Everything that bears a shape was created, and thus must sooner or later perish, i.e., change that shape; therefore, as something temporary, though seeming to be permanent, it is but an illusion, Maya; for, as eternity has neither beginning nor end, the more or less prolonged duration of some particular form passes, as it were, like an instantaneous flash of lightning. Before we have the time to realize that we have seen it, it is gone and passed away for ever; hence, even our astral bodies, pure ether, are but illusions of matter, so long as they retain their terrestrial outline. The latter changes, says the Buddhist, according to the merits or demerits of the person during his lifetime, and this is metempsychosis. When the spiritual entity breaks loose for ever from every particle of matter, then only it enters upon the eternal and unchangeable Nirvana. He exists in spirit, in nothing; as a form, a shape, a semblance, he is completely annihilated, and thus will die no more, for spirit alone is no Maya, but the only REALITY in an illusionary universe of ever-passing forms
Maya is the perceptive faculty of every Ego which considers itself a Unit separate from, and independent of, the One infinite and eternal SAT, or “Be-ness.” Maya is explained in exotericphilosophy and the Purânas, as the personified active Will of the Creative God—the latter being but a personified Maya himself—a passing deception of the senses of man, who began anthropomorphising pure abstraction from the beginning of his speculations. Maya. in the conception of an orthodox Hindu, is quite different from the Maya of a Vedantin Idealist or an Occultist The Vedanta states that Maya, or the deceptive influence of illusion alone, constitutes belief in the realexistence of matter or anything differentiated. The Bhagavata Purana identifies Maya with Prakriti (manifested nature and matter). Do not some advanced European metaphysicians, such as Kant, Schopenhauer, and others, assert the same? Of` course they got their ideas about it from the East—especially from Buddhism; yet the doctrine of the unreality of this universe has been pretty correctly worked out by our philosophers—on general lines, at any rate. Now, although no two people can see things and objects in exactly the same way, and that each of us sees them in his own way, yet all labour more or less under illusions, and chiefly under the great illusion (Maya) that they are, as personalities, distinct beings from other beings, and that even their Selves or Egos will prevail in the eternity (or sempiternity, at any rate) as such; whereas not only we ourselves, but the whole visible and invisible universe, are only a temporary part of the one beginningless and endless WHOLE, or that which ever was, is, and will be.
Because the term maya, just like that of “ajñâna” in your own words—expresses only a relative notion. The world . . . “its joys and evils, its gods and devils,” and men to boot, are undeniably, when compared with that awful reality, everlasting eternity, no better than the productions and tricks of maya, illusion. But there the line of demarcation is drawn. So long as we are incapable of forming even an approximately correct conception of this inconceivable eternity, for us, who are just as much an illusion as anything else outside of that eternity, the sorrows and misery of that greatest of all illusions—human life in the universal mahamaya—for us, I say, such sorrows and miseries are a vivid and a very sad reality. A shadow from your body, dancing on the white wall, is a reality so long as it is there, for yourself and all who can see it; because a reality is just as relative as an illusion. And if one “illusion” does not help another “illusion” of the same kind to study and recognise the true nature of Self, then, I fear, very few of us will ever get out from the clutches of maya.
Science would call the process evolution; the pre-Christian philosophers and the Orientalists called it emanation: we, Occultists and Theosophists, see in it the only universal and eternal reality casting a periodical reflection of itself on the infinite Spatial depths. This reflection, which you regard as the objective material universe, we consider as a temporary illusion and nothing else. That alone which is eternal is real.
As flitting personalities, today one person, tomorrow another — we are. Would you call the sudden flashes of the aurora borealis, the Northern lights, a “reality” , though it is as real as can be while you look at it? Certainly not; it is the cause that produces it, if permanent and eternal, which is the only reality, while the other is but a passing illusion.