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maya

from 10 Untranslatable Words (And When You’ll Want to Use Them) @ io9:

Maya (Sanskrit)

The Meaning: This word is one that could be applied to a lot of protest movements and many political speeches. It refers to belief — the often unfortunate belief — that the symbol of a thing is the same as the thing itself. It’s the, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe,” of the literary world.

The Work: V for Vendetta is a work that plays with symbolism and how symbolism becomes real in the eyes of the populace. The eponymous V is armed with a mountain of symbols, from the letter and roman numeral of his name to a particular kind of rose to London buildings to the Guy Fawkes mask that he always wears. Whether this mistaken belief — that a guy playing around with cops and bombs can free a whole country — would actually lead to the kind of sweeping social change depicted in the book is up to you to decide.

from the Wikipedia entry on Maya:

Mahayana
Subsequently, in Mahayana Buddhism, illusion seems to play a somewhat larger role. Here, the magician’s illusion exemplifies how people misunderstand themselves and their reality, when we could be free from this confusion. Under the influence of ignorance, we believe objects and persons to be independently real, existing apart from causes and conditions. We fail to perceive them as being empty of a real essence, whereas in fact they exist much like māyā, the magical appearance created by the magician. The magician’s illusion may exist and function in the world on the basis of some props, gestures, and incantations, yet the show is illusory. The viewers participate in creating the illusion by misperceiving and drawing false conclusions. […]

Altogether, there are “eight examples of illusion (the Tibetan sgyu ma translates māyā and also other Sanskrit words for illusion): magic, a dream, a bubble, a rainbow, lightning, the moon reflected in water, a mirage, and a city of celestial musicians.” Understanding that what we experience is less substantial than we believe is intended to serve the purpose of liberation from ignorance, fear, and clinging and the attainment of enlightenment as a Buddha completely dedicated to the welfare of all beings. […]

“As a magician creates a magical illusion by the force of magic, and the illusion produces another illusion, in the same way the agent is a magical illusion and the action done is the illusion created by another illusion.” What we experience may be an illusion, but we are living inside the illusion and bear the fruits of our actions there. We undergo the experiences of the illusion. What we do affects what we experience, so it matters.

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