vibhinnāni pṛthak pṛthak
cic-chaktyā sajjamāno ’tha
yojayan māyayā devo
pūrva-rūḍhāni – the primevally established; tattvāni – essential principles of gross matter (described in verse 16); kāraṇāni – of universal causality, i.e. before the interaction of the five gross elements, when they were in a subtle, unmixed state; samavāya aprayogāt – because of not coming together in the unified form of five elements; ca parasparam pṛthak pṛthak – those elements were mutually distinct from one another; vibhinnāni – and separate; bhagavān ādi-pūruṣaḥ – Kāraṇodakaśāyī Mahā-Viṣṇu, the original Personality of Godhead, replete with all opulence; devaḥ – who was engaged in pleasure pastimes; sajjamānaḥ – associating; cit-śaktyā – with His spiritual potency; yojayan – He engaged; māyayā – with His illusory potency, consisting of the distinct principles of matter (thus they were transformed into a combined form and created countless gross material universes); atha – thereafter; akalpayat yoga-nidrām – He enjoyed with His spiritual potency by taking shelter of His pastime potency. (In other words, He reposed upon His bed of Ananta.)
Before the creation of the five gross elements, the fundamental elements existed in their natural condition in separate, individual forms, because the process of combining them had not been applied. The primeval personality, Bhagavān Mahā-Viṣṇu, acted through the illusory potency by associating with His own transcendental potency. Uniting those separate elements by systematic combination, He created the material world. After accomplishing the task of creation in this way, He became absorbed in mystic slumber, the form of union with His own transcendental potency.
The method of creation by Kāraṇodakaśāyī Viṣṇu has been described in the Third Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. In order to describe the act of creation as the awakening of the universal form, who is the embodiment of the aggregate of countless living entities, it is being explained more elaborately here. The primeval personality, Bhagavān Kāraṇodakaśāyī, accomplished the creation of the universe by amalgamating the previously unmixed five gross elements through the influence of His own spiritual potency reflected in the form of the illusory energy. Then the Supreme Person, who is inclined to perform pastimes, not being ambitious to carry out the duty of creation, became engrossed in mystic slumber with His transcendental potency, Ramā-devī.
etāny asaṁhatya yadā
mahad-ādīni sapta vai
The cause of the universe, Bhagavān, being endowed with time, activity and the modes of material nature, entered this universe when the seven essential realities – that is, the whole aggregate material energy, false ego and the five gross elements – were in their unmixed state.
Thereby, all the substances became agitated and mixed together. Then, from this mixture was born an unconscious egg, from which the universal form was manifested. This egg-like object is enclosed by pradhāna (the seed principle of creation) and prakṛti (material nature) and covered in layers of the elements beginning with water,21 each layer being ten times greater than the previous one.
Thus the Supreme Divinity, who was resting in the water within the embryonic universe, arose and, giving up His neutrality, He began to manifest many kinds of variegatedness within the universal egg. Thus, the mouth, the voice and fire were manifest from that egg, and the nose, the life air and the sense of smell emerged in the same way. Then the two eyes emerged, along with Sūrya, the presiding deity of the eyes. The ear also emerged and from the ear, the sense of hearing was manifest. After that His skin, pores, tears, genitals, legs, hands, feet and other bodily parts were manifest.
All the demigods, being the presiding deities of the senses, entered into that gigantic form, but the universal form did not wake up. When, despite the presence of faculties such as mind, intelligence and ego, the universal form still did not awaken, the Supersoul, who is the presiding deity of consciousness, finally entered the heart from the consciousness. At that time the universal form arose within the water. Therefore, no one is capable of awakening the universal form as He lies submerged beneath the waters except for the kṣetrajña-puruṣa, the personality who is the knower of all fields, and who is the presiding deity of the life air, senses, mind, intelligence and consciousness.
In this way, after combining all the essential realities, Bhagavān woke up the universal form for the purpose of creation. Thereafter, since He is indifferent and free from ambition, after engaging in all these activities, He accepted the state of mystic slumber.
In the Gītā it is stated mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ sūyate sacarācaram. The purport is that before the creation, Māyā-devī, the shadow of the transcendental potency, was inactive, and the substances of her ingredient aspect also existed separately in a state of non-amalgamation. By the desire of Kṛṣṇa – that is, by the influence of Mahā-Viṣṇu – when the instrumental and ingredient aspects of māyā were combined, an effect emerged in the form of the cosmic manifestation. When this was accomplished, Bhagavān again became engrossed in His transcendental potency of mystic slumber. The word yogamāyā (pastime potency) or yoga-nidrā (mystic slumber) should be understood to mean the natural or inherent illumination of the transcendental potency. However, its shadow, the illusory potency, is by nature inert and full of darkness.
When Kṛṣṇa wants to make some illumination in the object composed of insentient inertia, He combines (yoga) the influence of His own transcendental potency with the inactive shadow potency (māyā), thereby accomplishing the aforementioned task of cosmic creation. This is called yogamāyā, in which there are two types of experience, namely, the Vaikuṇṭha experience and the insentient material experience. Śrī Kṛṣṇa, His plenary portions, and the pure living entities who are His separated expansions realize the Vaikuṇṭha experience, whereas the bound living entities realize the insentient material experience. The covering of spiritual realization in the experience of the conditioned souls has been called yoga-nidrā. This is also the influence of Bhagavān’s potency. There will be a more elaborate analysis of this principle later in the text.