adyo ’vatarah purusah parasya
kalah svabhavah sad-asan-manas ca
dravyam vikaro guna indriyani
virat svarat sthasnu carisnu bhumnah
Translation by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
Karanarnavasayi Visnu is the first incarnation of the Supreme Lord, and He is the master of eternal time, space, cause and effects, mind, the elements, the material ego, the modes of nature, the senses, the universal form of the Lord, Garbhodakasayi Visnu, and the sum total of all living beings, both moving and nonmoving.
Purport by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
That the material creation is not permanent has been discussed many times hereinbefore. The material creation is but a temporary exhibition of the material energy of the Almighty God. This material manifestation is necessary to give a chance to the conditioned souls who are unwilling to associate with the Lord in the relationship of loving transcendental service. Such unwilling conditioned souls are not allowed to enter into the liberated life of spiritual existence because at heart they are not willing to serve. Instead, they want to enjoy themselves as imitation Gods. The living entities are constitutionally eternal servitors of the Lord, but some of them, because of misusing their independence, do not wish to serve; therefore they are allowed to enjoy the material nature, which is called maya, or illusion. It is called illusion because the living beings under the clutches of maya are not factually enjoyers, although they think that they are, being illusioned by maya. Such illusioned living entities are given a chance at intervals to rectify their perverted mentality of becoming false masters of the material nature, and they are imparted lessons from the Vedas about their eternal relationship with the Supreme Lord Krsna (vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah). So the temporary creation of the material manifestation is an exhibition of the material energy of the Lord, and to manage the whole show the Supreme Lord incarnates Himself as the Karanarnavasayi Visnu just as a magistrate is deputed by the government to manage affairs temporarily. This Karanodakasayi Visnu causes the manifestation of material creation by looking over His material energy (sa aiksata). In the first volume of this book we have already discussed to some extent the explanation of the verse jagrhe paurusam rupam. The duration of the illusory play of material creation is called a kalpa, and we have already discussed the creation’s taking place in kalpa after kalpa. By His incarnation and the activities of His potencies, the complete ingredients of creation, namely time, space, cause, result, mind, the gross and subtle elements and their interactional modes of nature — goodness, passion and ignorance — and then the senses and their reservoir source, the gigantic universal form as the second incarnation Garbhodakasayi Visnu, and all living beings, both moving and standing, which come out of the second incarnation, all became manifested. Ultimately, all these creative elements and the creation itself are but manifestations of the Supreme Lord’s potencies; nothing is independent of the control of the Supreme Being. This first incarnation in the material creation, namely Karanarnavasayi Visnu, is the plenary part of the original Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, described in the Brahma-samhita (5.48) as follows:
jivanti loma-vilaja jagad-anda-nathah
visnur mahan sa iha yasya kala-viseso
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
All the innumerable universes are maintained only during the breathing period of Maha-Visnu, or Karanarnavasayi Visnu, who is only a plenary part of Govinda, the original Personality of Godhead Lord Krsna.