Maya (/ˈmɑːjə/; Devanagari: माया, IAST: māyā), literally "illusion" or "magic", has multiple meanings in Indian philosophies depending on the context.
In ancient Vedic literature, Māyā literally implies extraordinary power and wisdom.
In later Vedic texts and modern literature dedicated to Indian traditions, Māyā connotes a "magic show, an illusion where things appear to be present but are not what they seem".
Māyā is also a spiritual concept connoting "that which exists, but is constantly changing and thus is spiritually unreal", and the "power or the principle that conceals the true character of spiritual reality".
In Buddhism, Maya is the name of Gautama Buddha's mother.
In Hinduism, Maya is also an epithet for goddess, and the name of a manifestation of Lakshmi, the goddess of "wealth, prosperity and love".
Maya is also a name for girls.
Māyā (Sanskrit: माया) is a word with unclear etymology, probably comes from the root (mā) which means "to measure"
According to Monier Williams, māyā meant "wisdom and extraordinary power" in an earlier older language, but from the Vedic period onwards, the word came to mean "illusion, unreality, deception, fraud, trick, sorcery, witchcraft and magic".
However, P. D. Shastri states that the Monier Williams' list is a "loose definition, misleading generalization", and not accurate in interpreting ancient Vedic and medieval era Sanskrit texts;
instead, he suggests a more accurate meaning of māyā is "appearance, not mere illusion".
According to William Mahony, the root of the word may be man- or "to think", implying the role of imagination in the creation of the world.
In early Vedic usage, the term implies, states Mahony, "the wondrous and mysterious power to turn an idea into a physical reality".
Franklin Southworth states the word's origin is uncertain, and other possible roots of māyā include may- meaning mystify, confuse, intoxicate, delude, as well as māy- which means "disappear, be lost".
Jan Gonda considers the word related to mā, which means "mother", as do Tracy Pintchman and Adrian Snodgrass, serving as an epithet for goddesses such as Lakshmi.
Maya here implies art, is the maker’s power, writes Zimmer, "a mother in all three worlds", a creatrix, her magic is the activity in the Will-spirit.
A similar word is also found in the Avestan māyā with the meaning of "magic power"
An illusion (māyā) is something false or without real existence.
Some misinformed people believe that the Buddha taught that everything is an illusion created by the mind and that nothing really exists.
This is one of several examples of where a doctrine of Vedantic Hinduism has been mistakenly attributed to the Buddha.
So what did the Buddha mean when he said: ‘Everything is unreal’ (sabbaṃ vitathaṃ, Sn.9)?
Idealism is the concept that everything is just a creation of the mind, the ‘dance’ or ‘play’ (līlā) of God, according to Vedanta.
The extreme opposite of this is naive realism, the concept that everything is exactly as it appears to be. Both these ideas are false, the first much more so than the second, and the Buddha subscribed to neither of them.
Very clearly the external world exists in the real sense of the word.
The elements of existence – earth or solidity (paṭhavī), water or fluididity (āpo), fire or caloricity (tejo) and wind or movement (vāyo) – exist independently of our minds and are effect-producing.
However, when the external world impinges on our senses, we react by projecting ideas, values, assumptions and expectations onto it.
As a result, what we perceive is often more a product of our minds than the qualities of the object itself. This is what the Buddha called ‘the distortion of perception’ (saññā vipallāsa, A.II,52).
The value of meditation is that in watching the mind we see its projecting and distorting tendency and are less likely to be led astray by it.
In time, as the mind becomes utterly still and clear, it stops projecting and sense objects reveal themselves to us as they are.
The ordinary person sees everything through the filter of his or her desires, memories, prejudices and wants; the enlightened person ‘sees things as they really are’ (yathābhūtañāṇadassana).