ebhir bhutani bhutatma
Translation by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
Sri Antariksa said: O mighty-armed King, by activating the material elements, the primeval Soul of all creation has sent forth all living beings in higher and lower species so that these conditioned souls can cultivate either sense gratification or ultimate liberation, according to their desire.
Purport by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
According to Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, the illusory energy (maya) is explained in this verse through a description of her potencies, namely the modes of material nature. In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna has described maya as gunamayi, “consisting of the material modes of nature.” The material modes of nature are alluded to in this verse by the word uccavacani, “high and low species of life.” Various species of life become manifest, as do varieties of beauty, ugliness, strength, weakness and other characteristics within a particular species, according to the proportionate development of the modes of nature. As confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (13.22), karanam guna-sango ’sya sad-asad-yoni-janmasu: “This is due to the living being’s association with material nature in good and evil species.” Similarly we find this statement:
urdhvam gacchanti sattva-stha
madhye tisthanti rajasah
adho gacchanti tamasah
“Those situated in the mode of goodness gradually go upward to the higher planets, those in the mode of passion live on the earthly planets, and those in the mode of ignorance go down to the hellish worlds.” (Bg. 14.18)
The three general divisions of material life are called deva, tiryak and nara that is, demigods, subhuman creatures and human beings. In the various species of life there are various facilities for material sense gratification. Different species are distinguished by differently formed senses, such as the genitals, nostrils, tongue, ears and eyes. Pigeons, for example, are given the facility for almost unlimited sex. Bears have an ample opportunity for sleeping. Tigers and lions exhibit the propensities for fighting and meat-eating, horses are distinguished by their legs for swift running, vultures and eagles have keen eyesight, and so on. The human being is distinguished by his large brain, which is meant for understanding God.
The phrase sva-matratma-prasiddhaye is very significant in this verse. The word sva indicates possession. All living beings belong to the Supreme Lord (mamaivamso jiva-loke jiva-bhutah sanatanah). Therefore according to this verse they have two options matra-prasiddhaye and atma-prasiddhaye.
Matra refers to the material senses, and prasiddhaye refers to effective accomplishment. Therefore matra-prasiddhaye means “efficiently engaging in sense gratification.”
On the other hand, atma-prasiddhaye refers to Krsna consciousness. There are two categories of atma the jivatma, or ordinary living entity, who is dependent, and the Paramatma, the supreme living entity, who is independent. Some living entities desire to understand both categories of atma, and in this verse the word atma-prasiddhaye indicates that the material world is created to give those living entities the opportunity to achieve such an understanding and thus return to the kingdom of God, where life is eternal and full of bliss and knowledge.
Srila Sridhara Svami confirms this by quoting a verse from the veda-stuti of Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.87.2):
jananam asrjat prabhuh
matrartham ca bhavartham ca
atmane ’kalpanaya ca
“The Lord created the intelligence, senses, mind and vital air of the living beings for sense gratification, for performing sacrifices to attain higher births, and ultimately for offering sacrifices to the Supreme Soul.”
According to Srila Jiva Gosvami, the actual purpose of the Lord’s creation is only one: to facilitate the advancement of devotional service to the Lord Himself. Although it is stated that the Lord facilitates sense gratification, it should be understood that the Supreme Personality of Godhead does not ultimately condone the foolishness of the conditioned souls. The Lord facilitates sense gratification (matra-prasiddhaye) so that the living entities will gradually understand the futility of trying to enjoy without Him. Every living entity is part and parcel of Krsna. In the Vedic literature the Lord gives a regulative program so that the living beings can gradually exhaust their tendencies to be foolish and learn the value of surrender unto Him. The Lord is undoubtedly the reservoir of all beauty, bliss and satisfaction, and it is the duty of every living entity to engage in the loving service of the Lord. Although there are apparently two purposes for creation, it should be understood that ultimately the purpose is one. The arrangement for sense gratification is ultimately meant to bring the living entities to the single purpose of going back home, back to Godhead.