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.
Maya has 2 completely different meanings. The first is mercy or compassion. The second is illusion.
Maya is one of the energies of Lord Krishna and this energy is the fundamental basis of the material creation or material existence. Without this illusionary energy, there would be no purpose to material existence. Every living being in the material creation is in maya, meaning in illusion, but some are more in illusion than others. This illusion is basically the thinking “I and Mine”.
Another definition of maya is “that which is not” (ma = “not,” and ya = “there is”). Maya conceals the fact that everything is emanating from the Absolute Truth, and makes the temporary manifestations of material energy look attractive and substantial. Attraction to maya keeps the self in a perpetual cycle of birth and death, in an endless attempt to fulfill desires for temporary things.
Becoming free from the negative influence of maya, ironically, involves becoming captivated by another of Krishna’s energies, yoga-maya, the spiritual energy which attracts the self again to the natural condition of willful service to the Supreme.According to Paramhansa Yogananda, the ancient Vedic scriptures say that the physical world operates under one fundamental law of maya, the principle of relativity and duality. Since God in his absolute form is Complete Unity, the only way He can appear as the separate and diverse manifestations of creation is under a false or unreal veil of maya, or illusion.
Freeing ourselves from maya is the essence of the spiritual path, regardless of which religion one belongs to. This is done through perfect stillness and concentration, which can be reached by prayer, the practice of a particular meditation technique, non-attachment, devotion, and many other practices.