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.

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