daivi hy esa guna-mayi
mama maya duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante
mayam etam taranti te
This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.
Commentary by Srila Prabhupada
The Supreme Personality of Godhead has innumerable energies, and all these energies are divine. Although the living entities are part of His energies and are therefore divine, due to contact with material energy their original superior power is covered. Being thus covered by material energy, one cannot possibly overcome its influence. As previously stated, both the material and spiritual natures, being emanations from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, are eternal. The living entities belong to the eternal superior nature of the Lord, but due to contamination by the inferior nature, matter, their illusion is also eternal. The conditioned soul is therefore called nitya-baddha, or eternally conditioned. No one can trace out the history of his becoming conditioned at a certain date in material history. Consequently, his release from the clutches of material nature is very difficult, even though that material nature is an inferior energy, because material energy is ultimately conducted by the supreme will, which the living entity cannot overcome. Inferior, material nature is defined herein as divine nature due to its divine connection and movement by the divine will. Being conducted by divine will, material nature, although inferior, acts so wonderfully in the construction and destruction of the cosmic manifestation. The Vedas confirm this as follows: mayam tu prakritim vidyan mayinam tu maheshvaram. “Although maya [illusion] is false or temporary, the background of maya is the supreme magician, the Personality of Godhead, who is Maheshvara, the supreme controller.” (Shvetasvatara Upanishad 4.10)
Another meaning of guna is rope; it is to be understood that the conditioned soul is tightly tied by the ropes of illusion. A man bound by the hands and feet cannot free himself—he must be helped by a person who is unbound. Because the bound cannot help the bound, the rescuer must be liberated. Therefore, only Lord Krishna, or His bona fide representative the spiritual master, can release the conditioned soul. Without such superior help, one cannot be freed from the bondage of material nature. Devotional service, or Krishna consciousness, can help one gain such release. Krishna, being the Lord of illusory energy, can order this insurmountable energy to release the conditioned soul. He orders this release out of His causeless mercy on the surrendered soul and out of His paternal affection for the living entity, who is originally a beloved son of the Lord. Therefore surrender unto the lotus feet of the Lord is the only means to get free from the clutches of the stringent material nature.
The words mam eva are also significant. Mam means unto Krishna (Vishnu) only, and not Brahma or Shiva. Although Brahma and Shiva are greatly elevated and are almost on the level of Vishnu, it is not possible for such incarnations of rajo-guna (passion) and tamo-guna (ignorance) to release the conditioned soul from the clutches of maya. In other words, both Brahma and Shiva are also under the influence of maya. Only Vishnu is the master of maya; therefore He alone can give release to the conditioned soul. The Vedas (Shvetasvatara Upanishad 3.8) confirm this in the phrase tam eva viditva. or “Freedom is possible only by understanding Krishna.” Even Lord Shiva affirms that liberation can be achieved only by the mercy of Vishnu. Lord Shiva says, mukti-pradata sarvesam vishnur eva na samsayah: “There is no doubt that Vishnu is the deliverer of liberation for everyone.”
Commentary by Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur
“Then how will they be delivered from this bewilderment of the three modes?”
The word daivi comes from deva, which means “those who sport with sense enjoyment.” It refers to the jivas. Thus daiva makes it possessive: that belonging to the jivas for their pleasure. Daivi therefore means that which bewilders the jivas.
This maya is the bewilderer of the jivas who enjoy sense objects (daivi). It is made of the gunas, and by implication, it is a great noose of three strands (guna means rope). This maya, the external energy, belongs to me, the Supreme Lord. It is difficult to surpass. As a noose, it is impossible for anyone to untie or to cut. Touching his chest, the Lord says, “Have faith in my words. Anyone who surrenders unto me, the form of Syamasundara, crosses over this maya.”