स्तुर्य: स्वदृग् धेतुरहेतुरीश: ।
स्वमायया सर्वगुणप्रसिद्ध्यै ॥ ३८ ॥
turyaḥ sva-dṛg dhetur ahetur īśaḥ
pratīyase ’thāpi yathā-vikāraṁ
tvam — You; ekaḥ — one; ādyaḥ — original; puruṣaḥ — Supreme Person; advitīyaḥ — without a second; turyaḥ — transcendental; sva-dṛk — self-manifesting; hetuḥ — the cause; ahetuḥ — having no cause; īśaḥ — the supreme controller; pratīyase — You are perceived; atha api — nonetheless; yathā — according to; vikāram — various transformations; sva — by Your own; māyayā — illusory potency; sarva — of all; guṇa — material qualities; prasiddhyai — for the complete manifestation.
You are the original person, one without a second, transcendental and self-manifesting. Uncaused, you are the cause of all, and You are the ultimate controller. You are nonetheless perceived in terms of the transformations of matter effected by Your illusory energy — transformations You sanction so that the various material qualities can fully manifest.
The ācāryas comment as follows on this verse: Śrīla Śrīdhara Svāmī explains that the term ādyaḥ puruṣaḥ, “the original puruṣa,” indicates that Lord Kṛṣṇa expands Himself as Mahā-Viṣṇu, the first of the three puruṣas who take charge of cosmic manifestation. The Lord is eka advitīyaḥ, “one without a second,” because there is no one equal to the Lord or different from Him. No one is completely equal to the Supreme Godhead, and yet because all the living beings are expansions of the potency of the Godhead, no one is qualitatively different from Him. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu nicely explains this inconceivable situation by stating that the Absolute Truth and the living beings are qualitatively one but quantitatively different. The Absolute possesses infinite spiritual consciousness, whereas the living beings possess infinitesimal consciousness, which is subject to being covered by illusion.
Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, commenting on the term ādyaḥ puruṣaḥ, quotes from the Sātvata-tantra: viṣṇos tu trīṇi rūpāṇi. “There are three forms of Viṣṇu [for cosmic manifestation, etc.].” Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī also quotes a statement of the Lord’s from śruti: pūrvam evāham ihāsam. “In the beginning I alone existed in this world.” This statement describes the form of the Lord called the puruṣa-avatāra, who exists before the cosmic manifestation. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī also quotes the following śruti-mantra: tat-puruṣasya puruṣatvam, which means “Such constitutes the Lord’s status as puruṣa.” Actually, Lord Kṛṣṇa is the essence of the puruṣa incarnation because He is turīya, as described in the present verse. Jīva Gosvāmī explains the term turīya (literally “the fourth”) by quoting Śrīdhara Svāmī’s commentary to the Bhāgavatam verse 11.15.16:
kāraṇaṁ cety upādhayaḥ
īśasya yat tribhir hīnaṁ
turīyaṁ tad vidur budhāḥ
“The Lord’s universal form, His Hiraṇyagarbha form and the primeval causal manifestation of material nature are all relative conceptions, but because the Lord Himself is not covered by these three, intelligent authorities call Him ‘the fourth.’”
According to Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī, the word turīya indicates that the Lord is the fourth member of the quadruple expansion of Godhead called the Catur-vyūha. In other words, Lord Kṛṣṇa is Vāsudeva.
Lord Kṛṣṇa is sva-dṛk — that is, He alone can perceive Himself perfectly — because He is infinite spiritual existence, infinitely pure. He is hetu, the cause of everything, and yet He is ahetu, without cause. Therefore He is īśa, the supreme controller.
The last two lines of this verse are of special philosophical significance. Why is the Lord perceived differently by different persons, although He is one? A partial explanation is given here. By the agency of Māyā, the Lord’s external potency, material nature is in a constant state of transformation, vikāra. In one sense, then, material nature is “unreal,” asat. But because God is the supreme reality, and because He is present within all things and all things are His potency, material objects and energies possess a degree of reality. Therefore some people see one aspect of material energy and think, “This is reality,” while other people see a different aspect of material energy and think, “No, that is reality.” Being conditioned souls, we are covered by different configurations of material nature, and thus we describe the Supreme Truth or the Supreme Lord in terms of our corrupted vision. Yet even the covering qualities of material nature, such as our conditioned intelligence, mind and senses, are real (being the potency of the Supreme Lord), and therefore through all things we can perceive, in a more or less subjective way, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is why the present verse states, pratīyase: “You are perceived.” Furthermore, without the manifestation of material nature’s covering qualities, the creation could not fulfill its purpose — namely, to allow the conditioned souls to make their best attempt to enjoy without God so that they will finally understand the futility of such an illusory notion.