“Material nature and the living entities should be understood to be beginningless. Their transformations and the modes of matter are products of material nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.20)
“More rain today. The sun hasn’t come out in a week. It’s June, for crying out loud. When will this misery end? What kind of place do we live in? This weather is terrible. I haven’t been able to go outside. I am stuck in the house watching television. I’ve had enough of the rain.”
“I’ve been so fortunate this season. There has been more rain than normal. The plants in the backyard are growing better than ever. We won’t hear any complaints about a drought, either. I wish the weather were this way more often. Predictability is a good thing.”
From these opinions of an identical factor we get proof of duality in a material existence. One man’s food is another man’s poison. The Vedas say that the human birth is the time to inquire into spiritual matters. For the person just learning the basics, one key distinction to become familiar with and remain aware of is the line that divides matter and spirit.
In the simplest terms, spirit is good and matter is bad, but both energies emanate from the Supreme Spirit. He is the origin of everything, in fact. Since He is eternal, so are His energies. Material nature thus has two sides.
1. Inauspiciously prohibiting
A person may be skeptical when they hear that the material nature is prohibiting, that the energy responsible for the constant shifts to the coverings of bodies has a temporary dominating influence over the otherwise unlimitedly powerful spirit soul.
Proof is as close as a few hours away. The living being is compelled to sleep. Some people require more sleep than others, but rare is it to find someone who can function for days and weeks at a time without any sleep. Why is this restriction there? The same goes for eating. It is a requirement.
The laws are made by the material nature. When it plays the role of inauspiciously prohibiting, matter keeps a person from realizing their true identity as spirit soul. That nature acts with three modes: goodness, passion and ignorance. When under the influence of these modes, the individual thinks they are the sole doer, the cause to the reactions resulting from action.
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)
In fact, nature is responsible. Two people decide to get up out of bed in the morning. It is not guaranteed to happen for both. It may be so easy for me, but someone else may be suffering from an ailment that prevents them from doing something so basic. The difference is due to the influence of material nature.
2. Auspiciously aiding
When inauspicious, nature works together with time to create changes that constantly bewilder the spirit soul. Those changes occur from birth to death, and beyond.
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)
As the influence of that nature is illusory, one word to describe the collective energy is maya. The full term is mahamaya, or the great illusory energy. As mentioned before, all energies come from God, and so there is the potential for the nature to shift in influence.
There is another energy called yogamaya, which is the auspicious side of matter and time. On the unwanted side, time works to gradually diminish the abilities of the body, up to the point of death. With yogamaya, time helps to create future opportunities for spiritual life.
That life brings joy which is ever increasing; once again going against the typical effect of nature. With mahamaya, there is the law of diminishing returns. I eat pizza every day for lunch since I like it so much, but eventually I get sick of it. Moreover, there is only a certain amount I can eat every day.
“But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form – to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.22)
With bhakti-yoga there is no such thing as too much work. The Supreme Lord directly supports the devotion of the devotees. In the material realm He changes the nature of matter from inauspicious to auspicious. Even if death arrives, the travel to the next body brings more beneficial circumstances. The all-attractive origin of everything brings to His servants what they lack and preserves what they hold most dear, their service to Him.
Better circumstances, to Him near,
Preserving thing to them most dear.
Krishna changing nature in this way,
Illusion, but with different sway.
Mahamaya the kind inauspicious,
Yogamaya for bhakti auspicious.
On desire only depending,
How journey through life spending.
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