According to Advaita, I want to get a clear understanding of the following terms:

  • Avidya
  • Maya
  • Ignorance

What are Avidya, Maya, and Ignorance? And what is the difference/relationship between them?

In other words, is one part of the other, or do they all indicate the same thing?

Which is to be overcome and removed? Which is interception or enemy?

  • 8
    Avidhya refers to individual perspective. You and I are having avidhya (because we do not know our true Nature). Maya refers to Universal perspective. God is covered by Maya. Ignorance is simply an english translaltion of Avidhya, while Illusion is translation of Maya, traditionally speaking. Even you can say this, Avidhya is the cause, and Maya is the effect. When you are under Avidhya, you see God and the Universe through Maya. When Avidhya is overcome, then there is no more Maya. For when the cause is removed, the effect automatically ceases. All the best sir.
    – Sai
    Nov 12, 2015 at 17:39
  • What is the way to come out of Avidhya? By realizing the Self. That which is outside is covered by Maya. Say the Jnanis that By probing deep within, one attains answers to all questions in the outside also. One must seek God within, say the Bhaktas, for by finding Him who is seated in the Heart, one obtains the Lord of the Universe. The Kingdom of God lies within You said Jesus. That which is the microcosm is also in the Macrocosm, say the Yogis, thus by gaining control of one's self, one gains control of the Whole cosmos. It is similar in most of the paths to seek the indweller. All the best.
    – Sai
    Nov 12, 2015 at 17:55
  • @Sai I was confused because this answer says Tamas is Ignorance and is subset of Maya.
    – Pandya
    Nov 13, 2015 at 3:17
  • @Sai I suggest you to post an answer.
    – Pandya
    Nov 13, 2015 at 3:18
  • Yeah Avidhya is very complicated term. When translated in English it is translated as 'Ignorance'. However a more complete translation would be 'Ignorance of our true Nature'. It is this ignorance that is the cause of tamas, rajas and sattva. Although Sattva is indeed highly beautiful, it still comes under the realm of Avidhya (or Maya). Thus it is said that Maya leads to Tamas, Rajas and Sattva which are the three tendencies which control jivas. However tamas in particular is called 'darkness'. This is because tamas is the quality which makes one to remain in ignorance.
    – Sai
    Nov 13, 2015 at 16:38

1 Answer 1


These terms can be understood as follows:


Advaita Vedanta says that ignorance of Brahman has created this world. Ignorance, which is the opposite of knowledge (jnana-virodhi), is not something negative. It has a positive character (bhavarupa).It has two powers: (1) the veiling power (avarana-shakti) and (2) the power of projection (vikshepa-shakti). Ignorance has the power to cover or veil the Reality, which is Brahman, and also the power to project this world on the veiled or covered Reality.


The world is the product of mula-avidya. The individual ego, which is part of this world, is also the product of mula-avidya. Consciousness associated with this ego is called the Atman or the Jivatman. Between the Jivatman and Brahman (Paramatman) there is a thin veil of ignorance. It is like a cloud that does not allow an individual to see the sun. In this analogy the Brahman is the sun and the patch of cloud is the ignorance of the individual. When this individual’s ignorance is dispelled by the knowledge of Brahman, he or she will have the experience of Brahman.


From the point of view of Advaita Vedanta, maya and avidya are the same. Just as avidya or ignorance has the powers, as it were, to hide Brahman and project something else, such as the world, on it, so also maya, as it were, can cover up Brahman and project the world onto it.

Maya cannot really cover the Reality that is Brahman. A patch of cloud can never cover the sun. It only covers the eyes of those who are looking at the sun. In the same way maya covers our knowing ability and thus obstructs our knowledge of Brahman.

In any act of knowing, the ‘knower’ and the object known’ have to be separate from each other. They cannot be the same. In order for us to know maya, it has to be separate from us. Individuals like us are the products of maya and we are all posited within the domain of maya. Maya and we individuals are not separate from each other, just as chocolate and a bear-shaped chocolate candy are not different from each other. As we are identical with maya, we cannot know maya. For this reason, maya is not only unknowable; it is inexplicable as well (anirvachaniya).

Journey from Many to One essentials of Advaita Vedanta by Swami Bhaskarananda

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