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.