How Maya operates?

Advaita Vedanta – Questions and Answers

The word, avidya, used in Sastra (translated as “nescience” in English) is a technical term. Avidya and Maya are synonyms. (Other terms used for Maya are “avyakta”. “avyakruta”, prakriti”. Sometimes, the word “ajnanam” which literally means ignorance, is also used as a technical term for avidya. But none of these terms, not even the word,”ajnanam”should be confused with the word “ignorance” used in common parlance). Avidya (Maya) is a positive entity.

Maya is constituted of three factors, satva, rajas and tamas. Maya is matter. At the macrocosmic level, with the Brahman-consciousness reflected in Maya, there is Isvara. Thus Isvara has two aspects – the consciousness aspect and the matter aspect. Iswara in his consciousness aspect visualises the pattern of creation suited to the requirements of the karma of the jivas and impels the matter aspect containing the universe including the sukshma sariras of jivas and the karmas of jivas in seed form to unfold into the universe of diffentiated objects. This unfolding is the vikshepa sakti of Maya at the samashti (macrocsomic) level. Iswara is not affected by the avarana sakti of Maya and is therefore ever aware of his true nature being Brahman. At the vyashti (microcosmic) level, in so far as jivas are concerned, both the avarana sakti and the vikshepa sakti of Maya come into play. The avarana sakti makes jivas ignorant of their true nature as Brahman and the vikshepa sakti makes them identity with the body mind complex and regard the world with its divisions to be the reality. Avarana Sakti is indicated in Kathopanishad mantra I.iii.12. In Pancadasi, Vidyaranya gives an ingenious explanation for the avarana sakti being non–operative at the microcosmic level and being operative at the microcosmic level. He says that at the macrocosmic level, avidya is satva predominant, whereas at the microcosmic level, it is tamas rajas predominant.

More Info: Advaita Vedanta Philosophy Portal