On this blog, I’ve been arguing that the Sanskrit “maya” comes from the root “to build” and means creation, not illusion. We may see the world as an illusion at a certain stage but the reality is deeper than this.
It turns out we have lost some detail in transliteration from the larger Sanskrit alphabet to English.
There’s three different words in play: maya, maaya, and maayaa (aa meaning long A).
Maya means “made of”, from the root “to build.” We see this in words like annamaya kosha, the “body made of food” or physical body and in the name Maya.
Maaya means “measuring” and “creating illusion.” This is the word commonly used in neo-advaita circles but it’s not the same word as maya. There are nuances to maaya.
We perceive the world as an illusion when the rajas guna of transformation is dominant. This sometimes happens around Self Realization, depending on the degree of sattva developed. When sattva becomes dominant, we see the world as Lila, the Divine play. Lila is still an appearance but one with roots.
From a broader perspective, I would suggest the world is an appearance of reality. The appearance is not real the way it may seem, even to instruments of science. Rather, it is an effect of the deeper reality. It is not a mirage but the result of subtle complex processes. To consider it purely an illusion is to miss the point of why we experience it.
Maayaa is wisdom or in old use, extraordinary or supernatural power. I don’t recall seeing this word in use.
The 3 words are NOT spelled the same and do mean somewhat different things. Clearly, if we see someone using “maya”, it’s useful to check the source and see which one it is or consider what they intended. It’s not all illusion. 🙂
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