The Two kinds of Māyā

There are two kinds of māyā -Yogamāyā and Mahāmāyā. Mahāmāyā is an expansion of Yogamāyā, and both these māyās are different expressions of the Lord's internal potencies. (SB 4.16.2)

As stated previously, yogamāyāṁ samādiśat. To give service to the Lord, yogamāyā appeared along with mahāmāyā. Mahāmāyā refers to yayā sammohitaḿ jagat, "one who bewilders the entire material world." From this statement it is to be understood that yogamāyā, in her partial expansion, becomes mahāmāyā and bewilders the conditioned souls. In other words, the entire creation has two divisions — transcendental, or spiritual, and material. Yogamāyā manages the spiritual world, and by her partial expansion as mahāmāyā she manages the material world.

Durgā, Bhadrakālī, Vijayā, Vaiṣṇavī, Kumudā, Caṇḍikā, Kṛṣṇā, Mādhavī, Kanyakā, Māyā, Nārāyaṇī, Īśānī, Śāradā and Ambikā
Maya-Devi receiving istructions from Lord Vishnu
The Supreme Personality of Godhead ordered yogamāyā to bewilder His associates in His pastimes and bewilder demons like Kaṁsa. As stated previously, yogamāyāṁ samādiśat. To give service to the Lord, yogamāyā appeared along with mahāmāyā. Mahāmāyā refers to yayā sammohitaṁ jagat, “one who bewilders the entire material world.” From this statement it is to be understood that yogamāyā, in her partial expansion, becomes mahāmāyā and bewilders the conditioned souls. In other words, the entire creation has two divisions—transcendental, or spiritual, and material. Yogamāyā manages the spiritual world, and by her partial expansion as mahāmāyā she manages the material world. As stated in the Nārada-pañcarātra, mahāmāyā is a partial expansion of yogamāyā.

The Nārada-pañcarātra clearly states that the Supreme Personality has one potency, which is sometimes described as Durgā. The Brahma-saṁhitā says, chāyeva yasya bhuvanāni bibharti durgā [Bs. 5.44]. Durgā is not different from yogamāyā. When one understands Durgā properly, he is immediately liberated, for Durgā is originally the spiritual potency, hlādinī-śakti, by whose mercy one can understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead very easily. Rādhā kṛṣṇa-praṇaya-vikṛtir hlādinī-śaktir asmād [Adi 1.5].

The mahāmāyā-śakti, however, is a covering of yogamāyā, and she is therefore called the covering potency. By this covering potency, the entire material world is bewildered (yayā sammohitaṁ jagat). In conclusion, bewildering the conditioned souls and liberating the devotees are both functions belonging to yogamāyā. Transferring the pregnancy of Devakī and keeping mother Yaśodā in deep sleep were both done by yogamāyā; mahāmāyā cannot act upon such devotees, for they are always liberated. But although it is not possible for mahāmāyā to control liberated souls or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, she did bewilder Kaṁsa. The action of yogamāyā in presenting herself before Kaṁsa was the action of mahāmāyā, not yogamāyā. Yogamāyā cannot even see or touch such polluted persons as Kaṁsa. In Caṇḍī, in the Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa, Eleventh Chapter, Mahāmāyā says, “During the twenty-eighth yuga in the period of Vaivasvata Manu, I shall take birth as the daughter of Yaśodā and be known as Vindhyācala-vāsinī.”

The distinction between the two māyās—yogamāyā and mahā-māyā—is described as follows. Kṛṣṇa’s rāsa-līlā with the gopīs and the gopīs’ bewilderment in respect to their husbands, fathers-in-law and other such relatives were arrangements of yogamāyā in which mahāmāyā had no influence. The Bhāgavatam gives sufficient evidence of this when it clearly says, yogamāyām upāśritaḥ.

On the other hand, there were asuras headed by Śālva and kṣatriyas like Duryodhana who were bereft of devotional service in spite of seeing Kṛṣṇa’s carrier Garuḍa and the universal form, and who could not understand Kṛṣṇa to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This was also bewilderment, but this bewilderment was due to mahāmāyā. Therefore it is to be concluded that the māyā which drags a person from the Supreme Personality of Godhead is called jaḍamāyā, and the māyā which acts on the transcendental platform is called yogamāyā. When Nanda Mahārāja was taken away by Varuṇa, he saw Kṛṣṇa’s opulence, but nonetheless he thought of Kṛṣṇa as his son. Such feelings of parental love in the spiritual world are acts of yogamāyā, not of jaḍamāyā, or mahāmāyā. This is the opinion of Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura. [SB 10.1.69 Purport]

Regarding your questions: "Are great sages put under yogamaya or maya? Also are all the eternally liberated souls under yogamaya?" 
Yogamaya means the mercy of the Supreme Lord which connects a devotee in the transcendental loving service of the Lord, and mahamaya means the external potency of the Lord which puts a conditioned soul into illusion that he will be happy by material adjustment. So great sages who are impersonalists are also under the spell of mahamaya, because a conditioned soul in the material world wants to improve his material position as exalted as possible, and the concept of becoming one with the Supreme Lord is the greatest illusion for them. Because it is a fact that nobody can be equal or greater than the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and as such, anyone desiring to become one with the Supreme means that he is still in the trap of maya. On the other hand, a humble devotee who may not be a great sage, but simply by his implicit acceptance of the Lotus Feet of the Lord as the goal of his life means that he is under the protection of yogamaya. [Letter to Aniruddha - LA 14 Nov. 1968]

Attacked by Māyā
My dear Brahmananda, Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter dated 8.3.67. Don't be afraid of my being attacked by maya. When there is fight between two belligerent parties, it is always expected that there will sometimes be reverses. Your country and the western world is mostly under the grip of Maya and the modes of nature in passion and ignorance, and my declaration of war against the maya is certainly a great battle.

Maya saw me very successful within one year, so that I got so many sincere young flowers like yourself and others, so it was a great defeat to the activities of maya: western country youngsters giving up illicit sex, intoxication, meat eating and gambling is certainly a great reverse in the activities of maya.

Therefore she took advantage of my old age weakness and gave me a death dash. But Krishna saved me; therefore we should thank more Krishna than eulogize maya. So far my present health is concerned I think I am improving; at least I am taking my lunch better than in N.Y. So as soon as I am a little fit to return to the field of battle I shall again be in your midst. [Prabhupada Letter, Aug. 4, 1967, India]

Jaya-gopāla: How did Māyādevī acquire her position?
Prabhupāda: She has not acquired. She's given that position by Kṛṣṇa. Because there are many individual souls who will defy Kṛṣṇa; therefore Māyādevī is required to punish them. Daivī hy eṣā guṇamayī mama māyā duratyayā (BG 7.14). "It is very difficult to surpass the stringent laws of My māyā." So laws..., the māyā is not independent. Just like police force. What is the value of police force unless government gives the power? Does it mean... Suppose a Mr. John, he comes as a policeman. He's Mr. John. What power he has got? But because government has given him power, he can arrest you. Similarly, Māyā has no powers. Kṛṣṇa has given her power to chastise these individual souls who are defying the authority of Kṛṣṇa. They should be punished. It is Māyā's thankless task, but Māyā is obedient servant of Kṛṣṇa. Mama māyā. He says, "My māyā." So Māyā is not degraded. Māyā is faithful servant of Kṛṣṇa. She is faithfully serving. That is stated in the Brahma-saṁhitā. You should read. So many nice books you have got. What is Māyā doing? That is stated in the Brahma-saṁhitā. Sṛṣṭi-sthiti-pralaya-sādhana-śaktir ekā chāyeva yasya bhuvanāni vibharti durgā (Bs. 5.44). Durgā is Māyā. Now what is the position of Māyā? Māyā is so strong, that sṛṣṭi-sthiti-pralaya. She can perform creation, maintenance, and dissolution of this whole universe. She's so powerful. The material nature is so powerful. So sṛṣṭi-sthiti-pralaya-sādhan a-śaktir ekā. Alone, she can do this as good as Kṛṣṇa or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Sṛṣṭi-sthiti-pralaya-sādhana-śaktir ekā chāyeva (Bs. 5.44). But she is just like shadow. Chāyeva yasya. Chāyeva yasya... She is working just like shadow. Just like here is shadow of my hand. If I shake my hand, the shadow also shakes. The Māyā is acting like that. In the Bhagavad-gītā also it is said, mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ sūyate sa-carācaram (BG 9.10). "Under My superintendence, prakṛti, the nature, or Māyā, is acting." Chāyeva yasya bhuvanāni vibharti durgā. And next line, icchānurūpam api yasya ca ceṣṭate sā. That Māyā is acting under the direction of the Personality. And who is that personality? Govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi *. "That personality is Govinda, the Supreme Person. I am offering my respectful obeisances." So Māyā is acting under the direction of Kṛṣṇa just like the shadow is moving under the movement of the original. So Māyā's position is not degraded. Don't think like that. Therefore Vaiṣṇava offers all respect to Māyā because she is working under Kṛṣṇa. She is Vaiṣṇavī. She is also energy of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore she is also Vaiṣṇavī. [Lecture on BG 2.8-12 -- LA, Nov. 27, 1968]

viṣṇor māyā bhagavatī / yayā sammohitaṁ jagat
ādiṣṭā prabhuṇāṁśena / kāryārthe sambhaviṣyati
TRANSLATION: The potency of the Lord, known as viṣṇu-māyā, who is as good as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, will also appear with Lord Kṛṣṇa. This potency, acting in different capacities, captivates all the worlds, both material and spiritual. At the request of her master, she will appear with her different potencies in order to execute the work of the Lord. [SB 10.1.25]

In the Vedas it is said that the potencies of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are called by different names, such as yogamāyā and mahāmāyā. Ultimately, however, the Lord’s potency is one, exactly as electric potency is one although it can act both to cool and to heat. The Lord’s potency acts in both the spiritual and material worlds. In the spiritual world the Lord’s potency works as yogamāyā, and in the material world the same potency works as mahāmāyā, exactly as electricity works in both a heater and a cooler. In the material world, this potency, working as mahāmāyā, acts upon the conditioned souls to deprive them more and more of devotional service. It is said, yayā sammohito jīva ātmānaṁ tri-guṇātmakam. In the material world the conditioned soul thinks of himself as a product of tri-guṇa, the three modes of material nature. This is the bodily conception of life. Because of associating with the three guṇas of the material potency, everyone identifies himself with his body.

Thus the Lord’s potency, viṣṇu-māyā, has two features—āvaraṇikā and unmukha. When the Lord appeared, His potency came with Him and acted in different ways. She acted as yogamāyā with Yaśodā, Devakī and other intimate relations of the Lord, and she acted in a different way with Kaṁsa, Śālva and other asuras. By the order of Lord Kṛṣṇa, His potency yogamāyā came with Him and exhibited different activities according to the time and circumstances. Kāryārthe sambhaviṣyati. Yogamāyā acted differently to execute different purposes desired by the Lord. As confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (9.13), mahātmānas tu māṁ pārtha daivīṁ prakṛtim āśritāḥ. The mahātmās, who fully surrender to the lotus feet of the Lord, are directed by yogamāyā, whereas the durātmās, those who are devoid of devotional service, are directed by mahāmāyā.


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