Does Maya (Materialistic illusion) fall into one of the following three categories:

  1. Sattva

  2. Rajas

  3. Tamas

Or is maya categorized as nirguna or that which is beyond the three gunas?

  • 2
    No, Maya is mother of these Gunas. It has nothing to do with Gunas. It's like asking whether stone is sexual or not. Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 15:31
  • @Rohith hello, i find this a bit confusing to understand;you mentioned that Maya is the mother of the gunas but yet it has nothing to do with the gunas. Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 15:36
  • I knew while writing you would ask me this. I meant Maya is source 6 Kankukas. Kankukas are the source of Purusha, Purusha is the source of Prakriti & Prakriti is the source of three Gunas. So you can see, Maya transcends Gunas yet mother of the Gunas. Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 15:49
  • Maya produces the 3 Gunas. Maya is free from the 3 Gunas and Maya also contains all Gunas.
    – user12826
    Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 18:39

2 Answers 2


Maya is the mother of the three Gunas as rightly said by Rohith under your question. So, she/it can not be categorized under one particular Guna.

I have selected few passages from the Devi Bhagavata Purana (abbreviated as DB here) to "describe" the Maya, who/which actually is regarded as incomprehensible:

21-23. O Dvaipâyana! Thus saying, Visnu stopped. I was greatly astonished and asked that Eternal Vâsudeva, the Deva of the Devas, the Lord of the World, “O Lord of Ramâ! What is the form of Mâyâ? How is She? What is the measure of Her strength? Where She resides? Whose substratum is She? Kindly tell these to me. O Preserver of the Universe! I am greatly desirous to see Mâyâ; Shew Her to me quickly. O Lord of Ramâ! I am very eager to know Mâyâ. Be graciously pleased to describe tome the glory of Mâyâ.” 24-36. Visnu said :-- Mâyâ resides everywhere throughout this whole Universe; Her nature consists of the three Gunas; She is the substratum of all; She is omniscient, and acknowledged by all; invisible, and of diverse forms.

. Nârada said :-- O Thou whose only wealth consists in asceticism! I am now describing to you all those good stories; hear attentively. O Muni! This Mâyâ and Her Power are incomprehensible even by those who are the foremost amongst the Yogins. This whole Universe, moving and non-moving, from Brahmâ to the blade of grass, is enchanted by that Unborn and Incomprehensible Mâyâ; therefore no one can escape from the hands of that Mâyâ.

DB Book 6, Chapter 28.

O Nârada! Know the power of Mâyâ incomprehensible as the things seen in dreams cannot be certainly known that all those are false. O Muni! Neither I, nor S’ambhu, nor Brahmâ can measure the power wielded by Mâyâ and Her three Gunas, very hard to fathom. How, then, can any ordinary mortal know them!

DB Book 6, Chapter 30

Now as to whether Maya is Nirguna or Saguna, then it is said that when the Highest Paradevi conjoins her Shakti Maya, she then becomes Saguna. From that i could not conclude anything though.

O King! When Brahmâ, Visnu, Mahes’vara and the solar and lunar Kings, the fourteen lords of Manvantaras, Manu and others are under the control of the mayic Gunas, what to speak of other ordinary mortals, men and the other Jîvas. The whole world is under the control of Mâyâ; the Devas, men and all other beings. None should doubt on this point. All the embodied beings labour under the directions of Mâyâ; never can they work independently. This Mâyâ is again always residing in the Highest Essence, the Samvit or the Universal Pure Consciousness. Thus Mâyâ is dependent on the Highest Goddess,

DB Book 6, Chapter 31

In the following passage the Highest Devi Bhuvaneswari says that herself:

I am Nirguna. And when I am united with my S'aktî, Mâyâ, 1 become Saguna, the Great Cause of this world. This Mâyâ is divided into two, Vidyâ and Avidyâ. Avidyâ Mâyâ hides Me; whereas Vidyâ Mâyâ does not. Avidyâ creates whereas Vidyâ Mâyâ liberates.

Mâyâ united with Chaitanya (Intelligence), i. e., Chidâbhâsa is the efficient cause of this Universe; whereas Mâyâ reduced to and united with five original elements is the material Cause of the Universe. Some call this Mâyâ tapas; some call Her inert, material; some call Her knowledge; some call Her Mâyâ, Pradhâna, Prakriti, Ajâ (unborn) and some others call Her S'aktî. The S'aiva authors call Her Vimars'a and the other Vedântists call Her Avidyâ; in short, this Mâyâ is in the heads of all the Pundits. This Mâyâ is called various in the Nigamas.

DB Book 7, Chapter 32

  • is Parvati devi and the Highest Devi Bhuvaneswari the same? Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 13:16
  • And this statement: "Avidyâ creates whereas Vidyâ Mâyâ liberates",is it portraying material creation in a negative way? Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 13:21
  • In the Purana i am quoting from Bhuvaneswari is kept separate from Parvati.. Goddess Bhuvaneswari is said to reside in Manidwipa which is also the abode of the supreme Goddess Lalita.. But elsewhere in the Tantras, Goddess Bhuvaneswari who is one of the Mahavidyas is said to have emerged from Goddess Paravti only.. So, while Goddess Parvati is the born form of the supreme Goddess.. Bhuvaneswari and others are unborn forms.. but eventually they are the same..@Elfinforest
    – Rickross
    Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 13:41
  • Some forces, illusions lead to the Samsara..or the worldly bondage..who among us are free from emotions for example? but these emotions are binding us eventually.. So, Maya's this form is Avidya.. The Vidya on the other hand which is knowledge is said to liberate..@Elfinforest
    – Rickross
    Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 13:44
  • @Elfinforest no problem bro.. btw some more definitions of maya are found in this answer: hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/21420
    – Rickross
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 8:06

Maya can't be categorised as Satva, Raja or Tama. Actually Maya is the source of these three Gunas or Gunas are work of Maya. Following verses from Vivekachudamani describes the nature of Maya:

  1. Avidya (Nescience) or Maya, called also the Undifferentiated, is the power of the Lord. She is without beginning, is made up of the three Gunas 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Maya can be destroyed by the realisation of the pure Brahman, the one without a second, just as the mistaken idea of a snake is removed by the discrimination of the rope. She has her Gunas as Rajas, Tamas and Sattva, named after their respective functions.

  • Maya is said to be power of Shiva/Brahman in K.S also. Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 16:18
  • The answer is saying Maya is Avidya..This Maya is not the same u are talking about.. @Rohith.
    – Rickross
    Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 16:27
  • Right @Rickross Adi Shankar is saying Maya is made up of three gunas which is inconsistent with Shaiva-Shakta agamas. Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 16:28
  • 1
    @Rohith. Adishankara didn't say Maya is made up of three Gunas. He said it is source of these Gunas.
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 17:00
  • 2
    Maya is not "only" Avidya. Infact, Maya as Avidya delude us, and Maya as Vidya take us to spiritual path.
    – user12826
    Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 18:41

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