According to Vedanta, Brahman is the Absolute Reality. The universe is a lower order of reality drawing existence from Brahman and is mithya. Maya is the power of Brahman with two aspects, namely, projecting power and veiling power. The former projects the universe and due to the latter a jiva forgets that his essential nature is Brahman. Indeed, maya is powerful. What is it made of?
There is a clue in verses 8.18 to 8.20 of Bhagavad Gita. A day and a night of Brahmaji constitute one calendar day of Brahmaji which is made of two thousand maha-yugas. During his daytime, when Brahmaji is awake, the universe is in manifest form and when he is asleep during the night it is in unmanifest(resolved) form resting in potential form in the unmanifest Brahman. It is again manifested at the dawn of Brahmaji’s day. The universe has two states: manifest and unmanifest and the cycles of creation continue.
It follows that maya is the unmanifest universe. It is also called Prakriti. A jiva takes rebirth because of the causal body which is the sanchit karma, i.e., the karmic balance at the time of death. At the time of dissolution, i.e., at the end of a cycle of creation, the aggregate causal body of all jivas is the unmanifest universe resting in Brahman. Maya is the cosmic causal body. Brahman owes maya power to jivas.

3 thoughts on “Maya-stuff

  1. Dear Bimal,

    I will comment upon the vikShepa-AvaraNa aspect shortly. (I don’t think this is a Shankara-supported notion.)

    But, for the moment: You say that mAyA is the ‘power of Brahman’ and ‘projects the universe’, which presumably includes the jIva-s that are apparently an aspect of creation. In which case, how can ‘Brahman owe it mAyA power to jIva-s’?

    Best wishes,

  2. Dear Dennis,
    As regards: I will comment upon the vikShepa-AvaraNa aspect shortly. (I don’t think this is a Shankara-supported notion.), below is an extract from The Book of One. John Hunt Publishing. Kindle Edition.
    Vedanta describes two different aspects of the ‘mechanism’ of mAyA. The following are quotations from another short book attributed to Shankara, called dRRigdRRishya viveka – (Discriminating between the Seer and the Seen), Ref. 56. “Two powers, undoubtedly, are predicated of mAyA viz. projecting and veiling. The projecting power creates everything from the subtle body to the gross universe.” (I.e. both world and mind).
    Maya is the aggregate of causal bodies of jivas. In this sense, Brahman owes maya power to jivas, something like Brahman (Consciousness) requiring jivas for manifestation.
    Best wishes,

  3. Dear Bimal,


    I freely admit that I believed the AvaraNa-vikShepa explanation to be ‘standard’ Advaita at the time. (I wrote that well over 20 years ago and did not update it for the second edition.) I learnt quite a few things while researching for the ‘Confusions’ books!

    The topic is part of the discussions about mAyA and avidyA and I address all of this in the second ‘Confusions’ book (‘Ignorance and its Removal’), which is written but awaiting my final copy-editing incorporation and agreement with the publisher about how many more volumes there will be! There is a lot of relevant material and it is obviously not appropriate to post this here.

    What I will say is that the quotes that are used to support the idea tend to come from Vivekacūḍāmaṇi and Dṛg Dṛśya Viveka and it is generally agreed that neither of these was written by Shankara. Amongst the texts accepted as definitely Shankara, there is no mention of the idea explicitly.

    The distinction is really between the adhyAsa of the jIva, as in seeing a snake instead of a rope and the mAyA of Ishvara, as in the metaphor of mirage water. The former can be thought of as a ‘projection’ of the jIva’s mind (pratibhAsa), the latter as a ‘projection’ of Ishvara’s mind (vyavahAra).

    Best wishes,

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.