In the Harivamsa For instance, There occurs a stuti of Durga, where She is Praised as Brahman in chapter 3 of The Vishnu Parva, Verse 32.

enter image description here

But In the Same Harivamsa, in another stuti of hers in Chapter 120 of the same Vishnu parva, She is termed as mAyA.

enter image description here

So To Ask, What exactly is She? Is She Brahman or Maya? In many places it has been said that maya and brahman are not the same. So How to reconcile these contradictory epithets of hers?

3 Answers 3


Though Brahman and Maya seem different but both are one and the same.

1-10. Brahmā said :-- " ... the Devī Bhāgavatī, the Prime Śakti, She addressed me thus in the following sweet words :-- There is oneness always between me and the Puruṣa; there is difference whatsoever at any time between me and the Puruṣa (Male, the Supreme Self). Who is I, that is Puruṣa; who is Puruṣa, that is I. The difference between force and the receptacle of force is due to error (maya). He who knows the subtle difference between us two, is certainly intelligent; he is freed from this bondage of Samsāra; there is no manner of doubt in this. The One Secondless Eternal ever-lasting Brahmā substance becomes dual at the time of creation.As a lamp, though one, becomes two by virtue of adjuncts; as a face, though one, becomes two, as reflected in a mirror; as one man becomes double by his shadow, we become reflected into many, by virtue of different Antah Karaṇas (mind, buddhi, and ahaṅkāra) created by Māyā. The necessity of creation, again and again, after the Prākriti Pralayas is due to the fructification of those Karmas of the Jīvas, whose fruits were not enjoyed before the Pralayas ; so when creation again commences, the above said differences are found to appear; Brahmā is the material cause of these changes; without Brahmā as the basis, the existence of Māyā is simply impossible. It is therefore that in Māyā and Māyā’s action, Brahmā is interwoven. For this reason as many differences are found in Māyā, so many differences exist in Brahmā. The Māyā and Brahmā appear as two and hence all the differences, visible and invisible, have come forth. Only during creation are these differences conceived. When everything melts away, i.e., there comes the Pralaya or general dissolution, then, I am not female, I am not male, nor I am hermaphrodite. I then remain as Brahmā with Māyā latent in it..." (Devi Bhagwatam 3.6).

“The Lord of Maya (Mayin Maheshwara) projects the Vedas, sacrifices, spiritual practices, past and future, religious observances, all that the Vedas declare, and the whole world including ourselves. The lord of Maya, again, is bound by Maya in this [in the form of Jiva].” (Swetasvatara Upanishad 4:09).

“Know then Prakriti (nature) is Mâyâ (art), and the Maheshwara the Mâyin (maker); the whole world is filled with what are his members (forms)”. (Swetasvatara Upanishad 4:10).

“The Supreme Lord appears as Isvara, omniscient and omnipotent and as the jiva, of limited knowledge and power, both unborn. But this does not deny the phenomenal universe; for there exists further the unborn prakriti, which creates the ideas of the enjoyer, enjoyment and the object. Atman is infinite and all-pervading and therefore devoid of agency. When the seeker knows all these three to be Brahman, he is freed from his fetters”. (Svetaswatara Upanishad 1:09).

“The enjoyer (jiva), the objects of enjoyment (Maya/Prakriti) and the Ruler (Isvara)—the triad described by the knowers of Brahman—all this is nothing but Brahman. This Brahman alone, which abides eternally within the self, should be known. Beyond it, truly, there is nothing else to be known”. (Svetaswatara Upanishad 1:12).

I hope this clarifies all your queries. Prd..

  • 1
    Thank you for the answer, although I am still struggling to understand the concept a bit to be honest. Maya is always supposed to be subordinate to brahman and under brahman's control then how can the two be treated as one and the same?
    – user31402
    Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 6:50
  • I have added additional verses for more clarification. See it. Brahman is genderless. Ishwara can be termed as Purusha who again takes birth as a jeeva of limited knowledge and this limited knowledge is due to the effect of Maya. Which binds a jeeva to know it's true self as Ishwara or Brahman thus it gets stuck in the life-death circle. But when the curtain of Maya get removed it knows itself as Brahman (Aham Brahmasmi) and thus grts liberated. But the triad Ishwara, Jeeva and Maya all are Brahman themselves, the difference is only due to the error of Maya. Bdw u r Welcome. Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 6:57
  • 1
    @LaDistancia What do you mean "Subordinate"? So Brahman who is Whole (Purna) and Infinite (Anantam) has Subordinates like a Gov office? If you play with your child like a child, are you a child? Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 15:35
  • @SanatanaDhara Maya is stated to be under The control of Brahman or Ishwara in Gita and almost all other major texts. How does that not amount to being subordinate to Brahman?
    – user31402
    Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 16:47
  • 1
    @LaDistancia same BG in chap7 says Maya is Divine's own. Coming to other major texts, I cant vouch for all, but if you take Vivekachudamai it clearly says Maya is as Eternal as Brahman and there are no two separate things 1 Maya and 2 Brahman. So you may be reading too much English translations that watersdown Sanskrit vocabulary into general English terms. Maya is Eternal, however the Influence of Maya upon a consciousness it covers is not eternal. These parts, subordinate, subsection are all vocabulary used for comprehension only. If you call Brahman infinite, then infinite cant have parts. Commented Sep 30, 2023 at 13:34

While the other Answer has elucidated quite appropriately, I would like to like to take a slightly different approach going by an etymological explanation.

In connection I would like to cite a beautiful etymology of the word mAyA when it is used in connection with Devi.

माश्च मोक्षार्थवचनो याश्च प्रापणवाचकः ।। तं प्रापयति या नित्यं सा माया परिकीर्तिता।।२८।।

मा stands for Moksha and या stands for the giver/bestower. Hence Devi is known as mAyA ( माया ) because she is the bestower of Moksha.

~ Brahmavaivarta Purāṇa, Kṛṣṇa-janma-khaṇḍa, Chapter 27

Thereofore, while the generic meaning is also correct, the word Maya can also be interpreted to mean 'She who bestows of Moksha' when the name is used in connection with Devi.

Which in turn is in complete harmony with her description as Brahman.


Brahman is devoid of any qualities and is also formless. But to explain away the phenomenon called the World, we have to surmise an inherent power in Brahman which creates,sustain and destroys the worlds. This power is called Maya. It doesn't have a seperate existence from Brahman.

Brahman is then considered as if it were a Male and this power inherent in Him as a Female. Both can have innumerable forms, of which the feminine forms are called Durga, Laxmi, Saraswati etc.

Thus Durga is another name for Maya. But Maya being devoid of a seperate existence except in Brahman, She is in fact Brahman Itself. So you can think of this relation as अचिन्त्यभेदाभेद i.e. the co-existence of identity as well as difference together, which is beyond human grasp.

  • 1
    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 14:27

You must log in to answer this question.