O Brahmā, whatever appears to be of any value, if it is without relation to Me, has no reality. Know it as My illusory energy, that reflection which appears to be in darkness.
In the previous verse it has already been concluded that in any stage of the cosmic manifestation—its appearance, its sustenance, its growth, its interactions of different energies, its deterioration and its disappearance—all has its basic relation with the existence of the Personality of Godhead. And as such, whenever there is forgetfulness of this prime relation with the Lord, and whenever things are accepted as real without being related to the Lord, that conception is called a product of the illusory energy of the Lord. Because nothing can exist without the Lord, it should be known that the illusory energy is also an energy of the Lord. The right conclusion of dovetailing everything in relationship with the Lord is called yoga-māyā, or the energy of union, and the wrong conception of detaching a thing from its relationship with the Lord is called the Lord’s daivī māyā, or mahā-māyā. Both the māyās also have connections with the Lord because nothing can exist without being related to Him. As such, the wrong conception of detaching relationships from the Lord is not false but illusory.
Misconceiving one thing for another thing is called illusion. For example, accepting a rope as a snake is illusion, but the rope is not false. The rope, as it exists in the front of the illusioned person, is not at all false, but the acceptance is illusory. Therefore the wrong conception of accepting this material manifestation as being divorced from the energy of the Lord is illusion, but it is not false. And this illusory conception is called the reflection of the reality in the darkness of ignorance. Anything that appears as apparently not being “produced out of My energy” is called māyā. The conception that the living entity is formless or that the Supreme Lord is formless is also illusion. In the Bhagavad-gītā (2.12) it was said by the Lord in the midst of the battlefield that the warriors standing in front of Arjuna, Arjuna himself, and even the Lord had all existed before, they were existing on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra, and they would all continue to be individual personalities in the future also, even after the annihilation of the present body and even after being liberated from the bondage of material existence. In all circumstances, the Lord and the living entities are individual personalities, and the personal features of both the Lord and living beings are never abolished; only the influence of the illusory energy, the reflection of light in the darkness, can, by the mercy of the Lord, be removed. In the material world, the light of the sun is also not independent, nor is that of the moon. The real source of light is the brahma-jyotir, which diffuses light from the transcendental body of the Lord, and the same light is reflected in varieties of light: the light of the sun, the light of the moon, the light of fire, or the light of electricity. So the identity of the self as being unconnected with the Supreme Self, the Lord, is also illusion, and the false claim “I am the Supreme” is the last illusory snare of the same māyā, or the external energy of the Lord.
The Vedānta-sūtra in the very beginning affirms that everything is born from the Supreme, and thus, as explained in the previous verse, all individual living entities are born from the energy of the supreme living being, the Personality of Godhead. Brahmā himself was born from the energy of the Lord, and all other living entities are born from the energy of the Lord through the agency of Brahmā; none of them has any existence without being dovetailed with the Supreme Lord.
The independence of the individual living entity is not real independence, but is just the reflection of the real independence existing in the Supreme Being, the Lord. The false claim of supreme independence by the conditioned souls is illusion, and this conclusion is admitted in this verse.
Persons with a poor fund of knowledge become illusioned, and therefore the so-called scientists, physiologists, empiric philosophers, etc., become dazzled by the glaring reflection of the sun, moon, electricity, etc., and deny the existence of the Supreme Lord, putting forward theories and different speculations about the creation, maintenance and annihilation of everything material. The medical practitioner may deny the existence of the soul in the physiological bodily construction of an individual person, but he cannot give life to a dead body, even though all the mechanisms of the body exist even after death.
The psychologist makes a serious study of the physiological conditions of the brain, as if the construction of the cerebral lump were the machine of the functioning mind, but in the dead body the psychologist cannot bring back the function of the mind. These scientific studies of the cosmic manifestation or the bodily construction independent of the Supreme Lord are different reflective intellectual gymnastics only, but at the end they are all illusion and nothing more. All such advancement of science and knowledge in the present context of material civilization is but an action of the covering influence of the illusory energy. The illusory energy has two phases of existence, namely the covering influence and the throwing influence.
By the throwing influence the illusory energy throws the living entities into the darkness of ignorance, and by the covering influence she covers the eyes of men with a poor fund of knowledge about the existence of the Supreme Person who enlightened the supreme individual living being, Brahmā. The identity of Brahmā with the Supreme Lord is never claimed herein, and therefore such a foolish claim by the man with a poor fund of knowledge is another display of the illusory energy of the Lord. The Lord says in the Bhagavad-gītā (16.18-20) that demoniac persons who deny the existence of the Lord are thrown more and more into the darkness of ignorance, and thus such demoniac persons transmigrate life after life without any knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The sane man, however, is enlightened in the disciplic succession from Brahmājī, who was personally instructed by the Lord, or in the disciplic succession from Arjuna, who was personally instructed by the Lord in the Bhagavad-gītā. He accepts this statement of the Lord:
ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo / mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate
iti matvā bhajante māṁ / budhā bhāva-samanvitāḥ