Mayavada and Mayavadis

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Mayavada is a doctrine which teaches that everything is illusion (maya=illusion, vada=teaching). Krishna consciousness, however, teaches that the total reality consists of the Supreme Person—Krishna—and His unlimited energies.

Mayavada philosophy rejects all forms and manifestations—as well as personality itself—as illusion. Advocates of this—mayavadis, or advaita vedantists—say that ultimately everything is "one," and that the perfection of life is to merge with the ultimate oneness and again become nameless, formless, and devoid of personality.

Mayavadi interpretations of scriptures like the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam dismiss all names and forms of the Supreme Person as illusory, while emphasizing the impersonal aspect of the Absolute Truth.

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Mayavadi philosophers believe that the Absolute Truth, being spread throughout the cosmic manifestation, has no personal form. But the standard Vedic version is that the Supreme Person is spread all over the cosmic manifestation by His energy. This energy is spiritual, but because it acts in the material world it is called maya, or illusory energy.

The Absolute Truth is understood in three phases—impersonal, localized, and as the Supreme Person. The Supreme Person's impersonal feature, brahman, is subordinate to His personal aspect, as the sun's rays are subordinate to the sun itself. Mayavada teachings accept only the impersonal Brahman as real, and think the Supreme Person, the source of Brahman, is illusory.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu taught that those who present Mayavada interpretations of scripture are offensive to Krishna and should be avoided. This is because such persons deny Krishna's existence as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and claim that Krishna is as much an illusion as everything else.

A fire consists of three elements: heat and light, which are the energy of the fire, and the fire itself. Anyone can understand that the original fire is the reality and that the heat and light are simply the fire's energy. Heat and light are the formless energies of fire, and in that sense they are unreal. Only the fire has form, and therefore it is the real form of the heat and light.

As Krishna says (Bhagavad-gita 9.4), "By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded." Thus the impersonal conception of the Supreme Person is like the expansion of heat and light from a fire. Krishna also says that the entire material creation is resting on His energy—material, spiritual or marginal—but because His form is absent from the expansion of His energy, He is not personally present.