सृजत्यवत्यत्ति न बध्यते यथा ।
अहो विभूम्नश्चरितं विडम्बनम् ॥ १७ ॥
sṛjaty avaty atti na badhyate yathā
bhaumair hi bhūmir bahu-nāma-rūpiṇī
aho vibhūmnaś caritaṁ viḍambanam
anīhaḥ — exerting no endeavor; etat — this (universe); bahudhā — manifold; ekaḥ — alone; ātmanā — by Himself; sṛjati — He creates; avati — maintains; atti — annihilates; na badhyate — is not bound up; yathā — as; bhaumaiḥ — by the transformations of earth; hi — indeed; bhūmiḥ — earth; bahu — many; nāma-rūpiṇī — having names and forms; aho — ah; vibhūmnaḥ — of the almighty Lord; caritam — the activities; viḍambanam — a pretense.
Indeed, the humanlike pastimes of the Almighty are simply a pretense! Effortlessly, He alone sends forth from His Self this variegated creation, maintains it and then swallows it up again, all without becoming entangled, just as the element earth takes on many names and forms in its various transformations.
The one Supreme expands Himself as many without diminishing His completeness. He does this effortlessly, without depending on anyone or anything else. This mystic process of the Lord’s self-expansion is incomprehensible to all but Himself, but the example of the substance earth and its manifold products bears enough resemblance to provide some idea. The same example is also presented in an often-cited passage of the Chāndogya Upaniṣad (6.1), vācārambhaṇaṁ vikāro nāmadheyaṁ mṛttikety eva satyam: “Earth’s transformations are merely verbal creations of the process of naming; the substance earth itself is alone real.”
Śrīla Śrīdhara Svāmī suggests that this verse of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam answers a possible objection on the part of Lord Kṛṣṇa: “How can I create, maintain and destroy the universe if I am Vasudeva’s son?” The answer is given by the words aho vibhūmnaś caritaṁ viḍambanam: “You are the perfectly complete whole, and Your birth and pastimes are only an imitation of ordinary persons’ activities in the material world. You simply pretend to be under higher control.”