by Paramahansa Yogananda
(Excerpts from God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita)

Spirit & Maya

Know that both Purusha and Prakriti are beginningless; and know also that all modifications and qualities (gunas) are born of Prakriti.
In the creation of the effect (the body) and the instrument (the senses), Prakriti is spoken of as the cause; in the experience of joy and sorrow, Purusha is said to be the cause. —The Bhagavad Gita XIII:19-20

Purusha, the Lord's transcendent presence in creation as the Kutastha Intelligence and the individualized soul, and Prakriti, Nature, indicate two aspects of the same God. He is causeless and eternal; therefore His manifestations as Purusha and Prakriti are also beginningless and endless.

The Lord in His transcendental or inactive aspect in creation (Purusha, the Kshetrajna or Witness) and the Lord in His immanent kinetic aspect as the Creator of the universe and beings (Prakriti) are not two but One: the Supreme Spirit, Ishvara, Para-Purusha.

As the ocean with waves and without waves is the same ocean, so Spirit, with or without creation, is ever a unity. Prakriti is the storm of maya, delusion, relativity, that transforms the surface of the calm ocean of God into tumultuous waves of human lives.


The vibratory storm of relativity is God's desireless desire to create. Its force comes from the inherent three gunas of manifestation—sattva (good), rajas (active), and tamas (evil). As they move across the Ocean of Infinity, individualized waves are whipped into being. The large waves, swept farthest from the quiet oceanic depths, are the waves of evil, those lives most affected by the storm of delusion. The medium waves are the active lives, surging along in Nature's ebb and flow. The small waves of good lives remain closest to the Ocean's bosom, buffeted the least by the prevailing winds of change. Yet all waves are of the same Essence, and in their own evolutionary time return to their Source.

Naught could exist without Prakriti's power of maya. The beam of light from the projector's booth cannot alone create a motion picture; a film of mingled shadows and transparencies is also needed. Similarly, the Lord assumes two aspects, Purusha or the undistorted light of Kutastha Intelligence, and Prakriti with its maya-film of shadow relativities, to project the intelligently organized drama of countless worlds and beings. Through the two divine agencies He produces in cosmic cycles throughout eternity the dream motion-picture of creation.

Prakriti, God's Maya, is the Lady of Phenomena, the Mistress of Illusion, the Director of the phantasmagoria of the unfolding universe. What a mysterious magic is her power—secret in its workings, bold in its displays. Prakriti means "that which can work superbly." Gazing around at the panorama of her inexhaustible handiwork, who could dispute the aptness of her Sanskrit name?

The Purusha mentioned here is not the Supreme Spirit (Para-Purusha) nor Its reflection in creation as Kutastha Intelligence, but the individualized soul (jiva) that is conditioned and limited by its association with the body.

Cosmic Nature or Prakriti is the direct creative cause of the human body and its Nature-dictated activities ("the effect"), and of the bodily senses, which are the means ("the instrument") of the experience of objective creation by Purusha, the perceiving soul. The soul then interprets its contact with sense objects in terms of either joy or sorrow derived from that experience.

As the vast sky appears small when seen from a tiny window, so the infinite Lord appears limited in finite Nature and in the egos of individual beings.

The subjective Cosmic Dreamer, God or Para-Purusha, created His Consort or Mother Nature, Prakriti, the invisible Holy Ghost creative force. Her production, the human body, is a miniature replica of vast Cosmic Nature—a "little Prakriti."

Similarly, God is reflected in miniature as the soul in the body of man. The soul in essence is a perfect reflection of the Divine; but through becoming identified with a body, it imagines itself to be the ego that is subject to pleasure and pain. The soul temporarily dreams itself to be a body, experiencing its attendant joys and sorrows; though in reality it is always the changeless image of God.

The Lord is responsible for having divided Himself into the Transcendental Spirit and the Cosmic Dreamer. In His dream state He bestowed individuality and intelligence on Mother Nature or Prakriti by which she creates matter and human bodies with their sensibilities and activities. It is He who is responsible for giving individuality and intelligence to the reflected human souls by which they dream of pleasure and pain and other bodily sensations and mental perceptions.

Nature is responsible for creation of the objective human dream-body; and God, as the Soul and Perceiver, is responsible for the feelings of dream joy and dream suffering in that dream body. The differentiation was explained in XIII:2 (pages 877-79). God through Prakriti creates the hypnotic suggestion of the objective dream creation, and individualized souls as body-identified egos create their own reactions to the dream objects.

The immutable Spirit became the fleeting cosmic motion-picture of twenty-four qualities; and the flawless soul-image of man identified itself with the Nature-bound body and senses. By yoga practice a devotee should establish himself in the perception of soul blessedness and of aloofness from the body even while he is performing his worldly duties. In this way his soul frees itself from the dream perception of the body and its various sensations. Without the duality of pleasure and pain, a dream loses its reality. So by neutralizing joy and sorrow, man finds that the troublesome body-dream loses its reality and its power to hurt.

Even though Nature is responsible for the creation of the body with its senses and activities, and even though the soul is responsible, through body identification, for the perception of duality (good and evil, and so on), yet man may regain his divine heritage. Through the proper use of the God-given power of free choice, a painstaking devotee who meditates and cultivates nonattachment can neutralize the suggestions of the body with its susceptibility to contrary impressions that have been inflicted on him by Nature and by the body-attached soul.

God ever retains His bliss, impartially witnessing His cosmic dream-drama; similarly, man made in His image should realize himself to be the immortal soul, impartially witnessing and playing in the motion picture of life. (God Talks with Arjuna p.889)