What is Maya?


What is Maya?

Maya has 2 completely different meanings. The first is mercy or compassion. The second is illusion. Here we will focus on the latter meaning, which is the default meaning of maya.

The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-Gita 15.7)

Maya is one of the energies of Lord Krishna and this energy is the fundamental basis of the material creation or material existence. Without this illusionary energy, there would be no purpose to material existence. Every living being in the material creation is in maya, meaning in illusion, but some are more in illusion than others. This illusion is basically the thinking “I and Mine”. Here are some examples to help you understand this.

Table 1 – Mentality under maya (illusion)

I am this bodyI am the bestI am the most intelligentI am the most educatedI am the most beautifulI own thisI am the richestMy spouse is the bestMy way is the bestMy country is the bestMy religion is the bestMy house is the bestMy product is the bestMy body is the bestIt’s mine, not yoursIt’s mine onlyIt’s for my use onlyIt’s my lifeIt’ my wayIt’s my property


In reality all the above is an illusion and false, because for example, “I am beautiful” is false, because for how long can one stay beautiful? With the progress of time, there is decay and the beauty is lost, thus one can never truly be ‘beautiful’ permanently. “I am rich”, at the time of death, everything is lost and thus one can never be truly rich. Even in this life, many rich people do lose it all. “I am this body”, for how long? At most 100 years then the body is gone, but you (the soul) still exist, thus you were never the body.

“Deluded by the three modes [goodness, passion and ignorance], the whole world does not know Me, who am above the modes and inexhaustible.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-Gita 7.13)

The maya (illusion), is in the form of mentalities and has three gears or modes.

Gear/Mode of Material ExistenceSymptoms (mentality developed)Result
1 – GoodnessGood actions – I want to feed the poor, help those who are in need. I will speak the truth. I love and respect all. Eating animals is foul. I only eat freshly cooked food.Repeated birth and death in the human species in reasonable families to enjoy the fruits of good actions.
2 – PassionMaterialistic or Passionate – I want go here and there and this will make me happy. I want a million and this will solve all my problems. A big house will make me very happy. I have respect for those who are rich. Eating animals is ok. Frozen food is ok. So on..Repeated birth and death in the human species among those who are materialistic with variety of miseries.
3 – IgnoranceCorrupt mentality – Eating animals is good. Frozen, un-fresh, and processed food is good. I hate those who don’t follow my way. I look good with hair on my face. We are visible and God is not like us, thus He must be invisible So on..Repeated birth and death among degraded human beings and eventually in the plant and animal kingdoms.


“Nature is said to be the cause of all material causes and effects, whereas the living entity is the cause of the various sufferings and enjoyments in this world. The living entity in material nature thus follows the ways of life, enjoying the three modes of nature. This is due to his association with that material nature. Thus he meets with good and evil among various species.“ (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-Gita 13-21.22)

Being in goodness is certainly better than passion and ignorance, but still there is repeated birth and death. Those who want to live eternally in the same body with no misery will strive to go beyond the mode of goodness and go back to the spiritual creation, the abode of Lord Krishna (God). Since this illusionary energy comes from Lord Krishna, it can only be overcome if one surrenders unto Lord Krishna by engaging in Bhakti devotional service) unto Lord 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)

Someone asked me how is it that some children become corrupt and some don’t, even though all parents teach their children to be good. This is answered by Lord Krishna in the above verse. Teaching moral values to children is certainly good and MUST be done, but without engaging in Bhakti unto Lord Krishna, the morality will not last long. Due to maya, the very strong illusionary force of material existence, which will make one think as outlined in table 1. Even many devotees become influenced by maya (come under maya) in some minor ways, many times. Due to bad association or lack of constant good association.

The mode of passion and ignorance is more contagious than any disease. If one associates with those in these modes, they will become one of them easily.

The solution to all problems of material existence is to live in the mode of goodness and engage in devotional service unto Lord Krishna. Then at death, the soul is immediately transferred to the spiritual creation, where one can live eternally in the same body that is completely beautiful, in complete bliss, full of knowledge, and with no trace of any misery.

“Thus practicing constant control of the body, mind and activities, the mystic transcendentalist, his mind regulated, attains to the kingdom of God [or the abode of Kṛṣṇa] by cessation of material existence.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-Gita 6.15)

“Yet there is another unmanifest nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is. That which the Vedāntists describe as unmanifest and infallible, that which is known as the supreme destination, that place from which, having attained it, one never returns – that is My supreme abode.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-Gita 8.20-21)


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