What is Maya?

Maya is not a fictitious theory. Maya is just a name given to a natural
phenomenon. It occurs when we try to analyze and understand the
concept of infinity in any field.

Let us consider mathematics. We have the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, … The
existence of these finite numbers indicate that we can go on counting
for ever. So we have the concept of “infinity” in mathematics. Thus
the presence of finite numbers indicate the presence of infinity.

Now, let us see from the point of view of infinity. From this point,
the number line is homogenous. From the point of view of infinite,
we cannot distinguish finite numbers like 1, 2, 3, etc. This can be
seen from the lines below:

inf – 1 = inf (1)
inf – 2 = inf (2)

From (1):
inf – inf = 1

From (2):
inf – inf = 2

So, we say (infinity – infinity) is “indeterminate”. It can take any
value. Its value cannot be restricted to a particular value. Thus from
the point of view of infinity, 1, 2, 3, etc do not exist in reality.
As the number line is homogenous, any point on it is only imaginary.
There is really no difference between one point and another point.

Thus the experience of the “finite” cannot be denied. We keep experiencing
it every moment. The existence of “finite” implies the existence of “infinite”.
But from the point of view of the “infinite”, the “finite” cannot have
any real existence. This contradiction exists whenever we try to understand
the finite and the infinite. This contradiction is called the “concept of

How did this happen? Let us look at another “indeterminate” to understand
this better.

Any number can be divided into infinite number of parts if each part is zero.

1 / 0 = inf (3)
2 / 0 = inf (4)

From (3):
inf x 0 = 1

From (4):
inf x 0 = 2

So we say (infinity x 0) is “indeterminate”. It can take any value.
Another way of telling this is: “infinity” and “zero” together can
generate any finite value.

How did we get this “zero”? By negating “infinity”. This concept of negation
is called “Maya”.

Infinity is the only reality. By negation, we get zero. And by combining
infinity and zero, we get the entire range of finite numbers.

Thus the duality of infinity and zero arises by the concept called Maya.
It should be noted that the infinite exists from the point of view of the
finite, but the finite does not exist from the point of view of the infinite.
Now what we tell about Maya? Does it exist or not? If Maya exists, the
finite exists. So, Maya also exists from the point of view of the finite,
but not from the point of view of the infinite.

Now, with this background, we can try to understand the concept of “Maya”
in the context of philosophy.

Everyone is after happiness. So, happiness is the intrinsic nature. That
is the reason why everyone desires happiness. Now, if happiness is the
intrinsic nature, where did the current state of sorrow come from? Maya.

Everyone enjoys the state of deep sleep where there is a total absence
of perception of the world. So, the state of non-perception of any object
is the intrinsic state. Now, how did the current state of object perception
come from? Maya.

Like this, the concept of Maya is seen manifesting in various ways.
How the concept of Maya shows up in Physics can be read from the nice
article by the eminent physicist John Dobson at

The name given to the ultimate absolute reality is Brahman. By logical
analysis we can find that the nature of Brahman is Existence, Consciousness
and Infinity. Thus Brahman is homogenous, eternal, unchanging, infinite,
conscious existence. As it is homogenous, it has no identifiable parts.
As it is unchanging, it cannot transform into anything else too. By logic
similar to what we have been discussing, we can arrive at that all the finite
experiences in this world before us points to the infinite with this nature.

The nature of Existence (Sat), Consciousness (Chit) and Infinity (Aananda)
are negated by Maya by what is termed as Veiling (Aavarna), Deluding (Vikshepa)
and Restricting (Mala) natures, respectively. The veiling nature of Maya
makes the Brahman seem non-existant. The deluding nature makes the Brahman
to appear as something different from what it is. The restricting nature
makes Brahman appear as finite. In these discussions, it should be noted that
infinite and happiness are interchangable, and finite and sorrow are
interchangable, because one is the basic cause of the other.

Now, Brahman exists from the point of view of the world. But from
the point of view of Brahman, the world and Maya do not exist. So, the world
is called “Mitya”. It is not real (Satya) as Brahman is. It is not unreal
(Asatya) like “the horn of a hare”. It is being experienced. But, it has
no permanency. It is transient and turns out to be non-existant in the
ultimate analysis. So it is termed as “Mitya”. It should also be noted that
it is the Brahman which appears as the world. From this standpoint, the
world is just an expression or manifestation of the Brahman. The Brahman
cannot be perceived in its real nature, because there is no duality then.
The only way to perceive the Brahman as an object is as the world.


About gokulmuthu

A student of Advaita Vedanta in the light of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Ramana Maharishi, etc.
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