How is the illusion in Buddhism and Hinduism different?An author writes <<The concepts of maya, avidya, vyayaharika-satya and paramarthika-satya, advaya, prajna, the unreality of the universe and time and the attributeless Brahman are all Buddhist contributions, without which there would be no Advaita philosophy>>Source : https://gosai.com/writings/mayavada-and-buddhism-are-they-one-and-the-same

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    As far as I know. Buddhism does not believe this world is fake. They think this is real. So, no Maya concept in Buddhism. Buddhism never talks about Maya too.
    – Kumar
    Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 9:55
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    There's no 'illusion' in Buddhism ... Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 7:55

2 Answers 2


There are different schools and sub-schools within Hinduism and also different schools and sub-schools within Buddhism. So, for this answer, I will limit the scope. I choose to limit it to Advaita Vedanta in Hinduism as taught by Adi Shankaracharya in his own writings, and teachings from the Early Buddhist Texts (EBTs) in Buddhism, especially the Pali Canon.

Advaita Vedanta

From Adi Shankaracharya's Vivekachudamani:

  1. This Atman is a self-cognised entity because It is cognised by Itself. Hence the individual soul is itself and directly the Supreme Brahman, and nothing else.

  2. That which clearly manifests Itself in the states of wakefulness, dream and profound sleep; which is inwardly perceived in the mind in various forms as an unbroken series of egoistic impressions; which witnesses the egoism, the Buddhi, etc., which are of diverse forms and modifications; and which makes Itself felt as the Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute; know thou this Atman, thy own Self, within thy heart.

  3. Seeing the reflection of the sun mirrored in the water of a jar, the fool thinks it is the sun itself. Similarly the stupid man, through delusion, identifies himself with the reflection of the Chit caught in the Buddhi, which is Its superimposition.

  4. Just as the wise man leaves aside the jar, the water and the reflection of the sun in it, and sees the self-luminous sun which illumines these three and is independent of them;

  1. All this universe which through ignorance appears as of diverse forms, is nothing else but Brahman which is absolutely free from all the limitations of human thought.
  1. If the universe be true, let it then be perceived in the state of deep sleep also. As it is not at all perceived, it must be unreal and false, like dreams.
  1. All modifications of clay, such as the jar, which are always accepted by the mind as real, are (in reality) nothing but clay. Similarly, this entire universe which is produced from the real Brahman, is Brahman Itself and nothing but That. Because there is nothing else whatever but Brahman, and That is the only self-existent Reality, our very Self, therefore art thou that serene, pure, Supreme Brahman, the One without a second.

  2. As the place, time, objects, knower, etc., called up in dream are all unreal, so is also the world experienced here in the waking state, for it is all an effect of one's own ignorance. Because this body, the organs, the Pranas, egoism, etc., are also thus unreal, therefore art thou that serene, pure, supreme Brahman, the One without a second.

From Adi Shankaracharya's Aparokshanubhuti:

  1. This world, though an object of our daily experience and serving all practical purposes, is, like the dream world, of the nature of non-existence, inasmuch as it is contradicted the next moment.

  2. The dream (experience) is unreal in waking, whereas the waking (experience) is absent in dream. Both, however, are non-existent in deep sleep which, again, is not experienced in either.

  3. Thus all the three states are unreal inasmuch as they are the creation of the three Gunas; but their witness (the reality behind them) is, beyond all Gunas, eternal, one, and is Consciousness itself.

  4. Just as (after the illusion has gone) one is no more deluded to see a jar in earth or silver in the nacre, so does one no more see Jiva in Brahman when the latter is realized (as one's own self).

  5. Just as earth is described as a jar, gold as an ear-ring, and a nacre as silver, so is Brahman described as Jiva.

  6. Just as blueness in the sky, water in the mirage, and a human figure in a post (are but illusory), so is the universe in Atman.

  7. Just as the appearance of a ghost in an empty place, of a castle in the air, and of a second moon in the sky (is illusory), so is the appearance of the universe in Brahman.

So, according to the quoted verses, we see that the world that is perceived in a dream is unreal, after waking up. Similarly the world that you observe when you're awake does not exist in the dream or in deep sleep (turiya).

However, what is common in all three states, is Consciousness, the silent observer. And this Consciousness is Atman (the Self), which is the same as Brahman (the Ultimate Reality). This is a gist of Advaita to my understanding.

So, Advaita is very centered on Consciousness, the silent observer.

Although there are many living beings, there's only one Consciousness = Atman = Brahman. The perceived diversity of living beings and inanimate objects is a mirage or a dream or an illusion when Consciousness looks through the lens of maya, similar to living beings and inanimate objects perceived in a dream.

So, it is very clear that the universe is unreal and is an illusion in Advaita. The awake, dream and deep sleep states are all unreal (see Aparokshanubhuti 58). The only thing real, eternal and permanent is Consciousness = Atman = Brahman.

The enlightened person sees only Brahman, while the unenlightened person suffers because of the illusion of separation from Brahman and of diversity in forms.

Please see this excellent answer by Keshav Srinivasan for more details.


The Buddha's teachings from the Pali Canon is quite different. It does not use the word "maya" but it does have the concept of illusion or mirage.

By convention, a sentient being in Buddhism is one where the five aggregates of form, feeling, perception, consciousness and mental formations come together, just as when different parts of a chariot come together, you call it a chariot (SN 5.10).

Through dependent origination (pratityasamutpada), the mental idea of the self (atman) arises. Just as how different parts of a lute (vina) interact to create music, the five aggregates work together according to dependent origination to create the mental idea of the self. If you break down the five aggregates into their constituent parts, you will not be able to find the self anywhere, just as when you break the lute down, you cannot find music anywhere (SN 35.205).

Consciousness in Buddhism is not independent. It is dependent on the six sense media of eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind or intellect (for thoughts). So, dependent on this, there is eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, mind-consciousness etc. (MN 38)

The mind not just objectifies the mental idea of the self, but it also objectifies and classifies all that is perceived into non-self objects, relative to the mental idea of the self or based on its relationship to the mental idea of the self. This is also called reification or concept proliferation (papañca in Pali or prapañca in Sanskrit) (MN 18).

For e.g. a cooked meat dish is perceived by a meat lover as delicious food, by the vegan as something repulsive, and by the honey bee as dirt (because it is not its food). In this sense, the "delicious food" or "repulsive thing" doesn't exist, except as objectified and classified by the mind.

Another example is the sea. A fisherman looks at the sea as a source of fortune (like how a miner looks at a gold mine). A sailor looks at the sea as a place of adventure. A person who doesn't know how to swim and rarely spends time near large bodies of water looks at the sea as a dangerous place. Meanwhile, a fish may not perceive the sea as a body of liquid at all, since it is all around it. In this sense, the sea as a "source of fortune" or "source of adventure" or even "body of liquid" doesn't exist, except as objectified and classified by the mind.

So, in Buddhism, the universe itself is not a dream or a mirage or an illusion. But rather, how the mind objectifies and classifies what it perceives is what is unreal. Also, dreams are just thoughts in the mind based on what has been perceived before, observed by mind-consciousness.

An enlightened person will see things exactly as they are (MN 1). Meanwhile, reification (papañca) is a source of suffering for the unenlightened person, because craving is a habit of reification (MN 1, Snp 4.14), and craving (taṇhā or tṛ́ṣṇā) is the cause of suffering (dukkha) in Buddhism i.e. the second noble truth.

Through enlightenment, ignorance is uprooted, eliminating self-view and reification. This in turn will eliminate craving, which eliminates suffering.


In Advaita, according to Adi Shankaracharya, the universe is unreal and an illusion. Only Atman = Brahman is real. The illusion appears so when Consciousness looks through the lens of maya. Also see this answer.

Meanwhile in Buddhism according to the Pali Canon, which is an Early Buddhist Text (EBT), the universe itself is not explicitly considered unreal or an illusion. Rather, that which is reified in the mind is what is unreal and an illusion, and a cause of suffering.

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    Beautiful answer sir. Thanks a lot for answering my request. But I would request you to please read this article : gosai.com/writings/… There is a Claim that Mahayana School inspired Shankaracharya or Vice Versa about concept of Maya and there's also lot of speculation that Upanishads are Buddhist Inspired. Your views please Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 7:56
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    @SethuSrivatsaKoduru If you look at wikipedia's scholarly dates, the earliest Upanishads (Brhadaranyaka, Chandogya) came before the Buddha. A few other Upanishads (Taittiriya, Aitareya, and Kausitaki) developed around the same time as the Buddha. All Vedanta schools, Samkhya, Yogasutras of Patanjali, Purva Mimamsa school, the rest of the Upanishads (Kena, Katha, Isa, Svetasvatara, Mundaka, Prasna, Mandukya), Brahmasutras and Bhagavad Gita all came after the Buddha's time.
    – ruben2020
    Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 8:27
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    Sir do you think Vedanta borrows ideas from Madhyamika Buddhism as above article of Gosai claims?? Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 8:28
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    @SethuSrivatsaKoduru The closest Buddhist school to Advaita appears to be Yogācāra, which according to this wikipedia page, was founded by Asanga and Vasubandhu, who lived in the 4th to 5th century CE. Meanwhile, Advaita founders Gaudapada and Adi Shankara lived in the 6th to 7th century CE and 8th century CE respectively. Madhyamika founder Nagarjuna lived even one or two centuries before Asanga and Vasubandhu. So, it is likely that Advaita Vedanta was influenced by Mahayana schools.
    – ruben2020
    Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 8:32
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    Sir is Madhamika Buddhism authentic teachings of Buddha?Because you said earliest Buddhist teachings dont have anything to do with Illusion Commented Dec 12, 2020 at 8:49

There should be deeper study to understand the real usage of "Maya" in Vedanta. Maya is used as a Upaya to turn the sadhaka inwards.

Please check this wonderful answer.

IshAvAsyaM idaM sarvaM - Isha Upanishad-1. All this is enveloped by the Supreme Being.

Brahman is "satyam jnanam anantam brahma" - Taittiriya Upanishad 2.1.1. Satyam is something whose existence cannot be negated.

From the above we can see what Upanishads are trying to Convey. Everything is Brahman and Brahman is real. Isn't world part of Everything ?

To understand the intricacies of Vedanta one should undertake at least some level of serious study of Upanishads with basic knowledge in Sanskrit under the guidance of a good Teacher. Without this effort and relying on few texts and their translations doesn't help us much in grasping the true meaning of Vedanta.

Coming to the History of Vedanta, from discussion in comments i see a theme that Upanishads thought is mostly post Buddha period.I feel such a conclusion is harsh and there are disputes among scholars related to the dating of Upanishads.

Consider the example of Taittirīya Upanishad.Taittirīya Upanishad has come from Taittiriya Shakha (Sanskrit, loosely meaning 'Branch or School of the sage Tittiri'). Taittiriya Shakha consists of the Taittiriya Samhita ('TS'), Taittiriya Brahmana ('TB'), Taittiriya Aranyaka ('TA'), and Taittiriya Pratisakhya ('TP'). Taittirīya Upanishad is part of Taittiriya Aranyaka.

Now check the Tevijja Sutta from Buddhist Palin Canon which clearly mentions about people who are already following the path of sage Tittiri.

“About the variety of paths, Master Gotama. Even though brahmins describe different paths—the Addhariya brahmins, the Tittiriya brahmins, the Chandoka brahmins, and the Bavhadija brahmins—all of them lead someone who practices them to the company of Brahmā.

It’s like a village or town that has many different roads nearby, yet all of them meet at that village. In the same way, even though brahmins describe different paths—the Addhariya brahmins, the Tittiriya brahmins, the Chandoka brahmins, and the Bavhadija brahmins—all of them lead someone who practices them to the company of Brahmā.”

Now can we say Taittiriya Upanishad was Developed before Buddha ?

Placing Majority of Vedtantic development in post Buddha period is doing gross injustice to the history of Vedanta.

The history of the composition of the Upanishads is exactly the same as the history of Vedanta School - Hajime Nakamura

If anyone wants to really understand how Buddhism & Vedanta influenced each other one should be well versed in Pali & Sanskrit as these are the languages used to convey their philosophical ideas. One should also consider the thinking process and social circumstances of people among which these ideas are developed.Last but not least one shouldn't be biased towards the school of her/his liking while undertaking this study.Otherwise any other study is incomplete and only confirms one's preconceived ideas.

I come across only one such Genuine scholar Hajime Nakamura. I can't recommend enough His works on Buddhism & Vedanta especially this and this, one related to the life of Buddha and the other related to History of Vedanta.

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