स एष जीवो विवरप्रसूति:
प्राणेन घोषेण गुहां प्रविष्ट: ।
मनोमयं सूक्ष्ममुपेत्य रूपं
मात्रा स्वरो वर्ण इति स्थविष्ठ: ॥ १७ ॥
sa eṣa jīvo vivara-prasūtiḥ
prāṇena ghoṣeṇa guhāṁ praviṣṭaḥ
mano-mayaṁ sūkṣmam upetya rūpaṁ
mātrā svaro varṇa iti sthaviṣṭhaḥ
śrī-bhagavān uvāca — the Supreme Personality of Godhead said; saḥ eṣaḥ — He Himself; jīvaḥ — the Supreme Lord, who gives life to all; vivara — within the heart; prasūtiḥ — manifest; prāṇena — along with the life air; ghoṣeṇa — with the subtle manifestation of sound; guhām — the heart; praviṣṭaḥ — who has entered; manaḥ-mayam — perceived by the mind, or controlling the mind even of great demigods like Lord Śiva; sūkṣmam — subtle; upetya — being situated in; rūpam — the form; mātrā — the different vocalic lengths; svaraḥ — the different intonations; varṇaḥ — the different sounds of the alphabet; iti — thus; sthaviṣṭhaḥ — the gross form.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Uddhava, the Supreme Lord gives life to every living being and is situated within the heart along with the life air and primal sound vibration. The Lord can be perceived in His subtle form within the heart by one’s mind, since the Lord controls the minds of everyone, even great demigods like Lord Śiva. The Supreme Lord also assumes a gross form as the various sounds of the Vedas, composed of short and long vowels and consonants of different intonations.
Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura comments as follows on the dialogue between Lord Kṛṣṇa and Uddhava. Uddhava was bewildered and doubtful because Lord Kṛṣṇa explained many different processes such as devotional service, speculative knowledge, renunciation, mystic yoga, austerities, pious duties, and so on. However, all of these processes are meant to help the living entities obtain the shelter of Lord Kṛṣṇa, and ultimately no Vedic process should be understood in any other way. Thus Lord Kṛṣṇa explained the entire Vedic system, placing everything in proper order. In fact, Lord Kṛṣṇa was surprised that Uddhava foolishly thought that he was meant to practice every process, as if each method were meant simply for him. Lord Kṛṣṇa therefore wants to inform His devotee, “My dear Uddhava, when I told you that analytic knowledge is to be practiced, pious duties are to be performed, devotional service is obligatory, yoga procedures must be observed, austerities are to be executed, etc., I was instructing all living entities, using you as My immediate audience. That which I have spoken, am speaking now and will speak in the future should be understood as guidance for all living entities in different situations. How could you possibly think that you were meant to practice all of the different Vedic processes? I accept you as you are now, My pure devotee. You are not supposed to execute all of these processes.” Thus according to Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, the Lord, with lighthearted and encouraging words, reveals to Uddhava the deep purpose behind the variety of Vedic procedures.
Lord Kṛṣṇa became manifest from the mouth of Lord Brahmā in the form of the Vedas. The word vivara-prasūti in this verse also indicates that the Lord is manifest within the ādhārādi-cakras situated within the body of Lord Brahmā. The word ghoṣeṇa means “subtle sound,” and guhāṁ praviṣṭaḥ also indicates that Lord Kṛṣṇa enters within the ādhāra-cakra. The Lord can further be perceived within other cakras such as the maṇipūraka-cakra, located around the navel, and the viśuddhi-cakra. The Sanskrit alphabet is composed of short and long vowels, and consonants pronounced with high and low tones, and utilizing these vibrations the different branches of Vedic literatures are manifested as a gross form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. According to Bhagavad-gītā, such literatures deal mostly with the three modes of material nature: traiguṇya-viṣayā vedā nistrai-guṇyo bhavārjuna. Śrīla Śrīdhara Svāmī explains that due to the control of the illusory energy, māyā, the Personality of Godhead appears to the conditioned souls as part of the material universe. The imagined imposition of gross and subtle material qualities on the Personality of Godhead is called avidyā, or ignorance, and through such ignorance the living entity considers himself to be the doer of his own activities and becomes bound up in the network of karma. The Vedas therefore order an entangled soul to observe positive and negative injunctions to purify his existence. These procedures are called pravṛtti-mārga, or the path of regulated fruitive activities. When one has purified one’s existence, one gives up this gross stage of fruitive activities because it is detrimental to the practice of pure devotional service. By firm faith one may then worship the Personality of Godhead. One who has developed perfect Kṛṣṇa consciousness no longer has to perform ritualistic duties. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā, tasya kāryaṁ na vidyate.
According to Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, this verse may be understood in another way. The word jīva indicates Lord Kṛṣṇa, who gives life to the residents of Vṛndāvana, and vivara-prasūti indicates that although Lord Kṛṣṇa eternally performs His pastimes in the spiritual world, beyond the vision of the conditioned souls, He also enters within the material universe to display these same pastimes. The words guhāṁ praviṣṭaḥ indicates that after displaying such pastimes, the Lord withdraws them and enters into His unmanifest pastimes, or those pastimes not manifest to the conditioned souls. In this case, mātrā indicates the transcendental senses of the Lord, svara indicates the Lord’s transcendental sound vibration and singing, and the word varṇa indicates the transcendental form of the Lord. The word sthaviṣṭha, or “gross manifestation,” means that the Lord becomes manifest in the material world even to those devotees who are not completely advanced in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and whose vision is not completely purified. Mano-maya indicates that somehow or other Lord Kṛṣṇa is to be kept within one’s mind; and for the nondevotees Lord Kṛṣṇa is sūkṣma, or most subtle, because He cannot be known. Thus different ācāryas have glorified Lord Kṛṣṇa in different ways through the transcendental sound vibration of this verse.