sa yad ajaya tv ajam anusayita gunams ca jusan
bhajati sarupatam tad anu mrtyum apeta-bhagah
tvam uta jahasi tam ahir iva tvacam atta-bhago
mahasi mahiyase ’sta-gunite ’parimeya-bhagah
The illusory material nature attracts the minute living entity to embrace her, and as a result he assumes forms composed of her qualities. Subsequently, he loses all his spiritual qualities and must undergo repeated deaths. You, however, avoid the material energy in the same way that a snake abandons its old skin. Glorious in Your possession of eight mystic perfections, You enjoy unlimited opulences.
Although the jiva is pure spirit, qualitatively equal with the Supreme Lord, he is prone to being degraded by embracing the ignorance of material illusion. When he becomes entranced by the allurements of Maya, he accepts bodies and senses that are designed to let him indulge in forgetfulness. Produced from the raw material of Maya’s three modes — goodness, passion and nescience — these bodies envelop the spirit soul in varieties of unhappiness, culminating in death and rebirth.
The Supreme Soul and the individual soul share the same spiritual nature, but the Supreme Soul cannot be entrapped by ignorance like His infinitesimal companion. Smoke may engulf the glow of a small molten sphere of copper, covering its light in darkness, but the vast globe of the sun will never suffer the same kind of eclipse. Maya, after all, is the Personality of Godhead’s faithful maidservant, the outward expansion of His internal, Yoga-maya potency. Sri Narada Pañcaratra thus states, in a conversation between Sruti and Vidya:
yaya mugdham jagat sarvam
“The covering potency derived from her is Maha-maya, the regulator of everything material. The entire universe becomes bewildered by her, and thus every living being falsely identifies with his material body.”
Just as a snake casts aside his old skin, knowing that it is not part of his essential identity, so the Supreme Lord always avoids His external, material energy. There is no insufficiency or limit to any of His eightfold mystic opulences, consisting of anima (the power to become infinitesimal), mahima (the ability to become infinitely large) and so on. Therefore, the shadow of material darkness has no scope for entering the domain of His unequaled, resplendent glories.
For the sake of those whose realization of spiritual life is only gradually awakening, the Upanisads sometimes speak in general terms of atma or Brahman, not openly distinguishing the difference between the superior and inferior souls, the Paramatma and jivatma. But often enough they describe this duality in unequivocal terms:
dva suparna sayuja sakhaya
samanam vrksam parisasvajate
tayor anyah pippalam svadv atty
anasnann anyo ’bhicakasiti
“Two companion birds sit together in the shelter of the same pippala tree. One of them is relishing the taste of the tree’s berries, while the other refrains from eating and instead watches over His friend.” (Svetasvatara Upanisad 4.6) In this analogy the two birds are the soul and the Supersoul, the tree is the body, and the taste of the berries are the varieties of sense pleasure.
Srila Sridhara Svami prays:
nrtyanti tava viksanangana-gata kala-svabhavadibhir
bhavan sattva-rajas-tamo-guna-mayan unmilayanti bahun
mam akramya pada sirasy ati-bharam sammardayanty aturam
maya te saranam gato ’smi nr-hare tvam eva tam varaya
“The glance You cast upon Your consort comprises time, the material propensities of the living entities, and so on. This glance dances upon her face, thus awakening the multitude of created entities, who take birth in the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. O Lord Nrhari, Your Maya has put her foot on my head and is pressing down extremely hard, causing me great distress. Now I have come to You for shelter. Please make her desist.”