Maya is a Pali and Sanskrit word meaning illusion or delusion. It is used most commonly to refer to the illusory appearance of the phenomenal world, but it also means the power through which the universe becomes manifest.
Maya is the world of duality and relativity, the world of the conditioned and separate self. As long as we identify with these limited concepts we are bound by the illusion of maya.
Beneath maya, hidden behind our illusions of reality, is the true Self, known in Hinduism and Advaita Vedanta as Brahman. But it is important to remember how maya arises in the first place – it arises from Brahman. As Shankara said:
The world is illusory
Brahman alone is real
Brahman is the world
If we forget the last truth, then we have missed the point. To say the world is an illusion doesn’t mean it does not exist. It doesn’t mean we can ignore problems or suffering and drift off into a state of transcendental bliss or oneness.
The illusion is that we are separate from the world; that we are not Brahman. The illusion, or maya, is all in your head. The goal of spiritual awakening is to see through the illusion and see the world as it is.