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bhagavan eka asedam
agra atmatmanam vibhuh
Translation by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
The Personality of Godhead, the master of all living entities, existed prior to the creation as one without a second. It is by His will only that creation is made possible and again everything merges in Him. This Supreme Self is symptomized by different names.
Purport by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
The great sage here begins to explain the purpose of the four original verses of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Although they have no access to the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the followers of the Mayavada (impersonalist) school sometimes screw out an imaginary explanation of the original four verses, but we must accept the actual explanation given herein by Maitreya Muni because he, along with Uddhava, personally heard it directly from the Lord. The first line of the original four verses runs, aham evasam evagre. The word aham is misinterpreted by the Mayavada school into meanings which no one but the interpreter can understand. Here aham is explained as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, not the individual living entities. Before the creation, there was only the Personality of Godhead; there were no purusa incarnations and certainly no living entities, nor was there the material energy, by which the manifested creation is effected. The purusa incarnations and all the different energies of the Supreme Lord were merged in Him only.
The Personality of Godhead is described herein as the master of all other living entities. He is like the sun disc, and the living entities are like the molecules of the sun’s rays. This existence of the Lord before the creation is confirmed by the srutis: vasudevo va idam agra asit na brahma na ca sankarah, eko vai narayana asin na brahma nesanah. Because everything that be is an emanation from the Personality of Godhead, He always exists alone without a second. He can so exist because He is all-perfect and omnipotent. Everything other than Him, including His plenary expansions, the visnu-tattvas, is His part and parcel. Before the creation there were no Karanarnavasayi or Garbhodakasayi or Ksirodakasayi Visnus, nor was there Brahma or Sankara. The Visnu plenary expansion and the living entities beginning from Brahma are separated parts and parcels. Although the spiritual existence was there with the Lord, the material existence was dormant in Him. By His will only is the material manifestation done and undone. The diversity of the Vaikunthaloka is one with the Lord, just as the diversity of soldiers is one with and the same as the king. As explained in Bhagavad-gita (9.7), the material creation takes place at intervals by the will of the Lord, and in the periods between dissolution and creation, the living entities and the material energy remain dormant in Him.