sahasra-śīrṣā puruṣaḥ sahasrākṣaḥ sahasra-pāt
sahasra-bāhur viśvātmā sahasrāṁśaḥ sahasra-sūḥ
That Lord of the universe, Mahā-Viṣṇu, has thousands and thousands of heads, thousands and thousands of eyes, thousands and thousands of feet, thousands and thousands of arms, thousands and thousands of expansions, and thousands and thousands of avatāras. He is the universal ātmā and He is the Creator of thousands and thousands of living beings.
Mahā-Viṣṇu, the object of praise of all the Vedas, possesses limitless causal potencies, That first puruṣa is the origin of all avatāras.
nārāyaṇaḥ sa bhagavān āpas tasmāt sanātanāt
āvirāsīt kāraṇārṇo nidhiḥ saṅkarṣaṇātmakaḥ
yoga-nidrāṁ gatas tasmin sahasrāṁśaḥ svayaṁ mahān
In the material world, that Mahā-Viṣṇu is called Nārāyaṇa. The waters of the causal ocean (kāraṇa-samudra) emanated from this eternal puruṣa. He is an expansion of Saṅkarṣaṇa and resides in Vaikuṇṭha. Bhagavān, the Supreme Person who possesses thousands of expansions, lies in yoga-nidrā, divine sleep.
The bliss of samādhi, or bliss of one’s inherent nature (svarūpānanda) is known as yoga-nidrā. The aforementioned Ramā Devī is yoga-nidrā, a form of Yogamāyā.
tad-roma-bila jāleṣu bījaṁ saṅkarṣaṇasya ca
haimāny aṇḍāni jātāni mahā-bhūtāvṛtāni tu
Seeds of consciousness (cit-bīja) from Saṅkarṣaṇa appeared in the hair follicles of Mahā-Viṣṇu as golden eggs. All these golden eggs were covered by the primary elements.
The first puruṣāvatāra, resting on the causal ocean, has a monumental function. From the hair follicles of his body, an infinite number of universal seeds are produced. These universes imitate the unlimited realms of the spiritual world. While they remain in the body of the puruṣāvatāra, they resemble golden eggs and are cidābhāsa, a semblance of transcendental consciousness. However, when Mahā-Viṣṇu eventually desires to create the universe, they become covered by subtle forms of the primary elements arising from the efficient cause and the material cause created by māyā. With the exhalation of Mahā-Viṣṇu’s breath, all these golden eggs are released. When they enter the incalculable domain of māyā, they are enhanced by the uncompounded five gross elements.
praty-aṇḍam evam ekāṁśād ekāṁśād viśati svayam
sahasra-mūrdhā viśvātmā mahā-viṣṇuḥ sanātanaḥ
Each of the expansions of that Mahā-Viṣṇu entered into each and every universe. All of His expansions that entered the universes are endowed with His potency and splendour. In other words, they are the forms of that eternal Mahā-Viṣṇu, the universal ātmā, who possesses thousands and thousands of heads.
The Mahā-Viṣṇu who rests on the causal ocean is an expansion of Mahā-Saṅkarṣaṇa. As many universes that emanate from Him, He enters into all of them as His personal expansion. Each of these expansions is the Garbhodakaśāyī Puruṣa, and He resembles Mahā-Viṣṇu is all respects. He is also known as the samaṣṭa-antaryāmi puruṣa (the aggregate indwelling monitor of all universes).
vāmāṅgād asṛjad viṣṇuṁ dakṣiṇāṅgāt prajāpatim
jyotir-liṅga-mayaṁ śambhuṁ kūrca-deśād avāsṛjat
That Mahā-Viṣṇu created Viṣṇu from His left arm, Prajāpati (Brahmā) from his right arm, and Śambhu in the form of a splendorous liṅga, from between His eyebrows.
Śrī Viṣṇu is the Kṣīrodakaśāyī Puruṣa, the vyaṣṭa-antaryāmī (the indwelling monitor of the individual jīvas). Prajāpati, in the form of Hiraṇyagarbha, is an expansion of Bhagavān. He is distinct from the four-headed Brahmā. This Hiraṇyagarbha is the bīja-tattva (source) for each and every Brahmā in the unlimited universes. Jyotir-liṅga-maya–śambhu refers to the manifestation of the original liṅga form of Śambhu (who was spoken of previously). Viṣṇu refers to the personal expansion (svāṁśa) of Mahā-Viṣṇu, thus He is the Controller of all. Furthermore, Prajāpati and Śambhu are separated expansions (vibhinnāṁśa) of Mahā-Viṣṇu. Therefore they are Devas with specified functions. Because the Lord’s potency resides on His left side, then from the cit-śakti comprised of pure goodness, Viṣṇu manifested from the left arm of Śrī Mahā-Viṣṇu. As Īśvara, the universal controller, Viṣṇu is Paramātmā, the indwelling monitor of every jīva. He is described in the Vedas as that puruṣa who is the size of a thumb. He is the maintainer. All the karmīs worship Him as Yajñesvara Nārāyaṇa (the Lord of sacrifice), and the yogīs who anticipate the attainment of samādhi meditate upon Him as the Paramātmā.
ahaṅkārātmakaṁ viśvaṁ tasmād etad vyajāyata
In relation to the jīvas, the function of Śambhu is that the world of ahaṅkāra (false ego) arises from him.
The main principle is bhagavat-tattva (Bhagavāṇ, the Supreme Reality), the embodiment of all existence, who is devoid of any separate egotism. The separate masculine egotism, in other words, the separate existence which arises in the māyika world, is simply an illusory reflection of pure existence. Represented by the original Śambhu, that (illusory) existence unites with the perverted form of Ramā Devī – the māyika yoni, or receptacle of reproduction. At that time, Śambhu is the upadāna-tattva (the principle of material causality) only in relation to the various material ingredients. Again, at the time when each universe manifests by the expansion of the elements, then the Rudra principle who expands from śambhu-tattva, is born from the forehead (of Viṣṇu). Nevertheless, in all circumstances, śambhu-tattva is constitutionally comprised of ahaṅkāra.
When the unlimited jīvas, who are spiritual particles coming from the spiritual rays of the Paramātmā, exclusively identify themselves as servants of Bhagavān, then they no longer have any connection with the māyika world. They attain Vaikuṇṭha. Forgetting this identity, they desire to enjoy māyā, then Śambhu’s ahaṅkāra principle enters their existence, making them separate enjoyers. Therefore, Śambhu is the personification of ahaṅkāra in this universe and the origin of the jīva’s identification with the māyika body.
atha tais tri-vidhair veśair līlām udvahataḥ kila
yoga-nidrā bhagavatī tasya śrīr iva saṅgatā
After this, the great personality, Bhagavān, assumed the threefold forms of Viṣṇu, Prajāpati and Śambhu and entered the universes. and engaged in pastimes of maintenance, creation and annihilation. This pastime occurs within mundane māyā. Therefore, because it is insignificant, Viṣṇu who is the embodiment of Bhagavān’s existence, associated with Bhagavatī Yogamāyā, who is an expansion of the cit-śakti and the personification of His svarūpānanda-samādhi (the trance of His inherent blissful nature).
As vibhinnāṁśās, both Prajāpati and Śambhu identify themselves as separate from bhagavat-tattva, and they sport with the aparā-śakti (inferior potencies) in the form of their respective Sāvitrī and Umā, who are shadows of the cit-śakti. Only Bhagavān Viṣṇu is the Lord of Ramā or Śrī, whose form is the cit-śakti.
sisṛkṣāyāṁ tato nābhes tasya padmaṁ viniryayau
tan-nālaṁ hema-nalinaṁ brahmaṇo lokam adbhutam
When Garbhodākaśāyi Viṣṇu desired to create, a golden lotus emerged from His navel. That golden lotus, situated on a stem, is Satyaloka, the abode of Brahmā.
Here, the word ‘golden’ means cidābhāsa (a semblance of transcendental consciousness).
tattvāni pūrva-rūḍhāni kāraṇāni parasparam
samavāyāprayogāc ca vibhinnāni pṛthak pṛthak
cic-chaktyā sajjamāno ‘tha bhagavān ādi-pūruṣaḥ
yojayan māyayā devo yoga-nidrām akalpayat
Before their merging into each other, all the fundamental elements remained separate with different forms. The reason for this is that the amalgamation, or combination (with each other) had not yet occurred. Bhagavān Mahā-Viṣṇu, the original puruṣa, through the association of His cit–śakti, stimulated māyā and connected all those separate elements by combining them to engage in creation. After doing so, He remained absorbed in yoga-nidrā, enjoying with His cit-śakti.
Mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ sūyate sa-carācaram (‘Under My command, material nature produces the universe with all its moving and non-moving beings.’ – Bhagavad-gītā 9.10). The meaning of this statement from the Gītā is this – initially, māyā, the shadow-form of the cit-śakti, was inanimate, and the components that comprise of the material cause (of creation) were all separate and uncombined. By Kṛṣna’s desire, in other words, by the power of Mahā-Viṣṇu, the efficient and material divisions of māyā were combined and the world, as the effect, was manifested. Even so, Bhagavān Himself remained in the association of His cit-śakti yoga-nidrā. The word yoga-nidrā, or yogamāyā, should be understood like this – the inherent nature of the cit–śakti is revelation, however, the inherent nature of her shadow is material darkness. When Kṛṣna desires to reveal something within this world of darkness, He accomplishes this by connecting the inanimate shadow of māyā with the power of his cit-śakti. That is yogamāyā. It has two kinds of understanding here, namely the understanding fixed in Vaikuṇṭha, and the understanding fixed in the darkness of matter.
Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa’s direct expansions, and all the pure jīvas who are vibhinnāṁśas, have an experience established in Vaikuṇṭha. And the jīvas bound by matter have an experience established in material darkness. The spiritual experience which eclipses the perceptual functions of the jīva bound by matter is named ‘yoga-nidrā.’ This is the influence of Bhagavān’s potency. This point will be considered in more detail later.
yojayitvā tu tāny eva praviveśa svayaṁ guhām
guhāṁ praviṣṭe tasmiṁs tu jīvātmā pratibudhyate
By combining all these separate elements, He manifests the unlimited universes created by māyā and He Himself entered the ‘guhā,’ in other words, He entered within the innermost region of the virāḍ-vigraha (universal form). At that time, all the jīvas who had been sleeping during the cosmic annihilation, awoke.
There are many meanings of the word ‘guha’ * in the śāstra. In some places ‘guhā’ means aprākṛta-līlā (transcendental pastimes), in some places ‘guha’ means the place of the vyaṣṭi-antaryāmi (the indwelling monitor within all the individual jīvas). Also, in many places ‘guha’ means the innermost recess of every jīva’s heart. The main point is that ‘guha’ refers to that place which is not revealed to ordinary persons.*
The jīvātmās, namely all those jīvas who merged into Hari during mahā-pralāya (the great cosmic devastation) at the end of Brahmā’s lifespan, again manifested in the world according to the impressions of their previous karma.
*Translator’s Note: In Sanskrit, guha means cave, cavity, secret, or mystery.