Meaning of Like An Illusion

Niguma, dakini of the Shangpa Kagyu lineage, sang this song to Khyungpo the yogi:

What does it mean to say that phenomena are like an illusion?

The Tibetan expression for 'like an illusion' (sgyu ma lta bu) occurs frequently in Buddhist writings. It has become the norm to translate the word sgyu ma as 'illusion' as done here for poetic feeling, although that is perhaps not a completely accurate translation. 'Illusion' in English suggests a fancy, something imagined, nothingness. In the Tibetan, however, sgyu ma is closer in meaning to 'magical scene.' A magician, given his skill, the right tools, and a certain environment, will create a 'magical scene.' This magical scene is like an illusion in the sense that it has no inherent nature and simply arises in dependence upon causes and conditions. This is an archived version of the website.
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