The above-mentioned eight ingredients make up the material nature, or the Supreme Lord's external potency. These material ingredients—earth, water, fire, air, and so on—are devoid of any free will, and so they are known as the Lord's inferior energy. By contrast, the potency that activates the inferior energy is known as the Lord's superior energy, or spiritual potency. On principle the energy cannot be the enjoyer; nor can one energy enjoy another energy. Energy is the enjoyed, and the energetic is the enjoyer.
The living entities are a product of the Lord's superior, spiritual energy, and so they are superior to earth, water, fire, and so on, which are always devoid of volition. But that does not mean the living entities are on the same platform as the Supreme Lord, who is the absolute controlling principle. It is easy to discern the superiority of spirit over inert matter. The jīva principle is setting into motion and sustaining everything in this material world. And if the jīvas did not try to lord it over the material nature, then there would be no variegatedness in this phenomenal world. The material elements would have remained unchanged if the jīvas had not been inclined to control and enjoy them. Only through the material energies' connection with the conscious living entity can such substances as earth, wood, stone, and iron be orchestrated so as to give rise to huge, opulent buildings, factories, and cities. Matter cannot organize itself.
From the foregoing one can understand that this massive cosmic creation, with its innumerable planetary systems and heavenly bodies, has come about only through the interference of some superior and powerful consciousness. It is beyond doubt that matter is inert, incapable of voluntary action, and that consciousness has activated the twenty-four material ingredients so as to exhibit variegatedness in material nature. All this goes to prove the inherent insufficiency and imperfections in material nature. Thus transcendental happiness is possible only in spiritual variegatedness. In the Bhagavad-gītā (7.5) Lord Kṛṣṇa confirms that the jīvas belong to His superior energy:
- apareyam itas tv anyāṁ
- prakṛtiṁ viddhi me parāṁ
- jīva-bhūtaṁ mahā-bāho
- yayedaṁ dhāryate jagat
Besides these material energies, O might-armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature.