Māyā

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By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Maya, MAyA, Maayaa


Maya

The seeds of the Mahābhārata war were sown at the exquisitely beautiful

palace of the Pāṇḍavas in Indraprastha, their capital. It was here that Duryodhana

was subject to an optical illusion making himself a subject for laughter of Draupadī.

And, the builder of this wondrous place was Maya, the chief architect of the asuras or demons. When Arjuna cleared the forest Khāṇdavavana for being consumed by Agni, the god of fire, Maya who was living there took refuge in Arjuna and Kṛṣṇa who saved his life. (Mahābhārata, Ādiparva 228). As a token of his gratitude, Maya built the palace at Indraprastha (the new capital of the Pāṇḍavas). He also gave a divine gadā (mace) to Bhīma and the śaṅkha (conch) Devadatta to Arjuna.

Maya was the son of Kaśyapa and his third wife Danu. Even from his boyhood days he was interested in the science of architecture. He acquired proficiency in it by appeasing Brahmā, the creator, through severe austerities. For some time he was the king of the dānavas (demons). Hemā was his queen. The two fierce demons, Māyāvī and Dundubhi, were his sons and Maṇḍodarī was his daughter. She was given in marriage to Rāvaṇa of Laṅkā.

‘Mayamata’ is the science of architecture attributed to him.

Viśvakarma the chief architect of the devas or gods was his rival in this field.


References

  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

OLD CONTENT

The seeds of the Mahābhārata war were sown at the exquisitely beautiful palace of the Pāṇḍavas in Indraprastha, their capital. It was here that Duryodhana was subject to an optical illusion making himself a subject for laughter of Draupadī. And, the builder of this wondrous place was Maya, the chief architect of the asuras or demons. When Arjuna cleared the forest Khāṇḍavavana for being consumed by Agni, the god of fire, Maya who was living there took refuge in Arjuna and Kṛṣṇa who saved his life. (Mahā¬bhārata, Ādiparva 228). As a token of his gratitude, Maya built the palace at Indraprastha (the new capital of the Pāṇḍavas). He also gave a divine gadā (mace) to Bhīma and the śaṅkha (conch) Devadatta to Arjuna. Maya was the son of Kaśyapa and his third wife Danu. Even from his boyhood days he was interested in the science of architecture. He acquired proficiency in it by appeasing Brahmā, the creator, through severe austerities. For some time he was the king of the dānavas (demons). Hemā was his queen. The two fierce demons, Māyāvī and Dundubhi, were his sons and Maṇḍodarī was his daughter. She was given in marriage to Rāvaṇa of Laṅkā. ‘Mayamata’ is the science of archi¬tecture attributed to him. Viśvakarma the chief architect of the devas or gods was his rival in this field. If God, the Absolute—called Brahman or Ātman in the Upaniṣads—is ‘ekam eva advitiyam’ or ‘One only, without a second’, how can he become this world of duality or multiplicity?—is a question that has puzzled many an Indian philosopher for ages. The Advaita Vedānta school which

was vigorously propagated by Sankara (A. D. 788-820) solves this problem by putting forth the theory that it is due to māyā, an inscrutable and apparent power of Brahman which functions in two ways. It covers the real nature of Brahman as caitanya or pure consciousness and projects this world of duality in that Brahman as the substratum. These two aspects of māyā are respectively called ‘āvaraṇaśakti’ and ‘vikṣepaśakti’. At the individual level, māyā is termed ‘ajñāna’. At the cosmic level, though māyā lasts for the full cycle of creation, at the individual level, it can be eliminated by jñāna or spiritual know¬ledge. An illustration can make this point clear. A piece of rope lying on the road appears like a snake for a person passing by it at dusk. The semidarkness success¬fully hides its real nature as the rope and projects the illusion of a snake on it simultaneously producing fear in his mind. If that person however, brings a light and a stick to kill it, he discovers that it is only a rope! He then, perhaps, laughs at it and goes away. But, the next day, if he is passing by the same road at the same time, he will again see the rope as a snake but does not react with fear. This is because his ignorance regarding it has now been destroyed. The semidarkness of the dusk and the snake-like shape of the rope being external to him, the illusion itself persists. What has changed is only his personal reaction. Similarly when a person destroys his personal avidyā or ajñāna. through spiritual illumination, his reactions to the world and its affairs will undergo a thorough transformation, though the world itself—being a product of māyā—will continue to remain as it is. Even Sankara accords a much greater degree of reality to the world and calls it ‘vyāvahārikasattā,’ an empirical truth. Māyā or Māyāpurī is the same as Haridvāra (the modern Hardwar in Uttaranchal), one of the seven most important places of pilgrimage situated on the river Gaṅgā. In the purāṇas and tantras, Māyā is one of the names of the Divine Mother. The word also stands for the bīja (seed-letter) ‘hrīiṅ’ of the Divine Mother. The Jayākhyasamhitā (8.77) states that Māyā is one of the four Saktis of Viṣṇu the other three being Lakṣmī, Jayā and Kīrti. See also ADVAITA VEDĀNTA DARŚANA