What is the need for Brahman to differentiate into Maya and allow sentient beings to exist and contemplate the meaning of itself. If Brahman is eternal consciousness, reality and bliss, doesn't it already realize itself? Can there even be a satisfactory answer to this question as Swami Vivekananda himself said that he doesn't know why?

Popular answers are leela or sport and appearance or Brahman just appears as Maya but I think the latter answer is poorer in quality just because it restates the question statement than provide insights.

Edit: Could it be that Brahman itself might have a limitation that mortal vulnerable beings don't have?

  • I agree with Swami Vivekananda. There is no satisfactory answer to this question.
    – user16581
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 14:17
  • @Iwillcloseyourquestion that uname had me doubting for a second there
    – Weezy
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 14:23
  • Why do parents send children to school? To learn and be independent. "The world is the great gymnasium where we come to make ourselves strong."- Swami Vivekananda. Brahman is immortal and so are the souls of all the beings, gist of Geeta. There is no religion for an insect or animal because its actions are limited and consciousness full of oblivion and purpose of living is finite sense gratification, how can than an inert tamsik being ever understand Aatma(without Tamas) which is pure and untainted? Seeking Truth alone leads to immortal truth, but are senses and body eternal truth?
    – user16530
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 15:27
  • hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/35690/16530
    – user16530
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 15:33
  • @ManuKumar isn't that contradictory to vedantic philosophy which says that every grain has consciousness or rather is consciousness?
    – Weezy
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 15:49

4 Answers 4


Why does Brahman appear as Maya?

He doesn't, at least according to non-Advaitin schools of philosophy.

Brahman is not subject to ignorance for the same reasons you mentioned: the position is illogical and contradicts scriptures.

Ramanujacharya refutes this position in his commentary on the Brahma Sutras:

Now this theory of Nescience is altogether untenable. In the first place we ask, 'What is the substrate of this Nescience which gives rise to the great error of plurality of existence?


Nor can you say 'Brahman'; for Brahman is nothing but self-luminous intelligence, and hence contradictory in nature to Nescience, which is avowedly sublated by knowledge.

  • 1
    "this is a fiction of the advaitins" - while writing kindly ensure the words used doesnt criticize other sects school of wisdom. When Brahman appears as Maya means, Brahman appears himself as this Universe. This Universe is non-different from Brahman. The underlying reality for everything is Brahman, in which various names, forms, objects, appear and disappear. This doesnt mean Brahman is in ignorance. Those are wrong interpretations. Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 3:49
  • @ParabrahmanJyoti I have removed the offensive wording.
    – Ikshvaku
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 4:44
  • Doesn't? So are we just going to ignore the big elephant in the room and say no there is no elephant?
    – Weezy
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 10:23
  • @Weezy What elephant?
    – Ikshvaku
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 4:14
  • Maya the elephant. Since you tell me that Non-advaitin or as I infer: dualistic thought holds the position that maya is separate from brahman.
    – Weezy
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 6:56

Brahman has no limitation as you ask. Brahma Sutras says (https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/brahma-sutras):

Chapter II, Section I, Adhikarana X

Adhikarana summary: Brahman’s power of Maya established

Brahma-Sutra 2.1.30: Sanskrit text and English translation.

सर्वोपेता च तद्दर्शनात् ॥ ३० ॥

sarvopetā ca taddarśanāt || 30 ||

sarvopetā—Endowed with all; ca—and; tat-darśanāt—because it is seen.

  1. And (Brahman is) endowed with all (powers), because it is seen (from the scriptures).

Generally we see that men endowed with a physical body possess such powers. But since Brahman has no body, it is not likely that It can possess such powers—so says the opponent.

This Sutra gives proof of Brahman’s being endowed with Maya Sakti, the power of Nescience. Various scriptural texts declare that Brahman possesses all powers. “The great Lord is the Mayin (the ruler of Maya)” (Svet. 4. 10). See also Chh. 8. 14. 4 and 8. 7. 1.

Brahma-Sutra 2.1.31: Sanskrit text and English translation.

विकरणत्वान्नेति चेत्, तदुक्तम् ॥ ३१ ॥

vikaraṇatvānneti cet, taduktam || 31 ||

vikaraṇatvāt—Because devoid of organs; na—not; iti cet—if it be said; tat—that; uktam—has been explained.

  1. If it be said that because (Brahman) is devoid of organs (it is) not (able to create, though endowed with powers), (we say) this has (already) been explained.

and that is the 'why' or 'reason' is that it is his mere sport is given in the next two verses..

Chapter II, Section I, Adhikarana XI

Brahma-Sutra 2.1.32: Sanskrit text and English translation.

न प्रयोजनवत्त्वात् ॥ ३२ ॥

na prayojanavattvāt || 32 ||

na—Not; prayojanavattvāt—on account of having motive.

  1. (Brahman is) not (the creator of the world) on account of (every activity) having a motive.

Granting that Brahman possesses all powers for creation, a further objection is raised against Its being the cause. Nobody engages himself in anything without a motive or purpose. Everything is undertaken by people to satisfy .some desire. But Brahman is self-sufficient, therefore It has nothing to gain by the creation; hence we cannot expect It to engage Itself in such a useless creation. Therefore Brahman cannot be the cause of the world.

Brahma-Sutra 2.1.33: Sanskrit text and English translation.

लोकवत्तु, लीलाकैवल्यम् ॥ ३३ ॥

lokavattu, līlākaivalyam || 33 ||

lokavat—As is seen in the world; tu—but; līlākaivalyam—mere pastime.

  1. But (Brahman’s creative activity) is mere pastime, as is seen in the world.

Even as kings without any motive behind are seen to engage in acts for mere pastime, or even as men breathe without a purpose, for it is their very nature, or even as children play out of mere fun, so also Brahman without any purpose engages Itself in creating this world of diversity. This answers the objection raised in the previous Sutra against Brahman’s being the cause of the world.

As Brahman is devoid of organs. It cannot create. Moreover, It is described as “Not this, not this”, which precludes all attributes; so how can It possess any powers? This Sutra replies that it has already been explained in 2. 1. 4. and 2. 1. 25 that with respect to Brahman the scripture alone is authority and not reason. The scripture declares that Brahman, although devoid of organs, possesses all capacities. “Grasping without hands, moving swiftly without feet” etc. (Svet. 3. 19). Though Brahman is without attributes, yet on account of Maya or Nescience It can be taken to possess all powers.

Although I have used a translation of Adi Shankara's commentary, an examination of Sri Ramanuja's Sri-Bhasya shows the same verses and almost the same commentary. As a point, he gives other Upanishadic references to support the verses. The Brahma Sutras is one of the three Prasthanas of all modern Hindus, followers of the Uttara Mimamsa. These are not 'popular' answers as you seem to suggest, they are part of the pillars of all Hindus.


Brahman doesn't appear in Maya in Advaita. Brahman is never changing.It's formless.Maya is actually Power of Brahman.That power is neither different or indifferent from Brahman.Simply indescribable. Brahman prevades the Universe.If you read Shankar Bhasya Upanishad or Brahmasutra you can learn about Nirguna Brahman.Also Saguna Brahman This is pretty much when Brahman makes connection with the universe.On That time Maya is in his under control.He use it as he likes. If you want to know about Brahman.Then know yourself. You cann't know him by books,speech,words,imagination .Shastras only show you some paths it is your job to find the path and walk on it.

  • mAyA in the context of the question is used synonymously with prakriti. Please note that answers need sources.
    – user16581
    Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 12:02
  • Maya is not prakriti.I have bengali translation books.No english.
    – Starbeard
    Commented Jan 5, 2020 at 18:16

The following is an excerpt from the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi.

Explaining Maya of Vedanta and swatantra of Pratyabhijna (independence of recognition), Sri Bhagavan said:

The Vedantins say that Maya is the sakti of illusion premised in Siva. Maya has no independent existence. Having brought out the illusion of the world as real, she continues to play upon the ignorance of the victims. When the reality of her not being is found, she disappears.

‘Recognition’ says that Sakti (power) is coeval with Siva. The one does not exist without the other. Siva is unmanifest, whereas Sakti is manifest on account of Her independent will swatantra. Her manifestation is the display of the cosmos on pure consciousness, like images in a mirror.

The images cannot remain in the absence of a mirror. So also the world cannot have an independent existence. Swatantra becomes eventually an attribute of the Supreme. Sri Sankara says that the Absolute is without attributes and that Maya is not and has no real being. What is the difference between the two? Both agree that the display is not real. The images of the mirror cannot in any way be real. The world does not exist in reality (vastutah).

Both schools mean the same thing. Their ultimate aim is to realise the Absolute Consciousness. The unreality of the cosmos is implied in Recognition (Pratyabhijna), whereas it is explicit in Vedanta. If the world be taken as chit (consciousness), it is always real. Vedanta says that there is no nana (diversity), meaning that it is all the same Reality.

There is agreement on all points except in words and the method of expression.

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