गुणप्रवाहेण विभक्तवीर्य: ।
चेष्टा विभूम्न: खलु दुर्विभाव्या ॥ १८ ॥
karoty akartaiva nihanty ahantā
ceṣṭā vibhūmnaḥ khalu durvibhāvyā
saḥ — the; khalu — however; idam — this (universe); bhagavān — the Personality of Godhead; kāla — of time; śaktyā — by the force; guṇa-pravāheṇa — by the interaction of the modes of nature; vibhakta — divided; vīryaḥ — (whose) potencies; karoti — acts upon; akartā — the nondoer; eva — although; nihanti — kills; ahantā — nonkiller; ceṣṭā — the energy; vibhūmnaḥ — of the Lord; khalu — certainly; durvibhāvyā — inconceivable.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, by His inconceivable supreme energy, time, causes the interaction of the three modes of material nature, and thus varieties of energy become manifest. It appears that He is acting, but He is not the actor. He is killing, but He is not the killer. Thus it is understood that only by His inconceivable power is everything happening.
The word durvibhāvyā means “inconceivable by our tiny brain,” and vibhakta-vīryaḥ means “divided in varieties of potencies.” This is the right explanation of the display of creative energies in the material world. We can better understand the mercy of God by an example: a government state is always supposed to be merciful, but sometimes, in order to keep law and order, the government employs its police force, and thus punishment is meted out to the rebellious citizens. Similarly, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is always merciful and full of transcendental qualities, but certain individual souls have forgotten their relationship with Kṛṣṇa and have endeavored to lord it over material nature. As a result of their endeavor, they are involved in varieties of material interaction. It is incorrect to argue, however, that because energy issues from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He is the actor. In the previous verse, the word nimitta-mātram indicates that the Supreme Lord is completely aloof from the action and reaction of this material world. How is everything being done? The word “inconceivable” has been used. It is not within the power of one’s small brain to comprehend; unless one accepts the inconceivable power and energy of the Lord, one cannot make any progress. The forces which act are certainly set up by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but He is always aloof from their action and reaction. The varieties of energies produced by the interaction of material nature produce the varieties of species of life and their resultant happiness and unhappiness.
How the Lord acts is nicely explained in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa: fire is situated in one place, while the heat and light produced by the fire act in many different ways. Another example given is that the electric powerhouse is situated in one place, but by its energies many different types of machinery move. The production is never identical with the original source of the energy, but the original source of energy, being the prime factor, is simultaneously one with and different from the product. Therefore Lord Caitanya’s philosophy, acintya-bhedābheda-tattva, is the perfect way of understanding. In this material world, the Lord incarnates in three forms — as Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva — by which He takes charge of the three modes of material nature. By His incarnation of Brahmā He creates, as the incarnation of Viṣṇu He maintains, and by His incarnation of Śiva, He also annihilates. But the original source of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva — Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu — is always apart from these actions and reactions of material nature.