niyatiḥ sā ramā devī
tat-priyā tad-vaśaṁ tadā
tal-liṅgaṁ bhagavān śambhur
yā yoniḥ sāparā-śaktiḥ
kāmo bījaṁ mahad dhareḥ
sā ramā – that Ramā-devī (with whom Mahā-Viṣṇu enjoys); devī – is the Lord’s self-effulgent potency; tat-priyā – she is dear to Him; niyatiḥ – is born of His svarūpa; tad-vaśam – and is fully submissive to Him; tadā – then (at the time of creation); jyoti-rūpaḥ sanātanaḥ – the personified reflection of His eternal effulgence; bhagavān śambhuḥ – appears as the renowned Bhagavān Śambhu; tat-liṅgam – the generative capacity (Śambhu’s localized representation) of that same first puruṣa, Kāraṇodakaśāyī Viṣṇu. He is a plenary portion of Saṅkarṣaṇa who in turn is a plenary portion of Śrī Kṛṣṇa; sā yā aparā śaktiḥ – (similarly) she who is the inferior potency of Mahā-Viṣṇu, and the semblance of Yogamāyā; yoniḥ – becomes the womb (for universal generation); kāmaḥ – Mahā-Viṣṇu has a desire for universal creation, as a result of which His glance falls upon His illusory potency; bījam hareḥ – and on account of the seed of Hari (bestowed upon māyā); mahat – the mahat-tattva arises (which is the combined form of the living entities and the five gross elements, the result of the action performed by His personified glance).
(Now the way in which Bhagavān indirectly comes in contact with māyā is being described.)
The spiritual potency in the form of Ramā-devī, who is dear to Bhagavān, is Destiny. That goddess is always controlled by the Supreme Lord and is always dedicated to His service. At the onset of creation, the effulgence of Mahā-Viṣṇu, who is the expansion of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s plenary portion, is manifest in the form of Śambhu. That Śambhu is called the liṅga of Bhagavān, meaning the manifest symbol of His generative capacity, and appears for the purpose of preparing the cosmic manifestation of the material universes. The liṅga in the form of Śambhu is a reflection of the eternal light or effulgence. The feminine receptive potency is manifest from Ramā-devī or Destiny. That potency which gives birth to the material creation is the inferior energy called māyā, whose intrinsic form is the yoni, the womb of universal creation. The union of the yoni and liṅga is the reflection of the Supreme Lord Śrī Hari’s desire seed, in the form of the unmanifested material energy (mahat-tattva).
Who is Ramā-devī? The one-and-a-half ślokas beginning with niyatiḥ are being spoken in answer to this question. She is constitutionally the spiritual potency, and she is called niyati because she is eternally present within the svarūpa of Svayam Bhagavān, and because she remains niyamita (regulated in her activities) by Svayam Bhagavān. Thus, she is Bhagavān’s submissive and beloved consort. It is stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (12.11.20): “anapāyinī bhagavatī śrīḥ sākṣād-ātmano hareḥ – she is directly Bhagavatī Śrī Lakṣmī-devī, who is the internal, inseparable potency of Śrī Hari.” The śakti of Śrī Hari is inseparable because she is directly of His intrinsic nature. That is to say, just as Śrī Hari is the embodiment of transcendental consciousness, similarly His internal potency, being non-different from Him, is the feminine aspect of the embodiment of transcendental consciousness. Here the word sākṣāt (directly) indicates that she is not the śakti who is ashamed to be in the path of Śrī Hari’s vision. That śakti is the illusory potency, who bewilders the living entities who are averse to Bhagavān. Bhagavatī Lakṣmī-devī has also been called anapāyinī (imperishable or inseparable) in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa:
nityaiva sā jagan-mātā
viṣṇo śrīr anapāyinī
yathā sarva-gato viṣṇus
O best of the twice-born, the mother of the universe, Lakṣmī-devī, is Bhagavān Viṣṇu’s eternal anapāyinī-śakti. Just as Viṣṇu is all pervading, similarly His śakti is also present everywhere.
Whenever the master of the universe, the God of gods, Janārdana, descends to this world, His internal potency, Bhagavatī Lakṣmī-devī also descends along with Him in appropriate forms, such as those of goddesses or human beings, corresponding to the forms of Śrī Hari.
In some scriptures it is mentioned that Śivajī’s potency is the cause of the creation. Such statements should be reconciled as follows. Just as the universe has been considered the svarūpa of Bhagavān in descriptions of the universal form, similarly Śivajī’s potency has been referred to as the cause of the universe in the context of considering her to be a limb of Bhagavān.
According to the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, the entire universe is a semblance of the transcendental radiance of Bhagavān’s plenary portion, i.e. it is the symbol (liṅga) of the unmanifest puruṣa. The plenary portion that is indicated by this symbol is the plenary portion that creates the total material energy, and He is called Śambhu. The word liṅga should be interpreted to mean symbol or form.
Bhagavān’s first incarnation for creating this world, in whom the material universe is situated, who takes a rounded form, and who is the shelter and benefactor of unlimited living entities, is called śiva-liṅga, or Śambhu.
The phrase anyas tu tad-āvirbhāva-viśeṣa means, “The other form of Śiva is called Sadāśiva. He is a manifestation of Bhagavān for a specific purpose, and thus He is viṣṇu-tattva. He is supremely benevolent.”
However, the form of Śiva described as śivaḥ śakti-yuktaḥ śaśvat tri-liṅgo guṇa-saṁvṛtaḥ is not viṣṇu-tattva. The Śiva who is united with the illusory potency remains covered by three types of false ego, namely goodness, passion and ignorance. This Śiva will be described ahead in verse 45, kṣīraṁ yathā dadhi-vikāra-viśeṣa-yogāt. It should be understood that the portion functioning as the womb of creation is the inferior potency. In other words, it is that unmanifested area of māyā that acts as the receptacle for Bhagavān’s impregnation of potency in the form of innumerable living entities. This is also called pradhāna.
The purport of this analysis is that Bhagavān glanced toward māyā to create the cosmic existence. As a result of this glance, Ramā-devī as material nature (that is, her shadow) gave birth to progeny in the form of the twenty-four elements of creation, beginning with the total material energy (mahat-tattva).
In this verse 8, the unmanifested material energy has been called the desire-seed of Śrī Hari, whose desire to glance in the direction of māyā for the purpose of creation is called kāma. Then Bhagavān impregnated the material nature with His seed in the form of the instrumental causes of creation, namely the jīva-śakti and the mahat-tattva. This is the sense in which the word mahat has been used.
A description found in śruti states: “so ’kāmayata – at the beginning of creation, Bhagavān manifested the desire to beget the entire population.” According to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (3.5.26), the statement beginning with kāla-vṛttyā confirms that Bhagavān impregnated the conscious spiritual jīva-śakti into the actively manifesting area of material nature consisting of the three modes of material nature, which was in a state of being agitated by the time potency. As a result, that manifestation of the predominated material nature gave birth to the vast mahat-tattva.
Saṅkarṣaṇa is a personal expansion (aṁśa) of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Being imbued with a desire to create, He is inclined to manifest the universe of five elements. As He reclines in the Causal Ocean in the form of the first puruṣa-avatāra, He casts toward māyā a glance that is the instrumental cause of the creation. The semblance of its reflected light is śambhu-liṅga, the generative capacity, which unites with the shadow of ramā-śakti in the form of the universal womb of Māyā-devī. At that time, the semblance of the desire-seed in the form of the aggregate unmanifest elements (mahat-tattva) emerges and becomes absorbed in the task of creation.
The first awakening of the desire-seed created by Mahā-Viṣṇu is called hiraṇyamaya-mahat-tattva (the golden form of the aggregate elements), which is the mental principle of readiness for cosmic creation. There is an extremely confidential consideration here: the desire of the puruṣa engages in the act of creation after accepting the aspects of the instrumental cause and the ingredient cause. Here māyā, the female receptive potency, acts as the instrumental cause, while Śambhu, the male generative capacity, acts as the ingredient cause (upādāna). The puruṣa, who acts according to His own sweet will, is Mahā-Viṣṇu. The ingredient principle (pradhāna) is the ingredient cause (upādāna). The receptive principle (prakṛti) is māyā. The creator of the material universe and the cause of the union of the other two principles is Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s partial expansion, the puruṣa, or the principle of desire. These three (pradhāna, prakṛti and puruṣa) constitute the agents of creation.
The desire-seed of Goloka is a purely transcendental reality, whereas the desire-seed of the material world is a manifestation of potencies such as time, which are included within the shadow of the spiritual potency. Although the transcendental desire-seed mentioned previously is the original principle of which māyā is the reflection, the purely transcendental reality is far removed from māyā. The second desire-seed is the illusory reflection of that original transcendental desire-seed. Śambhu-tattva is elaborately described ahead in verses 10 and 15.