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Vishnu and Mayadevi

Maya, the external energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is divided into two parts. Maya is the cause and the ingredient of the cosmic manifestation. As the cause of the cosmic manifestation she is known as maya, and as the agent supplying the ingredients of the cosmic manifestation she is known as pradhana.

In Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.63.26) the ingredients and cause of the material cosmic manifestation are described as follows: "O my Lord! Time, activity, providence and nature are four parts of the causal aspect [maya] of the external energy. The conditioned vital force, the subtle material ingredients called the dravya, and material nature (which is the field of activity where the false ego acts as the soul), as well as the eleven senses and five elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether), which are the sixteen ingredients of the body--these are the ingredient aspect of maya. The body is generated from activity, and activity is generated from the body, just as a tree is generated from a seed that is generated from a tree. This reciprocal cause and effect is called maya."

Although smoke, flaming wood, and sparks are all considered together as ingredients of a fire, the flaming wood is nevertheless different from the fire, and the smoke is different from the flaming wood. The material elements (earth, water, fire, etc.) are like smoke, the living entities are like sparks, and material nature as pradhana is like the flaming wood. But all of them together are recipients of power from the Supreme Personality of Godhead and are thus able to manifest their individual capacities.

Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. Excerpted from text and purports of HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.