apareyam itas tv anyāḿ
prakṛtiḿ viddhi me parām
jīva-bhūtāḿ mahā-bāho
yayedaḿ dhāryate jagat

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 7.5

Besides these, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature.

Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

Here it is clearly mentioned that living entities belong to the superior nature (or energy) of the Supreme Lord. The inferior energy is matter manifested in different elements, namely earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego. Both forms of material nature, namely gross (earth, etc.) and subtle (mind, etc.), are products of the inferior energy. The living entities, who are exploiting these inferior energies for different purposes, are the superior energy of the Supreme Lord, and it is due to this energy that the entire material world functions. The cosmic manifestation has no power to act unless it is moved by the superior energy, the living entity. Energies are always controlled by the energetic, and therefore the living entities are always controlled by the Lord—they have no independent existence. They are never equally powerful, as unintelligent men think. The distinction between the living entities and the Lord is described in Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.87.30) as follows:

aparimita dhruvas tanu-bhrto yadi sarva-gatas
tarhi na sasyateti niyamo dhruva netaratha
ajani ca yan-mayam tad avimucya niyantr bhavet
samam anujanatam yad amatam mata-dustataya

“O Supreme Eternal! If the embodied living entities were eternal and all-pervading like You, then they would not be under Your control. But if the living entities are accepted as minute energies of Your Lordship, then they are at once subject to Your supreme control. Therefore real liberation entails surrender by the living entities to Your control, and that surrender will make them happy. In that constitutional position only can they be controllers. Therefore, men with limited knowledge who advocate the monistic theory that God and the living entities are equal in all respects are actually guided by a faulty and polluted opinion.”

The Supreme Lord, Krishna, is the only controller, and all living entities are controlled by Him. These living entities are His superior energy because the quality of their existence is one and the same with the Supreme, but they are never equal to the Lord in quantity of power. While exploiting the gross and subtle inferior energy (matter), the superior energy (the living entity) forgets his real spiritual mind and intelligence. This forgetfulness is due to the influence of matter upon the living entity. But when the living entity becomes free from the influence of the illusory material energy, he attains the stage called mukti, or liberation. The false ego, under the influence of material illusion, thinks, “I am matter, and material acquisitions are mine.” His actual position is realized when he is liberated from all material ideas, including the conception of his becoming one in all respects with God. Therefore one may conclude that the Gita confirms the living entity to be only one of the multi-energies of Krishna; and when this energy is freed from material contamination, it becomes fully Krishna conscious, or liberated.

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

This prakrti is called the external energy. As it is not conscious, it is inferior (apara). Know the other energy, tatastha sakti, which gives rise to the jivas, which is superior (param), because it is conscious. Why is jiva considered superior? The unconscious matter (idam jagat) is employed (dharyate) by this conscious jiva, for jiva’s own enjoyment.

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:

7.5 This is My lower Prakrti. But know My higher Prakrti which is different from this, i.e., whose nature is different from this inanimate Prakrti constituting the objects of enjoyment to animate beings. It is ‘higher’, i.e., is more pre-eminent compared to the lower Prakrti which is constituted only of inanimate substances. This higher Nature of Mine is the individual self. Know this as My higher Prakrti through which the whole inanimate universe is sustained.

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

While concluding the topic of the eight categories of the lower inferior prakriti or material substratum Lord Krishna describes the higher superior prakriti. The lower prakriti is inferior because it is inert and meant for enjoyment by another. The higher prakriti is the individual atma or soul within all sentient beings. By the unique and exclusive sentient principle of the embodied soul being created, activated and energised by an infinitesimal portion of the Supreme Lord all creation is sustained by its own effort.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

The word apare means inferior and refers to the eight principle material energies itemised in the previous verse. Residing within all creatures the sakti or feminine energy known as Sri or Laksmi Devi of Lord Krishna is the caretaker of all life existing always as the consciousness of all creatures. Prakriti or the substratum pervading material nature has a dual manifestation gross and subtle. The gross manifestation is the eight categories of material nature which is inferior to the subtle manifestation which is eternal and all pervading. There is nothing comparable to Sri Laksmi as she is an eternal energy of the Supreme Lord manifesting herself individually as an eternal consort for each and every avatar or incarnation of Lord Krishna. In the Narada Purana it states that by these two gross and subtle manifestations of Sri Laksmi all the worlds are energised and sustained by the Supreme Lord.

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

Lord Krishna now clarifies that the eight-fold nature he spoke about in the previous verse is from His lower inferior nature because it is inanimate and insentient but He has a higher superior nature which constitutes the life force of all living beings as the atma or eternal soul which sustains the whole creation. The physical body the lower nature is factually a corporeal inanimate object into which the animate atma the higher nature has entered and taken up residence. Both the animate and inanimate make up the higher and lower natures of the prakriti of the Supreme Lord. The Vishnu Purana states that although the atma is part and parcel of the higher superior nature it is still understood to be subservient to the Supreme Lord.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

7.5 O mighty-armed one, iyam, this; is apara, the inferior (Prakrti)-not the higher, (but)-the impure, the source of evil and having the nature of worldly bondage. Viddhi, know; anyam, the other, pure; prakrtim, Prakrti; me, of Mine, which is essentially Myself; which, tu, however;is param, higher, more exalted; itah, than this (Prakrti) already spoken of; Jiva-bhutam, which has taken the form of the individual souls, which is characterized as ‘the Knower of the body (field)’, and which is the cause of sustenance of life; and yaya, by which Prakriti; idam, this; jagat, world; dharyate, is upheld, by permeating it.

Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:

7.4-5 Bhumih etc. Apard etc. [The demonstrative] ‘this’ denotes what is being perceived [as objects] through sense-organs by all men at the stage of mundane life. This is only one and at the same time is divided eigth-fold. Therefore the universe is one and unitary, because it is made of one single material cause. By this statement, monism is demonstrated even while following the Prakrti theory. The selfsame Prakrti has become the living one i.e., the personal Soul. Hence it is superior [to what has become eight-fold]. It also belongs to Me alone and not to anybody else. This Prakrti is [thus] two-fold and varied in the form of the universe consisting of the knowables and the knower. That is why this Prakrti (the basic material nature), being the substratum of all beings reflected on the surface of the clean mirror, viz., the Self , is nothing but Self’s own nature and [hence] never leaves Him. This world : the Earth etc. [mentioned in the 4th verse].

Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:

apareyam itas tv anyam
prakrtim viddhi me param
jiva-bhutam maha-baho
yayedam dharyate jagat

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

aparā — inferior; iyam — this; itaḥ — besides this; tu — but; anyām — another; prakṛtim — energy; viddhi — just try to understand; me — My; parām — superior; jīva-bhūtām — comprising the living entities; mahā-bāho — O mighty-armed one; yayā — by whom; idam — this; dhāryate — is utilized or exploited; jagat — the material world.