Maya Buddhism – Origins, Teaching, Traditions

Maya refers to the limited, purely mental, and physical reality in which our everyday consciousness is entangled. Maya is considered an illusion. It hides the true, unifying Self, also known as Brahman. Maya is believed to have originated in the Hindu scriptures, the Upanishads.

Maya, or Maya (Sanskrit Maya), literally means “illusion” as well as “magic”. The context of the term can have multiple meanings. It was used in an older language to mean extraordinary wisdom and power. Later Vedic texts and literature devoted to Indian traditions use Maya to refer to a “magic show”, an illusion that makes things appear present, but they are not. Maya, in Indian philosophy, is also a spiritual concept. It refers to “that which exists but is always changing and therefore is spiritually unreal”, or “power or principle that hides the true nature of spiritual reality”.

Maya is the Buddhist name for Gautama Buddha’s mother. Maya is also the name for a manifestation Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth, prosperity, and love in Hinduism), which Maya is. It is therefore a very popular name for girls.


Maya, a Sanskrit word, is often translated as “illusion.”

Birth Buddha

Rigveda is an ancient Indian collection that contains Vedic Sanskrit hymns. It mentions gods who possess Maya, which means the ability to create visible forms. The Upanishads refer to maya as the power or energy of God (ishvara) The term Maya is used in the Vedanta school’s later texts to mean “illusion” or “illusory existence.”

The term Maya was used in Buddhism to refer to “illusion”. However, Buddhists believe that nothing really exists and so there is no need for Maya to create an illusion. Buddhist philosophy does not consider any prime substance or cause to be eternal or inexhaustible. Life is the dynamic existence and succession of ephemeral components. This succession is determined by the twelvefold chain of causality (pratityasamutpada). The continuity of observable existence can only be viewed as an illusion if everything an individual experience can be described as a series of transient combinations.

Maya is impermanence is the Buddhist concept of individuality (Santana) as a stream or transitory state of consciousness. Accepting the impermanence premise makes it possible to establish the law of causality or dependent origination. It is the link between the existent/non-existent, or the Middle Path (madhyama–pratipad), and between the extremes of eternalism and nihilism. You can compare the Middle Path of Buddhism with the relationship between Brahman, Maya, and Vedanta.

Theravada Buddhism does not give much weight to the philosophical aspects of Maya, aside from its use in the name of Buddha’s mother. Maya plays an important part in Mahayana Buddhism’s understanding of “illusion” as well as the fundamental teaching of emptiness (shunyata). Ignorance can lead to objects being viewed as independent of causes and conditions. This makes it difficult for people to recognize their true essence.

Vajrayana Buddhism is a form of Buddhism that focuses on the same idea, but in a different manner. The final stage of Tantric practice is achieving a type of union with an illusory body ( Mayadeva), of a particular god. This is similar to a magic illusion. This practice is designed to liberate you from the notion of the existence and duality of samsara/nirvana.

According to the common Buddhist view, everything in life is an illusion. According to Buddhist beliefs, life itself can be seen as a manifestation mahamaya of the great illusion–the mother all things existing. The name of Maya, the mother of Buddha ( Mayadevi), refers to the illusionary character of his birth, and of birth itself, as well as the reality of life. It unites philosophical concepts from all walks of Buddhism and conveys the Dharma’s message. The name Maya can be negative because it reflects the force of delusion that binds people to the cycle. But on the other side, it carries the positive connotation of a creative power associated with motherly love, the strongest force on Earth.


It is not clear where and when Mahayana Buddhism was founded. The movement developed over time in many places. Even more complicated is the fact that many reconstructions have been heavily influenced and distorted by modern sectarian movements. Also, the scriptures that are most highly valued by later groups may not be the ones that best reflect the movement’s formative years. The Mahayana sutras are the earliest source of the tradition. These scriptures were first created four centuries after Buddha’s death. These scriptures are almost certain to be written by monks and present the innovative ideas of the movement in sermons that were said to have been delivered, as Siddhartha Gatama knows, just like earlier canonical Buddhist literature.

Although it is commonly believed that Mahayana’s counterpart is pre-Mahayana Buddhism (or Mahayana), the main differences between Mahayana Buddhism and non-Mahayana Buddhism tend to be more about the degree and importance of the emphasis and less about the basic opposition. Non-Mahayana literary resources date back to a time before the Mahayana was established. Therefore, both sets of sources are influenced by each other. Mahayana should not be considered the successor to an established tradition. It was not historical to define the Mahayana as one or more of the three vehicles. The same holds true for the contrast between Mahayana (or Hinayana) that is often found in modern studies. This term is used in Mahayana texts to criticize deviant and unacceptable opinions. It has no real-world equivalent and is not comparable to non-Mahayana Buddhism or any particular sect like the Theravada.



The central idea of the bodhisattva is central to Mahayana ideology. This refers to someone who aspires to be a Buddha. Contrary to non-Mahayana Buddhism’s dominant view, which restricts the bodhisattva designation to the Buddha before his awakening (bodhi), Mahayana teaches anyone can attain awakening (bodhicittot pada) and thus become a Buddha. Mahayana Buddhism believes that awakening is about understanding the true nature and purpose of reality. Non-Mahayana doctrine stresses the existence of the self within individuals, but Mahayana thought expands this idea to all things. The radical extension to the Buddhist doctrine of dependent arisal (pratityasamutpada), which states that everything has an essence, and that each thing’s existence is dependent upon the existence of others, is called emptiness (shunyata).

Sculpture Maya

Bodhisattvas strive to comprehend this reality through wisdom (prajna), and to realize it through compassion (karuna). Since no one has a “self”, there can be no real distinction between them and other beings. Therefore, their liberation does not differ from that of all beings. They are thus “self-less,” both philosophically, in the sense of understanding the absence of self or essence in all things and persons, and ethically, since they act for all beings without discrimination.


Like most Indian thought systems, Buddhism sees the world in terms of transmigration or reincarnation (samsara), which can be escaped by reaching nirvana. In the Mahayana tradition, the emphasis is less on nirvana and more on knowledge or wisdom, the mastery of which constitutes awakening. Furthermore, the fact that emptiness implies all dualities (good and evil, existence and nonexistence) is ultimately false, so even simple distinctions like that between samsara or nirvana can’t be sustained. The doctrine of the Two Truths (absolute truth (paramarthasatya), and conventional truth (samvritisatya), was developed by Jnanagarbha, a philosopher in the 8th Century. It states that things don’t exist as they appear to. Ordinary reality is essentially nothing more than convention, or tacit agreement. Understanding absolute truth is understanding ordinary reality as a mere convention. This can be achieved through meditation, and in the Vajrayana tradition which uses highly symbolic language, through various practices that are specifically designed to challenge ordinary assumptions by shockingly inverting normal expectations. Practices that challenge ordinary views of purity and impurity, for instance, teach that such notions are not an inherent part of the world but something imposed upon it by convention.

The universal accessibility of awakening, together with the idea that the universe has no beginning in time and is filled with an infinite number of beings and an infinite number of worlds, leads to the conclusion that there are not only an infinite number of bodhisattvas in the universe but also an infinite number of buddhas, each dwelling in his own world-realm. These buddhas eliminate the notion that buddhas will cease to exist after attaining nirvana. These “cosmic” Buddhas play an important role in many Mahayana sutras, and even more in later Tantric traditions. This cosmology, as seen in many Mahayana and Vajrayana texts confirms that all aspirants are capable of becoming buddhas. The bodhisattva Dharmakara is a prominent example of this idea. His vows set the conditions for his awakening and would allow him to become Buddha Amitabha (Japanese: Amida). He pledged to create the world-realm Sukhavati (“Pure bliss”) and to ensure that ordinary people could be reborn there (rather than reentering into the cycle of transmigration). Amitabha promised his devotees entrance into Sukhavati, by transferring to them some infinite merit that he had earned over eons as a Bodhisattva. Although the classical theory of karma dictates that only an individual’s own actions can affect his future, epigraphical evidence illustrates the early existence of the idea of the transfer of merit, especially to one’s deceased parents, ultimately leading to their liberation. The generation of merit has always been important in Buddhism, but the application of merit toward the acquisition of wisdom and ultimate awakening, instead of toward better future rebirths within samsara, is a Mahayana innovation.

This cosmology was a departure from the belief that Buddha Shakyamuni is the only a refuge or source of liberation. It was a shift to the view that there are many sources. This led to the creation of a multitude of objects for veneration. These included other buddhas like Amitabha or Vairocana as well as bodhisattvas such as Avalokiteshvara. Eventually, symbolic representations were possible as scrolls that reproduce the title of The Lotus Sutra (1222-82). This devotion has spawned a wide range of visual art. Sculptures and paintings are often seen as being empowered to assist believers.

The doctrine of skillful methods (upaya) is crucial to the Mahayana salvific view. Bodhisattvas and Buddhas are motivated by compassion and guided with wisdom and insight. They want to help ordinary people to freedom. Although their individual methods may seem complex and deceptive, they are justified by the extraordinary insight of these saviors. This idea is best illustrated in parables from Lotus Sutra. They have been influential models for subsequent elaborations, especially in popular literature.

Monastic and philosophical traditions

Contrary to many Mahayana doctrinal innovations and some aspects of Mahayana tradition, particularly its earlier Indian forms are more conservative. This is especially true for monastic ethics. Mahayana Buddhism, which is a monastic movement, is ordained in all sectarian Vinaya lines. It is not opposed to monastic Buddhism’s sects but is rather a movement of a different logical order. The distinction between Mahayana Buddhism and sectarian Buddhism, therefore, is not binary. Even though they are ordained according to the Dharmaguptaka Vijaya, all Chinese Buddhist monks practice Mahayanistic “bodhisattva” vows.

Many Mahayana schools stress the importance of the laity. Real renunciation does not mean complete abandonment. It is dependent on simultaneous engagement in and nonattachment from the world. This attention comes partly because of the recognition that this is not possible. This Japanese conception of renunciation led to the marriage of priests in Japan and the virtual end of celibate monasticism. There are similar traditions of married clergy alongside celibate monasticism in the Nyingma order in Tibet.

Maya Buddha

The non-Mahayana Abhidharma tradition systematizes the unsystematic doctrines in the early sutras. Mahayana philosophical schools also systematize the Mahayana scriptures. Doxolographies are classifications of philosophical systems that divide the Indian Mahayana philosophical school into Madhyamika (also known as Vijnanavada) and Yogacara. The Madhyamika was founded by Indian philosopher Nagarjuna (150-c.250 CE). It is a systematization of Prajnaparamita scriptures (“Perfection of Wisdom”) that emphasizes the importance of the doctrine of wisdom (prajna), which the bodhisattva must learn. Other perfections include charity (dana), discipline, hila, flexibility (kanti), and energy (virya). Yogacara was founded by Asanga (5th century CE), an Indian philosopher, and Vasubandhu (5th century CE). It is not directly based upon any sutra. Instead, it is a synthesis of Madhyamika’s emptiness doctrine and Abhidharmic systematics, or traditional dogmatics.

Modern scholars recognize several other philosophical traditions, such as a Yogacara–Madhyamika fusion, a Tathagatagarbha tradition (buddha nature), which emphasizes the inherent source of awakening in all beings, and a school for Logic and Epistemology, or Pramana. The Tibetan Buddhist scholasticism was a direct descendant of these traditions and developed a particular interest in Madhyamika as well as in Logic. In China, while the Madhyamika and Yogacara became influential as, respectively, the Sanlitun and Faxing schools, equally important were the indigenous traditions based directly on important Buddhist scriptures, the sutras–particularly the Lotus Sutra, Avatamsaka-Sutra, Mahaparinirvana-sutra, Lankavatara-sutra, and Pure Land Sutra. These traditions form the basis of the Tiantai, Huayan (Japanese; Kegon), Chan, and Pure Land (Japanese: Jodo Shinshu). Schools of East Asian Buddhism are Tiantai and Huayan.

Schools of Hinduism

Need to understand Maya

In the commentary on Taittiriya Upanishad, Shankara stated that the various Hinduism schools, especially those based upon naturalism (Vaisesika), rationalism (Samkhya), or ritualism, are faced with the question, “Who is it that is trying to know Maya?” Shankara’s commentary on Taittiriya Upanishad states that Self-knowledge is a matter of self-understanding. One is confronted with the question: “Who is it trying to know?” And, “How does he achieve Brahman?” Shankara says it is absurd to talk about one becoming himself. “Thou art That” already. Understanding Maya and looking beyond it is the only way to remove ignorance.

Understanding Maya is similar to the need for a road. Shankara states that only when the country to which Shankara is referring is a road needed. It is absurd to say, “I am in my village right now, but I need to find a road to get to my village.” It is confusion, ignorance, and illusions that must be reformed. ” It is the confusion, ignorance, and illusions that must be repelled.

Vivekananda describes the need to understand Maya in the following (abridged).

You are already Brahman and the Vedas can’t show you Brahman. They cannot help us see the truth, but they can help. Only when I realize that God and me are one can I stop being ignorant. In other words, you must identify with Atman and not human limitations. Maya says that the idea of being bound is a lie. The nature of Atman is unaffected by freedom. This is unchangeable, pure, and perfect.

–Adi Shankara’s comment on Fourth Vyasa Sutra Swami Vivekananda

Yoga Vasistha, a text that explains why Maya is important,

The real substance can be revealed when the dirt is removed. Just like when the darkness of night is dispelled and the objects that were hidden by it are made clear, so too when ignorance [Maya] has been dispelled, truth is found.

–Vashistha and Yoga Vasistha

Samkhya school

Vanaspati Misra’s commentary on the Samkhya early works, the rationalist school, does not mention the Maya doctrine. Vanaspati Misra’s commentary about the Samkhyakarika is an example of this. He says, “It is impossible to say that the idea of the phenomenal world becoming real is false,” and that “it is not possible to claim that the notion of it being real is false”. The Samkhya school maintained its dual concept of Prakrti as real and Purusha as distinct. Some texts also equate Prakrti as Maya. Three Gunas are in different amounts. Their changing equilibrium determines their perception of reality.

James Ballantyne commented in 1885 on Kapila’s Sankhya Aphorism 5.72, which he translated to mean, “everything but nature and soul is internal.” Ballantyne states that this aphorism refers to the mind, ether, and other entities. Nature is called Intellect when they are in a state that causes (not transformed into a product). He says that Shvetashvatara Upanishad, which contains the same verse, states that “He should know Illusion in Nature and him in whom Illusion is Nature”; since Souls and Nature are made up of parts, it is not possible to know the eternal nature of the two. Edward Gough, however, interprets the same verse in Shvetashvatara Upanishad in a different way. It reads: “Let the Sage know that Prakriti is Mayin, or arch-illusionist, or arch-illusionist.”

Nyaya school

The Nyaya school, which is based on realism, denied that the world (Prakrti), or the soul (Purusa), are illusions. According to Nyaya scholars, Naiyayikas created theories about illusion. They used the term Mithya to describe illusion. They believe that illusion is a result of a cause that only rules of reason (epistemology), and proper Pramanas can reveal.

Buddhism Maya

Naiyayikas stated that illusion is the projection of predicated content from a memory into our current cognition. This is a form of rushing for interpretation, judgment, and conclusion. This “projection illusion” can be misplaced and stereotypes something to become what it is not.

Yoga school

Maya, in Yoga school, refers to the manifested world. It also implies divine force.

The theistic sub-schools of Hinduism have adopted the concept of Yoga as the power to create Maya as a compound term Yogamaya. It is mentioned in many mythologies of the Puranas. For example, Shiva uses his Yogamaya to transform Markendeya’s heart in Bhagavata Purana chapter 12.10, and Krishna counsels Arjuna regarding yogamaya in hymn 7.25 from Bhagavad Gita.

Vedanta school

Advaita Vedanta, a school of Hindu philosophy, describes Maya as “the powerful force that creates the cosmic illusion that the phenomenal world is real”.

Maya, in Hinduism, is also an epithet of Goddess Lakshmi and the name for a manifestation Lakshmi. She is the goddess of wealth, prosperity, love. Maya also refers to wealth and treasure.

Maya is a prominent and commonly referred to concept in Vedanta philosophies. Maya is often translated as “illusion”, in the sense of “appearance”. The human mind constructs a subjective experience, states Vedanta school, which leads to the peril of misunderstanding Maya as well as interpreting Maya as the only and final reality. Vedantins believe that the perceptions of the world, including people, are false. Invisible laws and principles, true invisible natures in objects and others, and an invisible soul are all part of reality. However, Vedanta scholars assert that this invisible reality is Self and Soul. Maya refers to that which creates or perpetuates false duality (or divisional plurality). Although this manifestation is true, it obscures and evades the true principles and nature of reality. Vedanta school believes that liberation is the free realization and understanding of the invisible principles – the Self. The differences between different sub-schools are the relationship between individual souls and cosmic souls (Brahman). The Advaita non-theistic sub-school believes that all souls are one and that everyone is connected to Oneness. While theistic Dvaita and other sub-schools believe that each soul and God’s soul is distinct and that each soul can love God continues to be infinitely closer to His Soul.

Advaita Vedanta

Advaita Vedanta’s philosophy identifies two realities. Vyavaharika is an empirical reality and Paramarthika is a spiritual absolute. Maya has the power to create a bondage to the empirical world, preventing the unveiling of the true, unitary Self–the Cosmic Spirit also known as Brahman. The theory of Maya was developed by the ninth-century Advaita Hindu philosopher Adi Shankara. Shankara’s theory was challenged by competing for Dvaita theist scholars who stated that Shankara didn’t offer a theory about the relationship between Brahman, Maya, and Brahman. Brahman supports Maya and Maya is the world’s manifestation. Maya is the cause. ”

Maya (māyā) is a fact because it is an apparent phenomenon. Brahman is the only metaphysical truth. Maya, therefore, is true in both epistemological well as empirical senses. However, Maya does not represent the metaphysical or spiritual truth. While the spiritual truth is eternal truth, empirical truths are only valid for the moment. Maya, which is the perception of the material world, is true in the perceptual context but false in the spiritual context of Brahman. Maya isn’t false. It only obscures the real inner Self and principles. True Reality encompasses both Paramarthika and Vyavaharika, the Maya (empirical), and the Brahman (spiritual). State Advaitins believe that spiritual enlightenment is the realization of Brahman, to recognize the fearless, unfailing Oneness.

Vivekananda stated that “When the Hindu declares the world to be Maya, immediately people realize that the world can only be an illusion.” This interpretation is supported by Buddhistic philosophers. However, there was a section of philosophers that did not believe in an external world. In its final form, the Maya of Vedanta is not Idealism or Realism. It is also not a theory. It is simply a statement of facts, describing what we are and seeing around us. ”

Maya (Illusion)

Maya (Sanskrit माया, māyā) Pali and Sanskrit literature often use the term “magician’s illusion” to describe the illusion of reality or the illusory nature, especially in Sanskrit tradition.

The Sanskrit tradition describes the magician’s illusion as an example of how people misunderstand their reality and themselves. We believe that objects and people are independent real entities, separate from causes and conditions. They are not real, and we don’t see them as having any real essence. However, they exist just like Maya, the magic appearance that is created by magicians. Although the magician’s illusion may be real and functioning in the world, it is only a show. By misperceiving the illusion and drawing false conclusions, viewers are part of creating it. The appearances are illusory to the wise, who are therefore free from attachment to them.

Some texts, for example, identify eight similes to illusion (the Tibetan Sgyu Ma translates maya and other Sanskrit words meaning illusion): magic; a dream; a bubble; lightning; the moon reflected in waters; a mirage and a city full of celestial musicians. The purpose of understanding that our perceptions are less than we think is to liberate us from fear, ignorance, and clinging, and to help us attain enlightenment as a Buddha who is completely committed to the welfare and well-being of all beings.

Maya Illusion

The magic illusion can be experienced in different ways depending on where the practitioner is performing it. The ordinary state is when we become attached to our mental phenomena believing them to be real. This is similar to how the audience at a magic performance becomes attached to the illusions of beautiful ladies. The next level, known as actual relative truth, is where the beautiful lady appears but not the magician. The illusion does not affect the Buddha at the final level. Beyond conceptuality, Buddha is not attached or non-attached. This is the middle way of Buddhism, which explicitly refutes the extremes of both eternalism and nihilism.

Nagarjuna of the Mahayana Madhyamika school (i.e. “Middle Way”) discusses Ermita or illusion closely connected to Maya. The illusion refers to self-awareness, which is mistaken for the magic illusion. Nagarjuna believes that the self is not the controlling center of the experience. It is actually just one element that is combined with other elements and strung together in a series of causally related moments in time. The self cannot be proven to be real because it is not substantially real. We mistakenly believe that the continuum of moments is a stable, unchanging self. However, it still performs actions and experiences its results. “A magician creates magic illusions by using the force of magic. The illusions produce another illusion. In the same way, the agent is a magical illusion. The action is an illusion created by another illusion. Although the illusion we perceive may seem real, we live inside it and are responsible for the consequences. The illusion is what we experience. It matters that what we do has an impact on the experiences we have. Nagarjuna employs the magician’s illusion in this instance to demonstrate that the self may not be as real as it thinks. However, it is real enough to justify respecting the world’s ways.

The Mahayana Buddhist views the self as Maya (māyā), which is a kind of magic show. The same applies to objects in the world. Vasubandhu’s Trisvabhavanirdesa is a Mahayana Yogacara text “Mind Only”. It discusses the example where a magician makes a piece that would appear to be an elephant. Under the magic of magic, an audience member sees a piece of wood but perceives an elephant instead. Instead of believing in an illusion of the elephant, we are asked to acknowledge that many factors play a role in creating this perception. These include dualistic subjectivity and causes and conditions and the ultimate beyond duality. Realizing how all these factors work together to create the reality we see is key to understanding the ultimate reality. The illusion of the elephant making you believe it is real is similar to the magical illusion that reveals the ground of your being, the dharmadhatu.


What is the illusion of Maya?

Maya (Sanskrit: magic or illusion) is a central concept in Hindu philosophy, particularly in the Advaita (Nondualist school of Vedanta). It later became the term for the powerful force that creates, the cosmic illusion that all of the phenomena in the world are real.

Does Buddhism believe in Maya?

Maya is a Buddhist philosopher who is considered one of the twenty unwholesome mental elements, that are responsible for concealing or deceit about the nature of things. Maya is also Gautama Buddha’s name.

What are the powers of Maya?

Vedanta teaches Brahman to be synonymous with Existence. It becomes manifested as all creation, including its infinite variety in name, form, and purpose. This happens through the power and influence of Maya Shakti. When creation ceases, this Maya also ceases to exist.

buddha monk

buddha monk