The Many Faces of Māyā – An Exploration of a Paradoxical Concept

What Is Māyā?

Māyā: the very name conveys a sense of mystery.  Cognate with the English word magic, māyā does, indeed, refer to something magical.  Like magic, māyā involves the diversion of our attention from the real to the unreal, or from reality to the appearance of reality.  Yet, at the same time, māyā also–again, like magic–involves the creation of a new experience, a new reality, as it were, which goes well beyond what we might otherwise have envisioned, enabling us to imagine new and unforeseen possibilities: rabbits being pulled from out of hats that we thought were empty, people appearing to be sawed in half and yet remaining alive and well, and so on.

Māyā is a concept drawn from Indian philosophy which involves, on the one hand, a sense of something that is both illusory and delusory, but on the other, a sense of a dynamic–and even playful–divine creativity residing at the foundation of our conventional existence in this realm of time, space, and causation.

A conventional understanding of māyā, shaped by the non-dualistic perspective of Advaita Vedānta, is that māyā means ‘illusion’ or ‘delusion.’  From an Advaitic perspective, the term māyā refers to the veil of ignorance which separates us from knowledge of the true nature of reality: the knowledge that Brahman alone is real and that duality is a false appearance.  This identification of māyā with ignorance and delusion is captured in the well-known expression, associated with the Vivekacūḍāmaṇi and traditionally attributed to Ādi Śaṅkarācārya: Brahman satyam jagan mithya, “Brahman is truth, the world a delusion.”1  From this point of view, a point of view that we might call a classical Advaitic perspective, when the Chāndogya Upaniṣad famously states that sarvaṃ khalvidam Brahman, or–“All of this, indeed, is Brahman.”–it is stating there is, in fact, no ‘this’–no world–but that Brahman alone is real.2 The appearance of the world–our sense that there is a cosmos of beings distinct from Brahman, existing in a realm of time, space, and causation–is māyā.  In Advaita Vedānta, māyā is thus something which must be overcome in order for one to achieve the liberating knowledge, or jñāna, which leads to mokṣa, or freedom from saṃsāra, the cycle of karma and rebirth.  It is the very sense that we are bound to the realm of time and space that binds us to it.  We are freed from this bondage when we realize it is unreal.

Advaita Vedānta is not, however, the only system of Vedānta, and the Advaitic perspective on māyā is not the only one available in Indian philosophy.  In the various dualistic and qualified non-dualist philosophies that have also developed under the umbrella of Vedānta, māyā is not so much a delusion as it is the creative power of God: the ability of the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu, to bring that which was previously unmanifest into a state of manifestation.  Māyā thus has a more positive sense in these schools of thought than it does in Advaita Vedānta, where it, again, exists largely to be overcome.  Māyā, in these systems, is essentially the divine līla, the divine play.  It is ultimately a source of joy.  Similarly, in both Śaiva and Śākta Tāntric systems, māyā is divine creativity, and is identified with Śakti, the divine Mother of the cosmos.

To be sure, māyā can be delusory even in those schools of thought which view it positively.  The term māyā retains its implication of being a magical delusion, inasmuch as the divine glory–the Lord’s māyā–has the potential to come between the devotee and the divine reality.  One can become so enchanted with the creation that the creator gets lost to one’s consciousness.  In this delusory mode, māyā is known as Mahāmāyā, or Avidyāmāyā: the māyā of ignorance.  The same māyā, however, if viewed with the eyes of devotion, also has the potential to lead one to the divine.  In this more positive mode, māyā is known as Yogamāyā or Vidyāmāyā: the māyā of wisdom.  It is not that there are two distinct māyās.  The difference is in the consciousness of the observer, in the mind of the beholder of the divine activity.  A mind filled with attachment to the sensory realm becomes deluded by it, whereas the mind of the devotee celebrates it as a form of the divine glory.

Even within some interpretations of Advaita Vedānta, there is scope for a positive role for māyāMāyā is not wholly real, according to Śaṅkarācārya, but neither is it wholly unreal.  Better than illusion, a good translation for the term māyā might be appearance: that is, the ways in which the reality of Brahman appears to us, based on the character of our consciousness, either clouded by ignorance or clarified by insight.3  An appearance is, in a sense, delusory, inasmuch as it does not display to our consciousness the totality of the reality that we are observing.  When observing a three-dimensional object, for example, we typically only see that portion of it which is facing us, inasmuch as light is bouncing off of its surface and being received by our eyes.  But the rest of the object is hidden.  An appearance, though, is not a complete delusion.  Some portion of the object is available to our awareness and so we cannot be said to be completely ignorant of it.  Similarly, we might say, even from the perspective of Advaita Vedānta, that Brahman is never completely opaque to our awareness: that, like a physical object, it forms the foundation for that which we do perceive, even if what we perceive is extremely limited.  It could well be argued that this is exactly what Śaṅkara means when he says that māyā is neither (wholly) real nor (wholly) unreal.

Māyā is thus a paradoxical concept.  It conveys both a sense of something that is delusory, but that is also potentially revelatory of the divine reality which underlies it–whether that divine reality is conceived, in Advaitic terms, as the ultimately impersonal nirguṇa Brahman, or Brahman beyond all limiting qualities, or in theistic terms, as the Supreme Being by whose creative power we are bedazzled and enchanted.  For Advaita Vedānta, the personal Supreme Being is part of the delusion–the imperfection in our perception of the Infinite–while the impersonal Brahman is the true reality.  For theistic systems of Vedānta, the impersonal Brahman is not the whole reality, but it is the personal Supreme Being that is ultimately real.  And, as we shall see, in Tāntra, and in the teaching of Sri Ramakrishna, both of these are facets of a complex ultimate reality, which includes both personal and impersonal dimensions.

Māyā: Original Meanings

Śrī Caitanya and his devotees.
Source: Unknown.

The term māyā is, again, cognate with our English word magic.  Its dual meaning as a kind of magical power of either delusion or creative manifestation is quite ancient, being found as early as the Vedas.  The Ṛg Veda contains references, such as in the Māyābheda Sūkta, to māyā as the delusory power which is utilized by Asuras, or demonic beings.4 The Atharva Veda, on the other hand, contains references to the more positive meaning of māyā as creative power.5 Underlying both of these meanings is an even earlier meaning which refers to wisdom which gives power.6 This ancient idea of māyā as a kind of wisdom is preserved in the related Iranian Avestan tradition–the foundation of the Zoroastrian tradition.  The Supreme Being is called, in Zoroastrianism, Ahura Mazda, the ‘Wise Lord.’  Mazda, or wise, is derived from māyā, as is the word magi, a term for the Zoroastrian priesthood, which conveys a sense that this priesthood is possessed of both wisdom and magical powers.  Magic and magical, of course, are also derived from this same source.  As a type of wisdom that gives rise to power, māyā, in its original sense, can be seen as akin to scientific knowledge, which can be used for good or for evil, depending on the intentions of those who wield it.  The greater one’s knowledge is, the greater one’s capacity is for both good and for evil.  Later understandings of māyā as a double-edged phenomenon which possesses simultaneously negative connotations of delusion and positive connotations of creative power and wisdom, can be seen as deriving from the original Vedic and Avestan usages of this term.  Māyā, in other words, from its earliest origins, is a concept that involves paradox.

Māyā in Early (Pre-Systematic) Vedānta

In the source texts of Vedānta–the Upaniṣads, the Bhagavad Gītā, and the Brahma Sūtras, known collectively as the prasthāna traya, or ‘threefold foundation’ of Vedānta–there are numerous verses which suggest that Brahman creates or manifests the cosmos out of Its own being.7  There are also, however, verses which suggest that Brahman merely appears to create the cosmos: that the cosmos manifests as a result of Brahman’s māyā, or magical power of illusion, but that it is not itself a substantial, self-existing reality.  The Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad states, for example:

Metres, sacrifices, rites, religious observances, the past, the future, and what the Vedas proclaim–from that the illusionist [the Supreme Being] creates this whole world, and in it the other [the portion of Brahman which consists of the beings making up the world] remains confined by the illusory power.

One should recognize the illusory power [māyā] as primal matter [prakṛti], and the illusionist, as the great Lord [Īśvara, the Supreme Being].  This whole living world is thus pervaded by things that are parts of him.8

Māyā is identified in this verse with prakṛti, the primal matter or material nature of which all phenomena are composed according to the ancient Sāṃkhya system of Indian philosophy.  In Sāṃkhya, though, prakṛti, or matter, and puruṣa, or spirit, are eternally distinct.  In the Upaniṣadic philosophy, though, both prakṛti and puruṣa emerge from Brahman.  Rather than being something wholly distinct from Brahman, prakṛti itself emerges from–or appears to emerge from–Brahman.  “This whole living world is thus pervaded by things that are parts of” Brahman.

In early Vedānta, the question of whether the cosmos is an actual manifestation of Brahman or a ‘mere’ appearance or illusion is left somewhat ambiguous.  Subsequent thinkers in the Vedānta tradition, though, would pick up one or the other of these possibilities and make it foundational to their understanding of Vedāntic ontology.  Theistic, primarily Vaiṣṇava thinkers, like Rāmānuja and Madhva, would take the cosmos to be a real creation of the Supreme Being: a projection or a manifestation made from out of Brahman, but, once created, distinct from the divine reality from which it emerged.  Madhva, proclaiming a dualistic (Dvaita) interpretation of Vedānta, sees the world and Brahman as entirely distinct, with Brahman being identified with Viṣṇu, the Supreme Lord.  Rāmānuja, with his qualified non-dualism (Viśiṣṭādvaita), sees the Lord (Viṣṇu, īśvara) as distinct from the cosmos, but uses the term Brahman to refer to the totality of being, inclusive of both God and the world: a complex that might be termed, in Greek-derived English, the theocosm.9  Māyā, for these Vaiṣṇava thinkers, is divine creative power.  Śaṅkara, on the other hand, building on the work of his paramaguru, Gauḍapāda, would take the cosmos to be solely an appearance, or māyā in the sense of a delusory phenomenon that disappears once true knowledge arises.

Māyā in Advaita Vedānta

Māyā, according to Advaita Vedānta, is both ignorance of the true nature of reality (avidyā) and a binding effect of this ignorance which causes us to become ever more enmeshed in it.  It is, in other words, a kind of self-reinforcing ignorance.  In the words of Pravrajika Vrajaprana:

Maya is the veil that covers our real nature and the real nature of the world around us.  Maya is fundamentally inscrutable: we don’t know why it exists and we don’t know when it began.  What we do know is that, like any form of ignorance, maya ceases to exist at the dawn of knowledge, the knowledge of our own divine nature.  Brahman is the real truth of our existence: in Brahman we live, move, and have our being…Yet for us this reality is conditioned, like a warped mirror, by time, space, and causality–the law of cause and effect.  Our vision of reality is further obscured by wrong identification: we identify ourselves with the body, mind, and ego rather than the Atman, the divine self.10

Māyā produces for us a world of paradox, in which we seek after happiness from external objects and conditions that are themselves impermanent, and thus incapable of producing lasting happiness.  In the words of Swami Tyagananda:

Māyā is the veil which clouds our understanding and makes the ridiculous look normal.  Such is its enormous power that, even when we act out of self-interest, as most people do most of the time, we are really acting against our interest.  The inherent paradoxes of life and the contradictions in which we are forced to live is māyā.11

A classic image for māyā in Advaita Vedānta is the metaphor of the rope and the snake:

Walking down a darkened road [or into a darkened room], a man sees a snake; his heart pounds, his pulse quickens.  On closer inspection, the ‘snake’ turns out to be a piece of coiled rope.  Once the delusion breaks, the snake vanishes forever.  Similarly, walking down the darkened road of ignorance, we see ourselves as mortal creatures, and around us, the universe of name and form, the universe conditioned by time, space, and causation.  We become aware of our limitations, bondage, and suffering.  On ‘closer inspection’ both the mortal creature as well as the universe turn out to be Brahman.  Once the delusion breaks, our mortality as well as the universe disappear forever.  We see Brahman existing everywhere and in everything.12

The metaphor of the rope and the snake illustrates the sense in which, even in Advaita Vedānta, where the term māyā has primarily negative connotations of ignorance and delusion, a positive sense of this term can also be discerned; for the snake–the illusion of a world of separate beings, distinct from Brahman–is indeed modeled on the reality of Brahman, which is its basis.  A rope looks like a snake and not like rhinoceros.  Our ignorance of Brahman is not complete, but is only partial.  Some aspects of the true nature of reality are evident to us, even in our deluded state.  We project the reality we experience based on the mix of knowledge and ignorance that shapes and conditions our consciousness at a given time.  It is in this sense that māyā is, according to the formulation of Śaṅkara, both real and unreal.  As Swami Tyagananda explains:

When the veil is opaque, only the power to conceal is activated.  But both powers–to conceal and to project–are activated when the veil is translucent, as in the case of the semi-lit room.  We know that the insufficient light, or partial darkness, not only hid the reality of the rope but also made it possible to project a pseudo snake.  The snake’s reality may have been pseudo, but the snake wasn’t totally unreal.  A little of the reality showed itself in the snake.  How else did I see the snake?  The ‘existence’ of the snake I saw was really the existence of the rope percolating through the veil of my ignorance.  It’s just that it had become distorted: the existence of the rope was showing itself as the existence of the snake.  Even when I saw the snake, I was really seeing the rope but not as rope…In the same way, I perceive myself but not as the ātman.13

Māyā in Theistic Vedānta

Advaita Vedānta is not, strictly speaking, non-theistic, because there is a positive role for the personal God, the Supreme Being (īśvara) in this tradition.  According to Śaṅkara, cultivating bhakti, or devotion to the Supreme Being, is a practice which purifies the mind by subordinating the ego to the divine.  It thus prepares the mind for the liberating knowledge that Brahman alone is real.  Brahman, though, at least according to most interpretations of Advaita Vedānta, is not the same thing, precisely, as the personal God.  The Brahman that is the sole reality according to most teachers of Advaita Vedānta is an impersonal ultimate reality: anantaram sat-chit-ānandam, or infinite being, consciousness, and bliss, and nirguṇa, or without any limiting qualities.  Īśvara, or the Supreme Being, who exhibits the nature of Brahman to the world–who is a being possessed of infinite being, consciousness, and bliss–is part of the world, part of the realm of māyā.  God, then, the Supreme Being, is, in a sense, less real than the impersonal nirguṇa Brahman, which is wholly beyond the realm of time, space, and causation.  God, in Advaita Vedānta, is ultimately a derivative reality, as dependent upon the infinite Brahman as is the world itself.

For Vaiṣṇava systems of Vedānta, such as Rāmānuja’s Viśiṣṭādvaita and Madhva’s Dvaita, this is a fundamental error, and a reversal of what is really the case, at the ontological level.  For Vaiṣṇava traditions, which are robustly theistic, ultimate reality is the personal Supreme Being.  It is the impersonal ultimate that is derivative from the personal.  And it is bhakti, not jñāna–devotion, not knowledge–that is the essential quality that one must cultivate in order to achieve liberation.

Māyā, according to these systems, is the divine effulgence, the divine creative power.  It is potentially delusory inasmuch as it conceals the fulness of the divine being from whom it emanates.  In the words of Steven Rosen:

In the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, there is a certain negativity associated with the impersonal Absolute.  For example, in Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s translation of the Ishopanishad, Mantra Twelve, he offers an admonition against impersonalism.  ‘Those who are engaged in the worship of the gods enter into the darkest region of ignorance and still more so do the worshipers of the impersonal Absolute.’  Vaishnava commentators say that impersonalists tend to fall into hellish consciousness because they deny God’s ability to have personal features, implying that they have something that God does not.  All of our greatest pleasures come from sensual experience, say the Vaishnavas, and God is not to be denied such pleasures.  He can see, hear, speak, and love.  In short, He can experience things as we do, but without the imperfections associated with a temporary and limited nature.14

An Advaita Vedāntin, or ‘impersonalist,’ would no doubt respond to this position with the assertion that the sensual experiences that Vaiṣṇavas identify as the source of ‘all of our greatest pleasures’ are also the source of our greatest miseries.  As products of māyā, sensory experiences have a double-edged character, giving temporary enjoyment, but also producing pain, either when our enjoyment comes to an end, or when we are deprived of it, or when the experiences themselves are painful.  In this sense, Advaita Vedānta is akin to Buddhism and Jainism.  If accused of denying ‘God’s ability to have personal features, implying that they have something that God does not,’ Advaita Vedāntins would say that they are denying that God has the limitations that necessarily attach to such features.  Of course, Vaiṣṇavas also affirm that God does not have ‘the imperfections associated with a temporary and limited nature.’  The difference between the two seems to be over whether personal features are inherently limiting (the Advaitic view) or whether we can conceive of such features as existing in a way that is free from limitation (the Vaiṣṇava view, and the view of other theistic traditions, such as Christianity and Islam).

In any case, from a Vaiṣṇava perspective, the impersonal dimension of the divine existence is derivative of the more essential personal dimension.  As Rosen continues:

The Ishopanishad further informs us that God’s impersonal feature is essentially an overwhelming white light, purely spiritual, and fully engulfing all who come in its path.  It is composed of His personal bodily effulgence, which can be blinding, denying its viewers access to the personal form at its base.  In Mantra Fifteen of this same Upanishadic text, the personified Vedas pray, ‘O my Lord, sustainer of all that lives, Your real face is covered by Your orb of gold.  Kindly remove that covering and exhibit Yourself to me, for I adore the Truth.’  Vaishnava exegesis holds that the ‘orb of gold’ is the Lord’s ‘impersonal effulgence.’15

What is māyā, from a Vaiṣṇava perspective?

Briefly, it is the energy (shakti) of God.  According to Vaishnava tradition, it is usually associated with the idea of illusory energy, and in the earliest Vedic texts it is defined as a type of magic.16

This divine creative power can be experienced as delusory, or as revelatory.  In its delusory mode, māyā is known in Vaiṣṇava traditions as Mahāmāyā, or ‘great māyā.’  “Maya, in Puranic…and epic texts, is described…as ‘seductive.’”17 Māyā is the basis of the material world.  As in Advaita Vedānta, the material world is understood in Vaiṣṇava traditions as being “like a dream–it has substance for some time, but eventually it fades…Vaiṣṇava texts explain that the material world exists, but it is temporary.”18 This temporary reality, however, easily becomes an object of deep attachment, and thus causes us to be enmeshed in the cycle of rebirth.  The beauty of the creation blinds us to the creator whose infinite goodness it reflects.

It is possible, though, to use our experiences of the material world to go beyond materiality, beyond māyā, to find the divine reality obscured by the veil of ignorance and attachment.  Māyā becomes a trap “unless one learns to use the accouterments of the material world in a godly way, to spiritualise them by using them in seva, or Divine service.”19  Māyā, when utilized in this way, is known in Vaiṣṇava tradition as Yogamāyā.  It is when our material, sensory experiences are put into the service of the spiritual path, rather than being a distracting impediment to it.  It is seeing God in and through the world, rather than letting the world blind us to God.

Māyā in Tantra

The Tāntric Śaiva and Śākta traditions share features with both the Advaita Vedānta and Vaiṣṇava perspectives on māyā.  Tantra is also a form of non-dualism–and so, Advaita–inasmuch as it affirms an ultimate unity between God and the cosmos.  Vaiṣṇava traditions give much greater emphasis to the distinction between the devotee and the divine–between the souls, or jīvas, which inhabit the cosmos and the Supreme Person.  Rāmānuja’s Viśiṣṭādvaita comes close to the Tāntric sensibility in affirming that the Supreme Being and the cosmos together make up the greater whole which is Brahman, but nevertheless affirms a real ontological difference between the God and the individual souls in the universe.  Tantra affirms that the divine reality has truly become this world: that all is Śiva.  At the same time, Tantra is at one with Vaiṣṇava traditions in positively valuing sensory experience and enjoyment, seeing such enjoyment as reflecting the blissful character of the divine.  Tantra does not see the divine emanation of the cosmos as an illusion or appearance, but an actual, ontological reality.  As Georg Feuerstein explains:

Like Advaita Vedanta, most schools of Tantra also maintain that the ultimate Reality is singular.  However, they tend toward the view that the Many actually and not merely apparently evolves out of the One (while still being contained within the One as the eternal backdrop of cosmic existence).  They reject any metaphysics of illusionism.20

The term māyā, though, is utilized in Tāntric thought, and has the same dual, both-positive-and-negative character that we have observed (minimally) in Advaita Vedānta (where māyā is mainly negative) and in Vaiṣṇava thought (where it can be experienced as both Mahāmāyā and Yogamāyā.  As in Advaita, māyā can be seen in Tantra as ignorance, “our fundamental misapprehension of ourselves and the world.  The misconception about ourselves consists in looking upon ourselves as ego-personalities rather than the indivisible pure Being-Consciousness.  The misconception about the world consists in looking upon it as an external reality rather than as being identical with our own nature.”21  But there are also Tāntric texts in which the terms māyā and śakti, or divine creativity, are used synonymously, and are also identified with the Sāṃkhya concept of prakṛti.  The Tāntric critique of Advaita Vedānta, though, is quite different from that of Vaiṣṇava traditions.  Whereas Vaiṣṇava traditions emphasize duality–particularly the duality between God and cosmos–Tāntric traditions argue that Advaita is insufficiently non-dualistic; for māyā is seen as something different from Brahman.  Of course, according to Advaita, Brahman alone is real, and māyā does not really, in an ultimate sense, exist.  According to Tantra, though, God, the world to which the divine creativity gives rise, and divine creativity itself, are all One.  There is no final differentiation amongst them.  From a Tāntric point of view, Tantra is therefore more non-dualistic than Advaita Vedānta.

Māyā in the Teaching of Sri Ramakrishna

In the teaching of the nineteenth century Bengali sage, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, the various teachings of the Advaita, Vaiṣṇava, and Tantra are all incorporated into a thoroughgoing pluralism.  For Ramakrishna, all of these perspectives have validity.  For Ramakrishna, much as for Tantra, the divine reality, or Brahman, actually does become the cosmos, through the power of the divine creativity.  For Sri Ramakrishna, the eternal Brahman beyond time, space, and causation, affirmed by Advaita Vedānta, is real; but the active, creative Śakti or Kāli is no less real.  The two are, indeed, one and the same:

Kāli is verily Brahman, and Brahman is verily Kāli.  It is one and the same Reality.  When we think of It as inactive, that is to say, not engaged in the acts of creation, preservation, and destruction, then we call It Brahman.  But when It engages in these activities, then we call It Kāli or Śakti.  The Reality is one and the same; the difference is in name and form.22

Ramakrishna, too, identifies māyā with the divine creative power and sees this power as having two modes or aspects–one binding to the soul, and one liberatory–much in the manner of the Vaiṣṇava tradition’s concepts of Mahāmāyā and Yogamāyā.  Ramakrishna refers to these as avidyāmāyā and vidyāmāyā, respectively:

Through the help of vidyāmāyā one cultivates such virtues as the taste for holy company, knowledge, devotion, love, and renunciation.  Avidyāmāyā consists of the five elements and the objects of the five senses–form, flavor, smell, touch, and sound.  These make one forget God.23

According to Ramakrishna, multiple paths can lead to realization, and to liberation from the cycle of rebirth.  The path of jñāna, or knowledge, epitomized by Advaita Vedānta, the path of bhakti, or devotion, epitomized by the Vaiṣṇava traditions (and by other theistic traditions such as Christianity and Islam, all of which Ramakrishna experienced directly), and the integral path of Tantra all have the capacity to lead their practitioners to the same ultimate goal.  The Advaitin does this by rejecting māyā and focusing exclusively upon the knowledge of Brahman.  The bhakta or devotee of the personal God does this by seeing the Supreme Being as the master of the realm of māyā–the ‘magician’ behind the ‘illusion’ of the world.  And the Tāntric practitioner does this by seeing and experiencing the ultimate unity of Brahman and the world.


Depending upon the perspective from which it is approached–māyā, the transformative and creative wisdom at the basis of existence–can either be seen as a perilous trap, into which one risks becoming ensnared, or as a potentially revelatory and liberatory reality, which points beyond itself to the divine reality that is at its basis–and with which it is ultimately identical, at least according to non-dualistic philosophies such as Advaita Vedānta and Tantra.  Māyā is the ultimate paradox.


  1. Doubts about both the occurrence of this expression in the Vivekacūḍāmaṇi and Śaṅkara’s authorship of this text have been raised by scholars.  The expression is, in any case, widely known amongst adherents of Advaita Vedānta and captures a popular understanding of the teaching of this school of thought with regard to māyā.
  2. Chāndogya Upaniṣad 3.14.1
  3. See Prabhu Dutt Shastri, The Doctrine of Maya in the Philosophy of the Vedanta. London: Luzac and Company (2012: ix, 5).
  4. Ṛg Veda 10.177.1-3.  In earlier portions of the Ṛg Veda, Asuras are not exclusively demonic, but are interchangeable with Devas, the ‘shining ones’ or divine beings of Hindu literature.  The differentiation of Devas and Asuras, with one group viewed as good and the other as evil, emerges after the ideological split within the Indo-Iranian culture between those who viewed the Devas as good and the Asuras as evil (which would predominate in subsequent Vedic tradition in India) and those who viewed the Devas as evil and the Asuras as good (which would predominate in the Iranian tradition continuous with Zoroastrianism).
  5. Ben-Ami Scharfstein, A Comparative History of World Philosophy: From the Upanishads to Kant. Albany: State University of New York Press (1998: 376).
  6. Teun Goudriaan, Maya: Divine And Human. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass (2008: 1-17).
  7. For example, Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad 1.4.1-17.
  8. Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 4.9-10, translated by Patrick Olivelle. Upaniṣads. Oxford: Oxford University Press (1996: 260).
  9.  I believe I can claim the distinction of having coined this term in my book, A Vision for Hinduism: Beyond Hindu Nationalism. London: IB Tauris (2007).
  10. Pravrajika Vrajaprana, Vedanta: A Simple Introduction. Hollywood, California: Vedanta Press (1999: 5).
  11. Swami Tyagananda,  Knowing the Knower: A Jñāna Yoga Manual. Gol Park, Kolkata: Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture (2017: 24).
  12. Vrajaprana (1999: 7).
  13. Tyagananda (2017: 25-26).
  14. Steven Rosen, The Jedi in the Lotus. London, Arktos Media (2011: 98-99).
  15.  Ibid, 99
  16. Ibid, 103.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Ibid, 104.
  20. Georg Feuerstein, Tantra: The Path of Ecstasy. Boston: Shambhala Books (1998: 66-67).
  21. Ibid, 22.
  22.  Mahendranath Gupta, Śrī Śrī Rāmakṛṣṇa Kathāmṛta, translated by Swami Nikhilananda as The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center (1942: 134-135).
  23. Ibid, 216.  It is also worth noting that, according to Ramakrishna, both vidyāmāyā and avidyāmāyā are aspects of Mahāmāyā.