Māyā in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa

Human Suffering and Divine Play

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Gopal K. Gupta
Oxford Theology and Religion Monographs
  • Oxford: 
    Oxford University Press
    , December
     288 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


The idea of Māyā pervades Indian philosophy. It is enigmatic, multivalent, and foundational, with its oldest referents found in the Rig Veda. This book explores Māyā's rich conceptual history, and then focuses on the highly developed theology of Māyā found in the Sanskrit Bhāgavata Purāṇa, one of the most important Hindu sacred texts. Gopal K. Gupta examines Māyā's role in the Bhāgavata's narratives, paying special attention to its relationship with other key concepts in the text, such as human suffering (du.hkha), devotion (bhakti), and divine play (līlā). In the Bhāgavata, Māyā is often identified as the divine feminine, and has a far-reaching influence. For example, Māyā is both the world and the means by which God creates the world, as well as the facilitator of God's play, paradoxically revealing him to his devotees by concealing his majesty. While Vedānta philosophy typically sees Māyā as a negative force, the Bhāgavata affirms that Māyā also has a positive role, as Māyā is ultimately meant to draw living beings toward Krishna and intensify their devotion to him.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Gopal K. Gupta is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Evansville (UE), Indiana. He is the editor-in-chief for the Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies (JHCS).


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