MAYA is a term generally used in Vedanta philosophy. It’s literary meaning is ILLUSION. When Prana, the Life force acts on Akasha or Ether, everything in the Universe is manifested. The another word used for this manifestation is projection.
In Vedanta philosophy, Maya is the limited, purely physical and mental reality in which our everyday consciousness has become entangled. The concept of Maya was introduced by the great ninth-century Hindu philosopher Adi Sankara. According to Him, everything in this Universe is the result of Maya or Projection. The real is the Brahman only. Since Brahman is the only truth, Maya is true but not the truth, the difference being that the truth is the truth forever while what is true is only true for now. Since Maya causes the material world to be seen, it is true in itself but is untrue in comparison to the Brahman. On the other hand, Maya is not false. It is true in itself but untrue in comparison with the absolute truth. In this sense, reality includes Maya and the Brahman. The goal of spiritual enlightenment ought to be to see Brahman and Maya and distinguish between them. Hence, Maya is described as indescribable. Maya has two principal functions: one is to veil Brahman and obscure and conceal it from our consciousness; the other is to present and promulgate the material world and the veil of duality instead of Brahman. The veil of Maya may be pierced, and, with diligence and grace, may be permanently rent. Maya gets destroyed for a person when they perceive Brahman with transcendental knowledge. Maya becomes the divine magical power of the Supreme Lord. Maya is the veritable fabric of duality, and it performs this role at the behest of the Supreme Lord.
In fact all religions are true, that every doctrinal system represents a path to God. The three great systems of thought known as Dualism, Qualified Non-dualism, and Absolute Non-dualism- Dvaita, Visishtadvaita, and Advaita. Dualism is the first stage of Spirituality generally followed by ordinary devotees ( they are in majority ) and Qualified Non-dualism is followed by few people and the concept has been introduced by Shri.Ramanuja Acharya who contradicted the doctrine of Shri. Adi Sankara Acharya to a certain extent as regards the term Maya is concerned. According to him, though the Brahman is the absolute reality but at the same this world and its criteria cannot be considered only as Maya, though it is not permanent. As per him, this world and the worldly affairs are temporary, but the Lord Vishnu (GOD) is the only reality. He agrees with Shri.Adi Sankara Acharya Swami in all respects except little difference as mentioned above. The third is Advaita – Absolute Non-dualism preached by Shri.Adi Sankra and it is being followed by Hinduism in theory, but followed only by very few men though it is absolutely a TRUTH. But all the above three stages represent man’s progress toward ultimate Reality. These are not contradictory but complementary and suited to different temperaments. For the ordinary man with strong attachment to the senses, a dual form of religion, prescribing a certain amount of material support, such as music and other symbols, is useful. A man of God realization transcends the idea of worldly duties, but the ordinary mortal must perform his duties, striving to be unattached and to surrender the results to God. The mind can comprehend and describe the range of thought and experience up to the Visishtadvaita, and no further. The advaita, the last word in spiritual experience, is something to be felt in samadhi, for it transcends mind and speech. From the highest standpoint, the Absolute and its manifestation are equally real – the Lord’s name. His abode, and the Lord Himself are of the same spiritual essence. Everything is spirit, the difference being only the form.
The Vedanta philosophy refers to the term ” Maya ” as the cosmic illusion on account of which the one appears as many, the Absolute as the Relative. Shri. Adi Sankara in the hymn Bhaja Govinda, also known as Moha Mudgara, cautions people about the power of Maya by which this entire creation is constituted. Actually there is only one reality in this Universe which is the Absolute Supernatural Power and when a devotee pay homage and pray to a particular form of this energy, He can see his Energy in the form he saw the power. As you will find there are many Gods in Hinduism, but the real devotee knows there is only one God for this Universe which people see in different Bhava or Roopa or Shape as per their imaginative power. If one Pray the Almighty in the form of Lord Shiva he can see Him in that form during illumination. If any one Pray in other forms such as Lord Vishnu, Lord Ganesha, Sri. Parvathy , they can see them accordingly as God is a Supernatural Energy which is spread everywhere and in every living or non living things. What we see, taste and experience is the God’s energy and the great Upanishads describes this subject very clearly.
We are living in a new age, and it has only just begun. This age will, I believe, continue for many, many centuries, and in the course of it a great deal will have to be done man unto man. You see, this is the age of Man and not of God. Don’t be frightened; the Hindu conception of mankind is not something divorced from God. But, if you are accustomed to thinking of man as separate and different from God, then I say the preoccupation of this age is Man – not God. I am not thinking here of the solitary few who always go counter to the currents of times; no, I am saying that the major movement of the human mind in this age is towards the upliftment and glorification of mankind. That is the thing. Swami Vivekananda who can speak with authority on such matters always says – this is the age of the Virat, the visible God. Who is this visible God which is nothing but man alone. Man is the expression of God and God is the reality of man. The real man and God are inseparable. There is only one reality in this Universe, whom the devotee worships as a Personal God, and a Gyani or wise man as his own Self. The difference is reaching the goal; but when the goal is reached; both come to the same understanding – that there is but One by Whom everything is pervaded. ” This Atman is not to be realized by the intellect, nor by words, nor by hearing from many sources; but by him by whom this Atman is beloved, by him alone is the Atman realized.The thing necessary for us is to feel intense love in our hearts for this Supreme Self or God; otherwise He is not attainable. There is no other way that man can reach unto God, except through love- love always unites. The love for God comes unto those blessed beings who are pure in heart, from whom all attachment for unreal things, all selfish desires have vanished. This purity of heart and love for God are the sum and substance of all religious teachings.
We may spend the whole of our lives searching earnestly for Truth in temples, in churches and in books; but without understanding the significance of these fundamental teachings all these efforts will be in vain. Religion is practical and those who observe the practical side of it realize the Truth. You may know how to read a book, but if you have known the Truth which is behind them, you are much better off than the so-called philosopher who may speak in beautiful language but who has no realization whatsoever. It is a dangerous thing to hear the Truth from who has not realized, for he will only bring confusion in the mind; but one who has realized will teach with very few words. He who has attained illumination does not need many words, His life itself is an answer to all questions, for the sun of wisdom always shines in his heart. This makes one bold; before this strength all other strength is insignificant.
Having once enjoyed the vision of the Supreme, we become really blessed; we no longer depend on the outside world, but we dwell within ourselves and become Self-satisfied. The one object of all the religious teachings of the world is to bring unto us this realization. Though the path may be hard and difficult to tread, yet let us march on with real faith and perseverance, and never give up through fear or discouragement. ” Tat twam asi ( Thou are That )- the Lord does not exist apart from you; find Him out yourself within yourself . ”
” Having well ascertained the object of the knowledge of Vedanta, having purified their nature by the Yoga of renunciation, all anchorites, enjoying the highest immortality,become free at the time of the great end (death) in the worlds of Brahma.” ” Mundaka – Upanishad.”