Besides Śaṃkara Vedānta, Kaśmīri Śaivism, which is another monist/advaita school of Hinduism too talks about Māyā. According to it, the basic definition of Māyā is -

मियते अनय इती माया।
Meaning: That power by which experience is experienced in a particular way is Māyā.

In other words, that power which makes experience measurable, i.e limited & separates the 'this' from 'I' & 'I' from 'this' & excludes things from one another is Māyā.

Māyā draws a veil on the self, causes sense of duality. In simple words, Brahman¹ put goggles to see his own grandeur to see himself. These goggles are what Māyā Tattva & the cause of Māyā. But certain points are to kept in the mind -

  • Māyā is the power of Brahman. Therefore, Māyā is controlled by Brahman. There is no separate existence of Māyā .

  • Māyā draws veil in the experience but doesn't create an experience of inexistence. In simple words, through Māyā whatever is being perceived is actually present in Brahman it is just that our perception is limited which is not allowing ourselves to see divinity in the perceived objects. ( Perfect explanation of "All that is Brahman alone"). Maya is not creating perception of something which is not present in Brahman in any form!

Also, there are 5 products of Māyā which are covering. It is like what happens the moment Brahman wears goggles ( Māyā Tattva ). How Brahman's experience changes (Short summary)?

  1. Kalā - Brahman starts feeling it² doesn't owe everything.
  2. Vidyā - Brahman starts feeling it doesn't know everything. It forgets its omniscience.
  3. Rāga - Brahman forgets it's all satisfactory nature & thus develops desires. In other words, Brahman forgets its completeness.
  4. Kāla - Brahman forgets its timelessness or eternity & see eternity as past, present & future.
  5. Niyatī - Brahman forgets the freedom of pervasiveness (vyApaktA).

Thus, herein all about Māyā explained according to Kaśmīri Śaivism. Now, I'm interested to know similar explanation on Māyā according to Śaṃkara Vedānta.

  • What is Māyā? Basic definition? It's role? It's products?

  • From where Māyā comes?

  • What are its characteristics?

  • How can it independently exist outside Brahman?

1-- In Kaśmīri Śaivism, Brahman is not passive unlike Śaṃkara Vedānta. Brahman is active here. It's nature is Prakāśavimarśaya. In short, Prakāśa is Siva & vimarśaya is Śaktī. Brahman thus here has capability to create, maintain & withdraw the universe & there is nothing existing outside Brahman.
2- such pronoun is used as Brahman transcends gender.

Note- here Māyā is briefly explained but I wanted a detailed answer.

  • 1
    Edit your question and decide if you want an answer that compares Sankara's maya to Shaivism maya or you want an explanation of Sankara's maya. Your question does a lot of rambling. edit out the pontificating of your own beliefs. Mar 26, 2017 at 9:57
  • @SwamiVishwananda I have asked in points. Further these are not my self created beliefs. Mar 26, 2017 at 13:03
  • maya is one that shows what is existent to be non existent and shows nonexistent to be existent.For example even though there is GOD we are unable to perceive.But we are able to perceive mirages.World is ultimate mirage. Mar 3, 2018 at 11:53
  • Read through the answer to this question: hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/9448/… Mar 3, 2018 at 12:08
  • The Network of Time Space & Causation is Maya Mar 15, 2018 at 17:37

1 Answer 1


What is Māyā? Basic definition? It's role? It's products?

Surprisingly, Maya is the power of Brahman - Brahman has power in Advaita Vedanta also! From Vivekachudamini -

अव्यक्तनाम्नी परमेशशक्तिः अनाद्यविद्या त्रिगुणात्मिका परा । कार्यानुमेया सुधियैव माया यया जगत्सर्वमिदं प्रसूयते ॥ १0८ ॥

avyaktanāmnī parameśaśaktiḥ anādyavidyā triguṇātmikā parā | kāryānumeyā sudhiyaiva māyā yayā jagatsarvamidaṃ prasūyate || 108 ||

108. Avidya (Nescience) or Māyā, called also the Undifferentiated, is the power of the Lord. She is without beginning, is made up of the three Guṇas and is superior to the effects (as their cause). She is to be inferred by one of clear intellect only from the effects She produces. It is She who brings forth this whole universe.

From where Māyā comes?

It didn't come from anywhere, since Brahman is eternal so it's power is.

What are its characteristics?

सन्नाप्यसन्नाप्युभयात्मिका नो भिन्नाप्यभिन्नाप्युभयात्मिका नो । साङ्गाप्यनङ्गा ह्युभयात्मिका नो महाद्भुतानिर्वचनीयरूपा ॥ १0९ ॥

sannāpyasannāpyubhayātmikā no bhinnāpyabhinnāpyubhayātmikā no | sāṅgāpyanaṅgā hyubhayātmikā no mahādbhutānirvacanīyarūpā || 109 ||

109. She is neither existent nor non-existent nor partaking of both characters; neither same nor different nor both; neither composed of parts nor an indivisible whole nor both. She is most wonderful and cannot be described in words.

How can it independently exist outside Brahman?

It doesn't exist independently. As heat (which is power of fire) is in existence just due to existence of fire, so the existence of Maya (which is power of Brahman) exists just due to existence of Brahman.

  • Good answer.But all dont accept vivekachudamani as Adi Sankar's work.So His commentaries of the prasthanatrayi would provide a more authentic answer i think.
    – user17294
    Feb 5, 2019 at 18:44
  • @Partha Sir, VC is authentic. Besides, in a research paper somewhere I read Sankara of course wrote bhAshya but one can be skeptical about whether the bhAshya we have today was actually written by him or not. It has also been researched that the author of VC and Sankara BS bhAshya are different so I would like to go with VC for now. Feb 5, 2019 at 18:50
  • @Mr.Sigma I agree with Partha. VC is a great work, but unlikely to have been written by Sri Adi Shankara.
    – user16581
    Feb 5, 2019 at 18:56
  • so far as my linited knowledge goes, the bhasyas are accepted to be more authentic as Sri Adi Sankar's work.But yes, of course its upto u.Thanks and regards
    – user17294
    Feb 5, 2019 at 18:56
  • Okay, I have a research paper which claims there were 2 Shankara. Brahma Sutra Bhashya was written by 8th century Shankara while VC written by original Shankara. This is one of the topic I'm still researching into. Feb 5, 2019 at 20:09

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