Definition - S. N.
In the bhAShya on gItA, 4.6 Shri Shankara says: “prakRRiti,
the mAyA of ViShNu consisting of the three guNa-s,
under whose spell the whole world exists, and
deluded by which one does not know one’s
own Self, vAsudeva”.
From this it is clear that it is because of
mAyA that one is deluded and does not know one’s
own real nature.
In the bhAShya on gItA, 7.14 mAyA is described
as ‘that which deludes all creatures’.
In the bhAShya on gItA, 5.15 it is said that
discriminating wisdom remains covered by ignorance
(aj~nAnena AvRRitam j~nAnam) and so all people
become deluded thus—‘I do; I make
others do; I eat; I make others eat’. That
is, they are deluded by ignorance (avidyA) into
looking upon themselves as performers of action,
whereas they are really the actionless Self.
In the bhAShya on gItA, 7.25 it is said that
Krishna who is brahman is veiled by mAyA and
so does not become manifest to all in the world.
For this reason this deluded world does not know
brahman. Thus mAyA veils the nature of brahman
Thus mAyA and avidya are both described as
covering the true nature of brahman and deluding
In the bhAShya on gItA, 18. 61 Shankara explains
the term mAyA as delusion.
bhAShya on kaTha Up. 1.3.12—It is indeed
by being deluded by the supreme mAyA that the
whole world revolves.
mANDUkya kArikA, 1.16—The bhAShya says:
The jIva is under the influence of mAyA which
is beginningless and which has the two facets
of non-perception of the Reality and perception
of some thing else (as real)”.
Thus it is clearly stated here that mAyA veils
the Reality and projects the unreal.
mANDUkya kArikA, 3.10— In the bhAShya
on this it is said—“ mAyA avidyA
tayA pratyupasthApitA”. That is, conjured
up by mAyA which is the same as avidyA. Thus
mAyA and avidyA are clearly equated here.
mANDUkya kArikA, 3.19— The bhAShya says: “The
highest Reality is differentiated because of
mAyA, like a rope appearing diversely as a snake,
a line of water, etc.
kaTha up. 1. 2. 5—The bhAShya on this
says that avidyA is like thick darkness, leading
to entanglement in hundreds of fetters, forged
by cravings for sons, cattle, etc. Thus avidyA
conceals the real nature of the individual and
Thus it is seen that both mAyA and avidyA are
described at different places as the power that
deludes all human beings and makes them ignorant
of their real nature. This shows that mAyA and
avidyA are the same.
Some AchArya-s make a slight distinction between
mAyA and avidyA by saying that mAyA is the upAdhi
of Ishvara while avidyA is the upAdhi of the
jIva. But even according to them they are essentially
mAyA is dependent on brahman. It is not absolutely
real like brahman, nor is it unreal like a rabbit’s
horn. It is therefore categorized as ‘anirvachanIya’ or ‘mithyA’.
avidya in sleep--- ch. up. 8.3.2- The bhAShya
on this says that during deep sleep the jIva
is dragged away from his real nature by such
defects as avidyA, etc. Thus it is specifically
mentioned here that there is avidyA in sleep.
There is avidyA in deep sleep and that avidyA
is positive (bhAva rUpa). This is the view held
by all the traditional AchArya-s after Shri Shankara.
The following may be taken as a definition
upadesha sAhasrI—Prose portion, para
The teacher said, "You are the non-transmigratory
supreme Self, but you wrongly think that you
are one liable to transmigration. Though not
an agent or an experiencer, you wrongly consider
yourself to be so. You are eternal but mistake
yourself to be non-eternal. This is avidyA.
Definition of avidyA according to Patanjali's
Yoga sutra 2. 5:--
avidyA is looking upon what is ephemeral, impure,
painful and non-Self as eternal, pure, joyous and
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