It is the function of Maha-sankarsana in the form of Karanodakasayi Visnu to glance over the material creation, which is situated beyond the limits of the Causal Ocean
Outside the Vaikuṇṭha planets is the impersonal Brahman effulgence, and beyond that effulgence is the Kāraṇa Ocean, or Causal Ocean.
The impersonal glowing effulgence known as impersonal Brahman is the outer space of the Vaikuṇṭha planets in the spiritual sky. Beyond that impersonal Brahman is the great Causal Ocean, which lies between the material and spiritual skies. The material nature is a by-product of this Causal Ocean.
Kāraṇodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, who lies on the Causal Ocean, creates the universes merely by glancing upon material nature. Therefore Kṛṣṇa personally has nothing to do with the material creation. The Bhagavad-gītā confirms that the Lord glances over material nature and thus she produces the many material universes. Neither Kṛṣṇa in Goloka nor Nārāyaṇa in Vaikuṇṭha comes directly in contact with the material creation. They are completely aloof from the material energy.
It is the function of Mahā-saṅkarṣaṇa in the form of Kāraṇodakaśāyī Viṣṇu to glance over the material creation, which is situated beyond the limits of the Causal Ocean. Material nature is connected with the Personality of Godhead by His glance over her and nothing more. It is said that she is impregnated by the energy of His glance. The material energy, māyā, never even touches the Causal Ocean, for the Lord's glance focuses upon her from a great distance away.
The glancing power of the Lord agitates the entire cosmic energy, and thus its actions begin at once. This indicates that matter, however powerful she may be, has no power by herself. Her activity begins by the grace of the Lord, and then the entire cosmic creation is manifested in a systematic way. The example of a woman's conception can help us understand this subject to a certain extent. The mother is passive, but the father puts his energy within the mother, and thus she conceives. She supplies the ingredients for the birth of the child in her womb. Similarly, the Lord activates material nature, which then supplies the ingredients for cosmic development.
Material nature has two different phases. The aspect called pradhāna supplies the material ingredients for cosmic development, and the aspect called māyā causes the manifestation of her ingredients, which are temporary, like foam in the ocean. In reality, the temporary manifestations of material nature are originally caused by the spiritual glance of the Lord. The Personality of Godhead is the direct, or remote, cause of creation, and material nature is the indirect, or immediate, cause. Materialistic scientists, puffed-up by the magical changes their so-called inventions have brought about, cannot see the real potency of Godhead behind matter. Therefore the jugglery of science is gradually leading people to a godless civilization at the cost of the goal of human life. Having missed the goal of life, materialists run after self-sufficiency, not knowing that material nature is already self-sufficient by the grace of God. Thus creating a colossal hoax in the name of civilization, they create an imbalance in the natural self-sufficiency of material nature.
To think of material nature as all in all, not knowing the original cause, is ignorance. Lord Caitanya appeared in order to dissipate this darkness of ignorance by igniting the spark of spiritual life that can, by His causeless mercy, enlighten the entire world.
To explain how māyā acts by Kṛṣṇa's power, the author of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta gives the example of an iron rod in a fire: although the rod is not fire, it becomes red-hot and acts like fire itself. Similarly, all the actions and reactions of material nature are not actually the work of material nature but are actions and reactions of the energy of the Supreme Lord manifested through matter. The power of electricity is transmitted through the medium of copper, but this does not mean that the copper is electricity. The power is generated at a powerhouse under the control of an expert living being. Similarly, behind all the jugglery of the natural laws is a great living being, who is a person like the mechanical engineer in the powerhouse. It is by His intelligence that the entire cosmic creation moves in a systematic way.
The modes of nature, which directly cause material actions, are also originally activated by Nārāyaṇa. A simple example will explain how this is so: When a potter manufactures a pot from clay, the potter's wheel, his tools and the clay are the immediate causes of the pot, but the potter is the chief cause. Similarly, Nārāyaṇa is the chief cause of all material creations, and the material energy supplies the ingredients of matter. Therefore without Nārāyaṇa, all other causes are useless, just as the potter's wheel and tools are useless without the potter himself. Since materialistic scientists ignore the Personality of Godhead, it is as if they were concerned with the potter's wheel and its rotation, the potter's tools and the ingredients for the pots, but had no knowledge of the potter himself. Therefore modern science has created an imperfect, godless civilization that is in gross ignorance of the ultimate cause. Scientific advancement should have a great goal to attain, and that great goal should be the Personality of Godhead. In the Bhagavad-gītā it is said that after conducting research for many, many births, great men of knowledge who stress the importance of experimental thought can know the Personality of Godhead, who is the cause of all causes. When one knows Him perfectly, one surrenders unto Him and then becomes a mahātmā.