Srimad-Bhagavatam: Canto 10 - Chapter 1 - Verse 25


खं वायुर्ज्योतिरापो भूस्तत्कृतेषु यथाशयम् ।आविस्तिरोऽल्पभूर्येको नानात्वं यात्यसावपि ॥ २५ ॥


khaṁ vāyur jyotir āpo bhūstat-kṛteṣu yathāśayamāvis-tiro-’lpa-bhūry ekonānātvaṁ yāty asāv api


The elements of ether, air, fire, water and earth become visible, invisible, minute or extensive as they manifest in various objects. Similarly, the Paramātmā, though one, appears to become many.


Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī explains this and the previous verse as follows: The one Paramātmā appears to be many by the influence of the modes of nature that He Himself creates. How is that? Because although in truth the Paramātmā is self-illuminating, eternal, aloof from everything, and free of the modes of nature, when He appears as His manifestations He seems to be just the opposite — a multiplicity of temporary objects saturated with the modes of nature. Just as the elements of ether and so on, when manifesting in pots and other things, seem to appear and disappear, so the Paramātmā seems to appear and disappear in His various manifestations.