|Maya (Sanskrit माया māyāa[›]), in Indian religions, has multiple meanings. Maya, is the principal deity who creates, perpetuates and governs the phantasmagoria, illusion and dream of duality in the phenomenal Universe. For some mystics this manifestation is real, but it is a fleeting reality; it is a mistake, although a natural one, to believe that Maya represents a fundamental reality or Truth. Each person, each physical object, from the perspective of eternity is like a brief, disturbed drop of water from an unbounded ocean. The goal of enlightenment is to understand this — more precisely, to experience this: to see intuitively that the distinction between the self and the Universe is a false dichotomy. The distinction between consciousness and physical matter, between mind and body (refer bodymind), is the result of an unenlightened perspective.
 Maya in Hinduism
In Hinduism, Maya is to be seen through, like an epiphany, in order to achieve moksha (liberation of the soul from the cycle of samsara). Ahamkar (ego-consciousness) and karma are seen as part of the binding forces of Maya. Maya may be understood as the phenomenal Universe of perceived duality, a lesser reality-lens superimposed on the unity of Brahman. It is said to be created by the divine by the application of the Lila (creative energy/material cycle, manifested as a veil - the basis of dualism). The samskaras of perceived duality perpetuate samsara.
illustration of the Hindu philosophical concept of Maya by Raja & Narendra Sajja
In Advaita Vedanta philosophy, Maya is the limited, purely physical and mental reality in which our everyday consciousness has become entangled. Maya is held to be an illusion, a veiling of the true, unitary Self — the Cosmic Spirit also known as Brahman. The concept of Maya was expounded in the Hindu scriptures known as the Upanishads. Many philosophies or religions seek to "pierce the veil" of Maya in order to glimpse the transcendent truth, from which the illusion of a physical reality springs, drawing from the idea that first came to life in the Hindu stream of Vedanta.
Maya is neither true nor untrue. Since Brahman is the only truth, Maya cannot be true. Since Maya causes the material world to be seen, it cannot be untrue. Hence, Maya is described as indescribable. She has two principle functions — one is to veil Brahman and obscure and conceal it from our consciousness. The other is to present and promulgate the material world and the veil of duality instead of Brahman. The veil of Maya is piercable and with dilligence and grace, may be permanently rent. Consider an illusion of a rope being confused as a snake in the darkness. Just as this illusion gets destroyed when true knowledge of the rope is perceived, similarly, Maya gets destroyed for a person when they perceive Brahman with transendental knowledge. A metaphor is also given — when the reflection of Brahman falls on Maya, Brahman appears as God (the Supreme Lord). Pragmatically, where the duality of the world is regarded as true, Maya becomes the divine magical power of the Supreme Lord. Maya is the veritable fabric of duality and she performs this role at the behest of the Supreme Lord. God is not bound by Maya, just as a magician is not illusioned and deluded by their own magic.
By Sri Shankaracharya
- The Supreme Self (or Ultimate Reality) who is Pure Consciousness perceived Himself by Selfhood (i.e. Existence with "I"-Consciousness). He became endowed with the name "I". From that arose the basis of difference.
- He exists verily in two parts, on account of which, the two could become husband and wife. Therefore, this space is ever filled up completely by the woman (or the feminine principle) surely.
- And He, this Supreme Self thought (or reflected). Thence, human beings were born. Thus say the Upanishads through the statement of sage Yajnavalkya to his wife.
- From the experience of bliss for a long time, there arose in the Supreme Self a certain state like deep sleep. From that (state) Maya (or the illusive power of the Supreme Self) was born just as a dream arises in sleep.
- This Maya is without the characteristics of (or different from) Reality or unreality, without beginning and dependent on the Reality that is the Supreme Self. She, who is of the form of the Three Guna (qualities or energies of Nature) brings forth the Universe with movable and immovable (objects).
- As for Maya, it is invisible (or not experienced by the senses). How can it produce a thing that is visible (or experienced by the senses)? How is a visible piece of cloth produced here by threads of invisible nature?
- Though the emission of ejaculate onto sleeping garments or bedclothes is yielded by the natural experience of copulation in a wet dream, the stain of the garment is perceived as real upon waking whilst the copulation and lovemaking was not true or real. Both sexual partners in the dream are unreal as they are but dream bodies, and the sexual union and conjugation was illusory, but the emission of the generative fluid was real. This is a metaphor for the resolution of duality into lucid unity.
- Thus Maya is invisible (or beyond sense-perception). (But) this universe which is its effect, is visible (or perceived by the senses). This would be Maya which, on its part, becomes the producer of joy by its own destruction.
- Like night (or darkness) Maya is extremely insurmountable (or extremely difficult to be understood). Its nature is not perceived here. Even as it is being observed carefully (or being investigated) by sages, it vanishes like lightning.
- Maya (the illusive power) is what is obtained in Brahman (or the Ultimate Reality). Avidya (or nescience or spiritual ignorance) is said to be dependent on Jiva (the individual soul or individualised consciousness). Mind is the knot which joins Consciousness and matter.
- Space enclosed by a pot, or a jar or a hut or a wall has their several appellations (eg.,pot space, jar space etc.). Like that, Consciousness (or the Self) covered here by Avidya (or nescience) is spoken of as jiva (the individual soul).
- Objection: How indeed could ignorance become a covering (or an obscure factor) for Brahman (or the Supreme Spirit) who is Pure Consciousness, as if the darkness arising from the night (could become a concealing factor) for the sun which is self-luminous?
- As the sun is hidden by clouds produced by the solar rays but surely, the character of the day is not hidden by those modified dense collection of clouds, so the Self, though pure, (or undefiled) is veiled for a long time by ignorance. But its power of Consciousness in living beings, which is established in this world, is not veiled.
 Understanding Maya through Bhagavad Gita verses
Spoken by Krisna (also spelled Krishna) to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra Bhagavad Gita, Ch.14, Verse 3. "My womb is the great Nature (Prakriti or MAYA). In that I place the germ (embryo of life). Thence is the birth of all beings".
Bhagavad Gita, Ch. 14, Verse 4 "Whatever forms are born, O Arjuna, in any womb whatsoever, the great Brahma (Nature) is their womb and I am the seed-giving father."
Explanation: Prakriti (Nature), made up of the three qualities (Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas), is the material cause of all beings.
In the great Prakriti, I place the seed for the birth of Brahma (the creator, also known as Hiranyagarbha, or Ishwar, or the conditioned Brahman); and the seed gives birth to all beings. The birth of Brahma (the creator) gives rise to the birth of beings.
The primordial Nature (prakriti) gives birth to Brahma, who creates all beings.
(I am the father; the primordial Nature is the mother).
Bhagavad Gita, Ch.13, verse 26. "Wherever a being is born, whether unmoving or moving, know thou Arjuna, that it is from the union between the field and the knower of the field". (Purusha is the knower of the field; Prakriti is the field; Shiva is another name for the knower of the field and Shakti is the field; Spirit is another name for the knower of the field and Matter (Prakriti) is the field).
Bhagavad Gita, Ch. 7, Verse 4. "I am endowed with two Shaktis, namely the superior and the inferior natures; the field and its knower (spirit is the knower of the field; matter is the field.) I unite these two".
Bhagavad Gita Ch.7, Verse 6. "Know these two- my higher and lower natures- as the womb of all beings. Therefore, I am the source and dissolution of the whole universe".
Bhagavad Gita, Ch.13, Verse 29. "He sees, who sees that all actions are performed by nature alone, and that the Self is action less".
(The Self is the silent witness).
Bhagavad Gita, Ch.9, Verse 17. "I am the father of this world, the mother, the dispenser of the fruits of actions and the grandfather; the one thing to be known, the purifier, the sacred monosyllable (AUM), and also the Rg, the Sama and the Yajur Vedas".
Bhagavad Gita, Ch.18, Verse 61. "The sovereign Lord dwells in the heart space of beings and moves them to act by his divine Maya, as though mounted on a machine".
 Maya in Hindu Mythology
Maya may also be visualized as a guise or aspect of the Divine Mother (Devi)or Devi MahamayaDevi Mahatmyam, Maya covers Vishnu's eyes in Yoganidra (Divine Sleep) during cycles of existence when all is resolved into one. By exhorting Mahamaya to release Her illusory hold on Vishnu, Brahma is able to bring Vishnu to aid him in killing two demons, Madhu and Kaitabh, who have manifested as thoughtforms from Vishnu's sleeping form. Shri Ramakrishna often spoke of Mother Maya and combined deep Hindu allegory concept of Hinduism. In the Hindu scripture with the idea that Maya is a lesser reality that must be overcome so that one is able to realize their true Self.
Devi Mahamaya is also a Kuldev of the Gowd Saraswat Brahmins of Goa, India.
Maya is also the name of an Asura, who was the father-in-law of the Lord of Lanka, Ravana and the father of Mandodari. He is the archnemesis of Vishwakarma, the celestial architect of the Gods. His knowledge and skills are compatible with Vishwakarma. When Lanka was destroyed by Hanuman, it was the King of Demons, Maya, who had re-installed the beauty of that Island Kingdom.
In Hinduism, Maya is also seen as a form of Laksmi, a Divine Goddess. Her most famous explication is seen in the Devi Mahatmyam, where she is known as Mahamaya. Because of its association with the goddess, Maya is now a commonly used girl's name in India and amongst the Indian diaspora around the world .
Essentially, Mahamaya (great Maya) both blinds us in delusion (moha) and has the power to free us from it. Maya, superimposed on Brahman, the one divine ground and essence of monist Hinduism, is envisioned as one with Laxmi, Durga, etc. A great modern (19th century) Hindu sage who often spoke of Maya as being the same as the Shakti principle of Hinduism was Shri Ramakrishna.
In the Hindu scripture 'Devi Mahatmyam,' Mahamaya (Great Maya) is said to cover Vishnu's eyes in Yoganidra (Divine Sleep) during cycles of existence when all is resolved into one. By exhorting Mahamaya to release Her illusory hold on Vishnu, Brahma is able to bring Vishnu to aid him in killing two demons, Madhu and Kaitabh, who have manifested from Vishnu's sleeping form. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa often spoke of Mother Maya and combined deep Hindu allegory with the idea that Maya is a lesser reality that must be overcome so that one is able to realize his or her true Self.
Maya as Mahalaxmi was called upon when the gods and goddesses were helpless against the demon Mahisasura. The combined rage of all the gods including Brahma Vishnu and Shiva created her. She is the most powerful of all the gods and goddesses in heaven. The gods gave her ornaments, weapons and her bearer,the lion. She was unassailable. She called upon the demon, had a fierce battle against Mahisasura and his huge army herself. She killed the demon and restored heaven back to the gods and goddesses. Thus She is even now the protector of the universe which is lying in her lap.