The most popular translation of Maya is “illusion.”
the state or condition of being deceived; misapprehension
an instance of being deceived
Psychology: a perception, as of visual stimuli (optical illusion) , that represents what is perceived in a way different from the way it is in reality.
a very thin, delicate tulle of silk or nylon having a cobwebbed appearance, for trimmings, veilings, and the like
Obsolete . the act of deceiving; deception; delusion.https://www.dictionary.com/browse/illusion
When people think of illusion they assume it means something is false or fake. But an illusion is not false it’s only misleading to the senses. This botched interpretation of Maya has made people that start reading eastern philosophy think that this world is not real. So they walk around saying to themselves “this is not real.” Don’t fall for that because denying the reality of this world and even yourself is the complete opposite of self-realization. Any information coming through your senses is reality. And even if you loose your senses, reality does not cease to exist. It stops existing for you but reality continues on.
So before you go down this rabbit hole and lose yourself here are different ways to picture Maya.
1. Maya is what appears to be but it’s not the whole picture
When a magician performs a trick that makes a card appear out of nowhere you’re eyes are mislead. You assume the card came out of nowhere. But if he did it in slow motion you would see that he had it hidden in his sleeve. But just because you got fooled, it does not mean that what the magician did was fake. Maya has been fooling you since you were born but it doesn’t mean it’s fake. It just means that there’s things you can’t perceive.
Nature is Maya and in nature everything is not what it seems to be. If you take a closer look at an object it starts breaking down. You would see that the whole is made up of smaller cells that look nothing like the whole, all they way down to the atom. Everything in nature is moving in slow motion. Not even rocks are static in nature. For example every single cell in your body is a brand new one every 7 years. Your consciousness goes through at least 14 different bodies in a lifetime. But it happens so slow that you can’t perceive its movement. That is Maya.
A very popular example of explaining Maya comes from the Vedas. Maya is describe as a mist that you see from afar. But the closer you get it begins to disperse and the mist is not the same as you saw from afar. Just like this Maya is the mist that covers reality of your true self.
4. Pull Back the Veil
You’ll come across the phrase “pull back the veil of Maya” but you can’t pull back just one veil of Maya because the world is made of many types of Maya. To pull back the last veil you’ll have to see through the other layers of Maya that come before it. Many Eastern schools promise you that they will teach you to pull back the veil of Maya that covers the world. But there is more than one veil of Maya. There are thousands of different Maya.
5. Background Process
The background process is maybe the closest you’ll get to the literal definition of Maya. Because if you see one aspect of an object there are many processes happening behind the scenes that you can’t see or sense. All this background process is what creates the data your senses can pick up on. For example when you see another person there’s more happening behind the scenes. All the organs are working on their insides and their cells are breaking down all types of proteins to keep the body going.
8. Impermanent, transitory or flickering
This three words impermanent, transitory and flickering can describe Maya. Because the world never stands still. Another example from the Vedas is that Maya is like diving into a stream of water. You see the water but it’s not the same water you saw a few moments ago. One moment you see it the second moment you don’t and they you see it again. Electricity pulsating. A state of solid clarity and than invisibility is Maya.
9. Digital Technology
A different way to understand the word Maya is digital technology. Nobody talks about this because digital technology is new in our times. But there are many instances of stories in the Mahabharata that talk about Maya in a way that we can only come to the conclusion that they knew of digital technology. A famous story is where a warrior was fighting a flying spaceship and he saw his father falling from the spaceship to his death into the waters. But he soon realized that what he was witnessing was Maya. That’s something that today someone might call a hologram. If we were to show people 150 years ago the technology we have now a days they would no doubt call it Magic. If we were to show the people alive 5000 years ago they would call it Maya.
The words you are reading right now are not what they appear. What you are seen is a lump of pixels formed into shapes. Behind the pixels it’s just code from a computer’s chip that’s made up of 1’s and 0’s. Those 1’s and 0’s are just electrical inputs that originate from the outlet in your bedrooms wall.
10. Man Made Maya
I already included digital technology in the list which is man made Maya. But there’s also another Maya that is created by man and those are laws. Laws are not natural at all. They are created in the minds of man. To be part of society you have to follow that man made Maya or else you either end up dead or imprisoned. Society is held together by Maya. Think of money. Money has no intrinsic value. Only the value we project on to it. Hold a dollar in your hands. It’s just a piece of paper. Go check you bank account and all you will see are numbers on a screen. But that’s Maya that we have created to transfer energy between ourselves. Maya that people die over. Even though it may appear to be an illusion is has a very real effect on you.
X. The Science/Knowledge of
Maya can be created and it can be destroyed with other Maya. Throughout the Mahabharata Maya is used as weapons. If you know the Maya of firearms you would know how to build a gun. But even though Maya is used to relate to weapons it can be any form of technology. You can teach Maya to someone and you can learn Maya to destroy someone else Maya. Maya is also knowledge, science or information in general and technical.