MAYA OR AVIDYA: Sometimes it is said that the doctrine of Maya or Aviddya is either borrowed by Shankara from Buddhism or it is a fabrication of the fertile brain of Shankara.

Both this views are wrong. The fact is that the theory of Maya is present in the Upanisads and Shankara has elaborated it like a true thinker. Prof. R. D. Ranade, in his great work, ‘ A Constructive Survey of Upanisadic Philosophy’, has rightly pointed out the origin of this doctrine in the Upanisads. He gives the following points:                                                                


  • Isha tells us that the veil that covers the truth is golden, so rich, gaudy and dazzling that it takes away the mind of the observer from the inner contents.
  • Katha says how people live in ignorance and thinking themselves wise, move about wandering, like blind men following the blind.
  • Mundaka compares ignorance to a knot which a has to untie before he gets possession of the self in the recess of the self in the recess of his own heart.
  • Chhandogya tells us that knowledge is power and ignorance is importance.
  • Brhadaranyaka compares Unreality to Not-being, to Darkness to Death.
  • Prasna tells us that we cannot reach the world of Brahman unless we have shaken off the crookedness in us the, falsehood, the illusion.
  • Brhadaranyaka tells us ‘as if there were a duality’ implying thereby that there is really no duality. Maya is a semblance, an as-it- were, an appearance.
  • Chhandogya tells us that Atman is the only Reality, everything else is merely a word, a mode and a name.
  • Shvetashvatara describes God as a Mayin who creates this world by His power.





The Upanisads are rightly regarded as the fountain-head of all Indian philosophy. Bloomfield remarks: ‘ there is no important from of Hindu thought, heterodox Buddhism included, which is not rooted in the Upanisads.’ Dr. S. Radhakrishnan says : ‘ Later system of philosophy display an almost pathetic anxiety to accommodate their doctrine to the views of  the Upanisads, even if they cannot father them all on them.’ Prof. R. D. Ranade says : ‘ The Upanisads constitute that lofty eminence of philosophy, which, from its various sides gives birth to rivulets of thought, which, as they progress onwards the sea of life, gather strength by the inflow of innumerable tributaries of speculation which intermittently join these rivulets, so as to make a huge expanse of waters at the place where they meet the ocean of life. ‘

           The Bramha-sutra claims to be an aphoristic summery of the Upanisads. The Gita is the milk milked out of the Upanisads-cows and its particularly influenced by the Katha and the Isha. The various Acharyas of Vedanta—Shankara, Ramanuja, Nimbarka, Madhya and Vallabha— have always regarded the Upanisads as the sacred texts and have interpreted them so as to make them suit their theories. The heterodox Jainism has taken its idealism and its doctrine of Karma from the Upanisads. The heterodox Buddhism derives its idealism, monism, absolution, the theory of momentariness of all worldly  things, the theory of Karma, the distinction between the empirical and the absolute standpoints, and the theory that ignorance is the root-cause of this cycle of birth-and-death and that Nirvana can be attained by right knowledge alone, from the Upanisads. Shankara derives from them the doctrine of Prakrti ( from shvetashvatara ) , the theory of three Gunas ( from the three colours in the Chhandogya ), the doctrine of Purusa, the relation of mind, intellect and soul ( from Katha ), the doctrine of Linga-sharira ( from Prashna ). Yoga is rooted in Shvetashvatara. Katha speaks of Dharana and Mundaka speaks of the soul as a mere onlooker. Isha preaches the combination of Karma and Jnana; Mimamsa takes up Karma; Vedanta takes up Jnana; and some writers take up the combination of itself.