Actually the living entity is part and parcel of the Lord; therefore he is spiritual in quality. The living entity is never material, and his material conception is simply a mistake due to forgetfulness. He is as brilliant as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Both the sun and the sunshine are very brilliant. The Lord is like the full shining sun, and the living entities are like the small particles of that sun which constitute the all-pervasive sunshine. When these small particles are covered by the cloud of māyā, they lose their shining capacity. When the cloud of māyā is gone, the particles again become brilliant and shining. As soon as the living entity is covered by the ignorance of māyā, or darkness, he cannot understand his relationship with the Supreme God. Somehow or other, if he comes before the Lord, he can see himself as shining as the Supreme Lord, although he is not as extensive as the Lord. Because the living entity desires to imitate the Supreme Lord, he is covered by māyā. We cannot imitate the Lord, nor can we become the supreme enjoyer. This is not possible, and when we think it is, we become conditioned by māyā. Thus the encagement of the living entity under the clutches of māyā is brought about by forgetfulness of his relationship with the Supreme Lord.
Under the influence of māyā, the living entity becomes exactly like a person haunted by a ghost. Such a person speaks all kinds of nonsense. When the living entity is covered by the influence of māyā, he becomes a so-called scientist, philosopher, politician or socialist, and at every moment presents different plans for the benefit of human society. All these plans are ultimately failures because they are illusory. In this way the living entity forgets his position as an eternal servant of the Lord. He instead becomes a servant of māyā. In any case he remains a servant. It is his misfortune that by forgetting his real contact with the Supreme Lord, he becomes a servant of māyā. As servant of māyā, he sometimes becomes a king, sometimes an ordinary citizen, sometimes a brāhmaṇa, a śūdra, and so on. Sometimes he is a happy man, sometimes a prosperous man, sometimes a small insect. Sometimes he is in heaven and sometimes in hell. Sometimes he is a demigod, and sometimes he is a demon. Sometimes he is a servant, and sometimes he is a master. In this way the living entity wanders all over the universe. Only when he comes in contact with the bona fide spiritual master can he understand his real constitutional position. He then becomes disgusted with material existence. At that time, in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he regrets his past experiences in material existence. This regret is very beneficial because it purifies the living entity of material, conditional life. He then prays to the Lord to engage in His service, and at that time, Kṛṣṇa grants liberation from the clutches of māyā. Lord Kṛṣṇa explains this in Bhagavad-gītā (BG 7.14):
- daivī hy eṣā guṇa-mayī
- mama māyā duratyayā
- mām eva ye prapadyante
- māyām etāṁ 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."
Only by the grace of Kṛṣṇa can one get out of the clutches of māyā. It is not possible to get out by mental speculation or other activities. When the living entity understands his real position by the grace of Kṛṣṇa, he keeps himself always fit in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and acts accordingly. Thus he gradually becomes completely free from the clutches of māyā. When he is strong in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, māyā cannot touch him. In this way, in the association of Kṛṣṇa conscious devotees, the living entity can get free from the contamination of material existence. In this connection, Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī says:
- tāte kṛṣṇa bhaje, kare gurura sevana
- māyā-jāla chuṭe, pāya kṛṣṇera caraṇa
"In the Kṛṣṇa conscious state, the living entity engages in devotional service under the direction of the spiritual master. In this way he gets out of the clutches of māyā and takes shelter under the lotus feet of Lord Kṛṣṇa." (CC Madhya 22.25)