleeping form. Shri Ramakrishna often spoke of Mother Maya and combined deep Hindu allegory with the idea that Maya is a lesser reality that must be overcome so that one is able to realize his or her true Self.


Early Hinduism | Hinduism | Hindu Philosophy
Primary Scriptures: Vedas | Upanishads | Bhagavad Gita | Itihasa | Tantras | Sutras
Concepts: Brahman | Dharma | Karma | Moksha | Maya | Punarjanma | Samsara
Schools & Systems: Vedanta | Yoga | Tantra | Bhakti
Rituals: Aarti | Darshan | Puja | Satsang | Thaal | Yagnya
Hindu Teachers/Gurus and Saints: Sankara | Ramakrishna | Vivekananda | Aurobindo | Ramana Maharshi | Sivananda
Denominations: Vaishnavism | Shaivism | Shaktism | Neo- and quasi-Hindu movements

Maya as Adopted And Viewed By Other Religions

Maya In Sikhism

In Sikhism, maya (the world as you normally perceive it) is said to be no more manifest than a dream. The Sikh concept is in line with Vedanta. Sikhism, as well as many other paths of spirituality, state that the world is like a dream, and there is nothing in it which is yours. (This last sentence has been transliterated right from the Guru Granth Sahib). An example of this is when our dreams can feel so solid and real sometimes, how do we know if we don't wake up to one every morning? What can a person actually call "MINE" in the temporary existence of a life spanning a three-quarters of a century?

A modern concept that illustrates Maya / Illusion wonderfully is the Sci-Fi Movie "The Matrix". Everything in The Matrix is believed to be real, until the character Neo wakes up, and sees that it's just a dream world. One who is asleep never knows he is until he wakes up.

Parallels To Maya In Other Religions

Some dialogues of Plato also contain ideas reminiscent of maya, especially the famous "Parable of the Cave".