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About Maya

Krishna's illusory energy

Maya is Sanskrit for "illusion" as well as "energy." The ultimate source of all energies is the Absolute Truth, God, or Krishna, and maya commonly refers to His external, material energy, under whose illusion we accept the body as the self, and this material world as the all in all.

Another definition of maya is "that which is not" (ma = "not," and ya = "there is"). Maya conceals the fact that everything is emanating from the Absolute Truth, and makes the temporary manifestations of material energy look attractive and substantial. Attraction to maya keeps the self in a perpetual cycle of birth and death, in an endless attempt to fulfill desires for temporary things.

Becoming free from the negative influence of maya, ironically, involves becoming captivated by another of Krishna's energies, yoga-maya, the spiritual energy which attracts the self again to the natural condition of willful service to the Supreme.

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References:

  • Maya is an insurmountable problem, unless one surrenders to Krishna:

    "This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it."

    - Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita 7.14

  • The material world is a product of Krishna's external energy:

    "The Lord is the seer, and the external energy, which is seen, works as both cause and effect in the cosmic manifestation. O greatly fortunate Vidura, this external energy is known as maya or illusion, and through her agency only is the entire material manifestation made possible."

    - Maitreya Rishi, in Srimad-Bhagavatam, 3.5.25