By Periyava

Translation from Tamil: V. Krishnaraj

மாயை : தெய்வத்தின் குரல் (முதல் பகுதி) 1-14

Māyai: Deivathin Kural (Part One) 1-14

Buddhism states, “All are Māyai (illusion). There is nothing that is Satyam (Truth; Brahman or the Absolute).”

Advaitam says nothing like that. It says, “The world is an illusion. But, there is a basis (hypostasis) for all these. That is Braḥmam, the Supreme Truth.

“You say the world is an illusion. There are multiple activities happening right before our eyes. How could you say this an illusion?”

You think and say that Māyai is a nonentity (Asat = nonexistent). But Māyai is not an Atyanta Asat (Extremely non-existent entity).  We summarily reject notions like rabbit’s horn and child of a barren woman. Māyai is not like that. It is like the mirage (water in the desert). We see mirage of water with our eyes. But there is no water in it. We can’t drink it to slake our thirst. The Mirage Water makes its appearance to the inveterate non-believers too. Likewise, to the Jñāṉis who realized the world is an illusion, the world makes its appearance (by sight, sound, touch…). They know it is not a permanent Satyam (Truth, Brahman or the Absolute).

 (Sat = That which exists through all times, the Imperishable; Asat = That which is unstable and mutable.) 


We mistake a rope for a snake. Though we discover the truth of the matter it is not a snake, we experienced snake-induced fear and discomposure for the duration. Though the snake was unreal, we had all the symptoms and signs of panic like sweating, dryness, fear, and bewilderment. The physical world is not permanent Satyam. If we think of it as Satyam, all events happen in that strain. When we realize rope is a rope with the shedding of fear, the world is (an appearance or) a superimposition on Braḥmam, all phenomena have the basis on one everlasting Truth (that is Braḥmam), and all activities come to a standstill.   

The world is not non-existent as such. That is its appearance until the dawn of wisdom in us. The dream appears real but gets crushed upon our awakening. When we sleep in a state of ignorance, the world remains as real; when we are awake to wisdom, the world disappears. The world, not being a total falsity or Atyanta Asat, is a temporal truth, known as ‘Prātibhāsika Satyam (Illusory Truth). The seashell under the sunlight shines like silver; likewise, the world under the aegis of Māyā temporarily shines.

Māyai is zero, zip, zilch, nada to a Jñāṉi. Until the advent of Spiritual Wisdom, the Jīvaṉ (embodied soul; you, me, he, she) thinks itself as a special numerical entity and adds the zero(s) next to it. The zero elevates itself to one and adds a zero to it (0->1->10). The zero next to a number becomes 10, 100, 1000… Likewise, to the Ajñāṉi, the Māyai expands and gives the (false) appearance of true objects-Phenomenal-world.

Jñāṉi sees that which exists as such. As sweet choclate mold becomes many figures (shaped like a rabbit…), One Braḥmam became all these.  A realistic Bitter Gourd figure made of sweat choclate will repel a child because the child knows only the bitterness of the gourd. That gourd figure is sweat. Jñāṉi knows the world is Ānanda of Braḥmam. Krishna Bhagavan says: What is bitter is sweet to a Jñāṉi. What is black is white to a Jñāṉi. What is day for us is night to a Jñāṉi. The Light of Braḥmam appears as darkness to us. The dark Māyai appears as light to us. You may ask how is that possible. Māyai in proximity to Braḥmam gets a little reflected light from Braḥmam. That low wattage light only is reachable to our intellect. Low to medium light only makes the black letters readable in a book. If you open a book in a bright blinding sunlight, the black letters are not visible. (It is like your eyes being caught by the super-bright headlights of a car. You are blinded.) To us in the faint light of Māyā, the world’s activities and objects are seen. In Jñāṉi’s Ātmic (Ātmā’s) effulgence, they disappear. Jnani’s day is night for us.