why is universe is illusion as per adhvaita. If it is illusion then how can all of us are seeing the same universe. For ex: if I am seeing an object in front of me so that does not mean that I am only seeing it, all those who are side by me are also seeing that same object, then how come it is illusion.

That means all human brings are illutioning the same object at any point of time?

I know the moment I see a moving object now will become past in next moment. Same way with universe, that a person seeing now will disappear after that person's death, so thats why it is illusion?

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    English translation of hindu scriptures have been horrible. Maya is wrongly translated as illusion! Maya is not illusion. Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 7:44
  • @ParabrahmanJyoti You're right. However as per Advaita, Maya concept has no real meaning; check this link: vedanta.org/what-is-vedanta/the-concept-of-maya
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 12:39
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    @TheLittleNaruto Maya can be said as delusion. Keeps a human deluded from knowing truth. Ex: we have Tridev, Tridevi. Who is superior? Maya deludes different persons differently. This is power of Maya. If a bad person assumes a thing and does repeated adharma like Duryodhan, through Maya, knowing his limitation, we can delude that person and eliminate that adharmi. There is no proper definition for Maya because that is also work of Maya. Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 13:33
  • What you call others are yourself, only difference between you and others are that of ego and mind but not soul base. For example on a tree, different leafs are seen, but still tree is same and roots are same, similarly all the matter you see is the part of one feminine Prakriti while the seer is same in everyone i.e. masculine Purush. " Ekam Brahm, Dvitya Nasti". Only 1 Brahman alone and noting else. Mithya does not mean illusion, it means temporary, a thing for which you are not sure whether its real or not. Hence, its Pratibhasit Satya bound by Law of Karmas. Illusion is Asat/lie like dream
    – user16530
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 16:52
  • Related post three levels of reality
    – Pandya
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 5:07

4 Answers 4


The Sanskrit words which are used in Advaita doctrines to describe what you called "illusion" are MithyA, MAya, AvidyA etc. We need to see the definitions of these words within Advaita. They have terminological usages within the framework of Advaita Vedanta. The usual literal meanings are not applicable.

Definition of mithyA:

BhAtiti ched bhAtu nAma bhushanam mAyikaya tat |
Yad-sad-bhAsamAnam tan-mithyA swapna-gajAdi-vat ||

That which does not exist in truth but appears to exist - that is called mAyA or mithyA like the entities like elephants etc which are viewed in dreams.

Panchadashi 2.70

So, within Advaita Vedanta mithyA= something that does not exist in truth but appears to exist. Thus, there is no contradiction if we are being able to see this world. Even Advaita says that it will appear until the point when one obtains Samyak GyAna (Knowledge of the Self).

Definition of mAyA:

Ritehartham yat pratiyate na pratiyate chAtmAni |
TadvidyAdAtmano mAyAm ythAbhAso yathA tamah ||

Like a reflection or like RAhu (mentioned as Tamah in the verse) that which appears to be existent without any subject but which does not appear on the Atma is MayA.

Bhagavata PurAna 2.9.33

Another definition quoted in YogavAshishtasArah is:

YA mA kintu pratiyate sA mAyA - That which actually does not exist but appears to exist is mAyA.

So, when they say "Jagat mithyA" it does not imply that this world will not be visible to us or something like that. Because MithyA has a special meaning within the Advaita doctrine.

  • I think it's still unclear until we will not say what is truth here : "That which does not exist in truth but appears to exist"
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 8:30
  • Brilliant!! Superb! You are scholar Rickross Ji I like your answers a lot :) Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 7:36

Other people are seeing the same illusion because there are no other people. They is no you and me. You. Me, He, She are all part of asat world. What is world as per Advaita? It is not just the material things we see around. The world is also called drishya, so it is everything you see, hear, touch etc. The many people you see also constitute part of this world and are equally illusionary.

Other thing is that world is false like son of a barren women. There are no three levels of reality as claimed by others. Following Mandukya Karika 3.28 will clarify it

असतो मायया जन्म तत्त्वतो नैव युज्यते ।
वन्ध्यापुत्रो न तत्त्वेन माययावाऽपि जायते ॥

The unreal cannot be born either really or through Māyā. For the son of a barren woman is born neither in reality nor in illusion.

Shankara Bhashya (commentary): There are those who hold that all entities are unreal, that the non-existent produces this world. But production, by the non-existent, of any thing either in reality or in illusion is not possible. For we know nothing like it in our experience. As the son of a barren woman is not seen to be born either really or through Māyā, the theory of the non-existence of things is in truth1 untenable.


The term Maya doesn't mean illusion or non-existence. Its what makes us think we are this body-mind complex and hence are limited.

When the Hindu says the world is Maya, at once people get the idea that the world is an illusion. This interpretation has some basis, as coming through the Buddhistic philosophers, because there was one section of philosophers who did not believe in the external world at all. But the Maya of the Vedanta, in its last developed form, is neither Idealism nor Realism, nor is it a theory. It is a simple statement of facts — what we are and what we see around us. Maya is a statement of the fact of this universe, of how it is going on. Maya is not a theory for the explanation of the world; it is simply a statement of facts as they exist, that the very basis of our being is contradiction, that everywhere we have to move through this tremendous contradiction, that wherever there is good, there must also be evil, and wherever there is evil, there must be some good, wherever there is life, death must follow as its shadow, and everyone who smiles will have to weep, and vice versa. Nor can this state of things be remedied. We may verily imagine that there will be a place where there will be only good and no evil, where we shall only smile and never weep. This is impossible in the very nature of things; for the conditions will remain the same. Wherever there is the power of producing a smile in us, there lurks the power of producing tears. Wherever there is the power of producing happiness, there lurks somewhere the power of making us miserable. Thus the Vedanta philosophy is neither optimistic nor pessimistic. It voices both these views and takes things as they are. It admits that this world is a mixture of good and evil, happiness and misery, and that to increase the one, one must of necessity increase the other. There will never be a perfectly good or bad world, because the very idea is a contradiction in terms. (Swami Vivekananda, Jnana Yoga Chapter 3)

Like moths hurling themselves against the flame, we are hurling ourselves again and again into sense-pleasures, hoping to find satisfaction there. We return again and again with freshened energy; thus we go on, till crippled and cheated we die. And this is Maya. With every breath, with every pulsation of the heart with every one of our movements, we think we are free, and the very same moment we are shown that we are not. Bound slaves, nature's bond-slaves, in body, in mind, in all our thoughts, in all our feelings. And this is Maya. Everything is rushing towards that one goal, destruction. Our knowledge, our arts, our sciences, everything is rushing towards it. None can stem the tide, none can hold it back for a minute. We may try to forget it, in the same way that persons in a plague-striker city try to create oblivion by drinking, dancing, and other vain attempts, and so becoming paralysed. So we are trying to forget, trying to create oblivion by all sorts of sense-pleasures. And this is Maya.(Swami Vivekananda, Jnana Yoga Chapter 5)


Mithya is a word used for Maya and more closer to Vyavahrik/Pratibhasit Satya(one that is felt or experienced as truth but it is not eternal, like a rope is felt as snake in darkness), based on the law of Karma/past actions, like this world or night dreams. Illusion is a trick or an untrue fact like "horns on a head of a donkey" and is called Asat in Sanskrit.


A legend tells how once Nârada said to Krishna, "Lord, show me Maya." A few days passed away, and Krishna asked Narada to make a trip with him towards a desert, and after walking for several miles, Krishna said, "Narada, I am thirsty; can you fetch some water for me?" "I will go at once, sir, and get you water." So Narada went. At a little distance there was a village; he entered the village in search of water and knocked at a door, which was opened by a most beautiful young girl. At the sight of her he immediately forgot that his Master was waiting for water, perhaps dying for the want of it. He forgot everything and began to talk with the girl. All that day he did not return to his Master. The next day, he was again at the house, talking to the girl. That talk ripened into love; he asked the father for the daughter, and they were married and lived there and had children. Thus twelve years passed. His father-in-law died, he inherited his property. He lived, as he seemed to think, a very happy life with his wife and children, his fields and his cattle and so forth. Then came a flood. One night the river rose until it overflowed its banks and flooded the whole village. Houses fell, men and animals were swept away and drowned, and everything was floating in the rush of the stream. Narada had to escape. With one hand be held his wife, and with the other two of his children; another child was on his shoulders, and he was trying to ford this tremendous flood. After a few steps he found the current was too strong, and the child on his shoulders fell and was borne away. A cry of despair came from Narada. In trying to save that child, he lost his grasp upon one of the others, and it also was lost. At last his wife, whom he clasped with all his might, was torn away by the current, and he was thrown on the bank, weeping and wailing in bitter lamentation. Behind him there came a gentle voice, "My child, where is the water? You went to fetch a pitcher of water, and I am waiting for you; you have been gone for quite half an hour." "Half an hour! " Narada exclaimed. Twelve whole years had passed through his mind, and all these scenes had happened in half an hour! And this is Maya.

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