ātma-māyā

(‘inherent mysterious power’)

Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa while describing his descent into the human form uses this word (vide Bhagavadgītā 4.6). Though he is unborn, eternal and the Lord of all beings, he takes recourse to his ‘prakṛti’ and incarnates himself through ‘ātma-māyā,’ to re-establish and preserve dharma or righteousness, by destroying the wicked and protecting the good. Prakṛti comprising the three guṇas, sattva, rajas and tamas, is the basic matrix out of which the whole universe is evolved. It is also called māyā which is variously interpreted as illusion, illusory or mysterious power and so on. The incarnation of God is not like the rebirth of ordinary jīvas or beings who are forced into birth and suffering due to their past karma or deeds. He does it out of his free will exercising his mysterious power, which is inherent in Him. This is ‘ātma-māyā.’

See also MĀYĀ.