brūhi kāraṇayor asya
sad-asac ca yad-ātmakam
Prakṛti, or material nature, is connected with both the Supreme Lord and the living entities, just as a woman is connected with her husband as a wife and with her children as a mother. In Bhagavad-gītā the Lord says that He impregnates mother nature with children, living entities, and thereafter all species of living entities become manifest. The relationship of all living entities with material nature has been explained. Now an understanding of the relationship between material nature and the Supreme Lord is sought by Devahūti. The product of that relationship is stated to be the manifest and unmanifest material world. The unmanifest material world is the subtle mahat-tattva, and from that mahat-tattva the material manifestation has emerged.
In the Vedic literatures it is said that by the glance of the Supreme Lord the total material energy is impregnated, and then everything is born of material nature. It is also confirmed in the Ninth Chapter of Bhagavad-gītā that under His glance, adhyakṣeṇa — under His direction and by His will — nature is working. It is not that nature works blindly. After understanding the position of the conditioned souls in relation to material nature, Devahūti wanted to know how nature works under the direction of the Lord and what the relationship is between the material nature and the Lord. In other words, she wanted to learn the characteristics of the Supreme Lord in relation to the material nature.
The relationship of the living entities with matter and that of the Supreme Lord with matter are certainly not on the same level, although the Māyāvādīs may interpret it in that way. When it is said that the living entities are bewildered, the Māyāvādī philosophers ascribe this bewilderment to the Supreme Lord. But that is not applicable. The Lord is never bewildered. That is the difference between personalists and impersonalists. Devahūti is not unintelligent. She has enough intelligence to understand that the living entities are not on the level of the Supreme Lord. Because the living entities are infinitesimal, they become bewildered or conditioned by material nature, but this does not mean that the Supreme Lord is also conditioned or bewildered. The difference between the conditioned soul and the Lord is that the Lord is the Lord, the master of material nature, and He is therefore not subject to its control. He is controlled neither by spiritual nature nor by material nature. He is the supreme controller Himself, and He cannot be compared to the ordinary living entities, who are controlled by the laws of material nature.
Two words used in this verse are sat and asat. The cosmic manifestation is asat — it does not exist — but the material energy of the Supreme Lord is sat, or ever existing. Material nature is ever existing in its subtle form as the energy of the Lord, but it sometimes manifests this nonexistent or temporarily existent nature, the cosmos. An analogy may be made with the father and mother: the mother and the father exist, but sometimes the mother begets children. Similarly, this cosmic manifestation, which comes from the unmanifest material nature of the Supreme Lord, sometimes appears and again disappears. But the material nature is ever existing, and the Lord is the supreme cause for both the subtle and gross manifestations of this material world.