This Introduction was written by John Hughes for the Manual for Self Realization: 112 Meditations of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra revealed by Swami Lakshmanjoo.
Lord Shiva creates the objective world through the expansion of his Shakti, which is absolutely one with him; and the universe is manifest in his own nature, like a reflection in a mirror, by his own absolutely independent will.
In describing the nature of reality, the Kashmir Shaiva explains that there is only one Being called Shiva, also known as Bhairava.5 This Being is the nature and existence of all beings. This Being is defined as being filled with the infinite light (prakasha) of God consciousness.
The Shaiva also holds that the objective world, although experienced as separate from one’s self, does not have a separate existence. It is the energy (Shakti) of Shiva. Although one might conclude that the world is separate from his energy, thinking that his energy is the separate formal cause of the objective world, it is not so.
The objective world, comprised of the collection of objects, cognitions, and limited subjects, is nothing more than the expansion of the divine Shakti. It is not separate from Shiva’s energy. Lord Shiva is the energy holder (Shaktiman) and the objective universe is his energy, his Shakti.
“. . . between energy and the holder of energy there is no difference at all to be found; always there is abheda, there is unity, between energy and the holder of energy–Shakti and Shiva.” 6
But what is the relation of Lord Shiva to his energy? Does Shiva hold this energy as one might hold a tool, to be used in the act of creation? Swamiji clarifies this by explaining that if, for the sake of argument, we make a distinction between Shiva and his Shakti, then we could say that Shakti is this whole objective universe–which includes not only the objects of perception (prameya) and the means of perception (pramana), but also the limited subjects or perceivers (pramatri) attached to those objects–and that Shiva is that reality from which this universe issues forth. And yet it is said that Shiva and Shakti are not aware that they are separate. Why? Because in reality they are not separate at all. They are one, just as a fire is one with its heat.
“. . . lightening, giving light, burning, heating (all these energies are produced from the fire)–but these energies are undifferentiated from fire.” 7
The non-dualism expounded by Kashmir Shaivism creates a dilemma for its adherents. If this universe, which seems separate and diverse, is as real as its creator, then how does the latter create this universe as one with himself? To explain this seeming incompatibility, Kashmir Shaivism proposes the theory of reflection (pratibimbavada). This theory explains that the universe is created in the mirror of God consciousness, much in the same way that the image of an object, such as a house, can be reflected in an ordinary mirror. In the case of Shiva, however, there is no object, such as the house, that exists independently from the mirror of God consciousness, because if there were, it would mean that there is an object that exists outside of God consciousness. The Kashmir Shaiva theory proclaims that nothing can exist outside of God consciousness, because only God consciousness exists. Therefore, the Shaiva explains, the only thing that exists is the house appearing in the mirror. There is no external object, no separate house, being reflected in the mirror. There is only the mirror of God consciousness.
What then causes the “reflection” to appear in the “mirror” of Shiva’s awareness? To this question the Shaiva answers that, it is svatantrya, the absolutely independent will of God. It is Lord Shiva who creates this whole universe in the mirror of his awareness by his absolutely independent will (svatantrya), his freedom.
To summarize the essence of the non-dual cosmology of Kashmir Shaivism: Lord Shiva creates the objective world through the expansion of his Shakti, which is absolutely one with him; and the universe is manifest in his own nature, like a reflection in a mirror, by his own absolutely independent will.
5. For a discussion of the terms Shiva and Bhairava see Vijnana Bhairava, commentary, v27, p27.
6. Vijnana Bhairava, commentary v18, p18.
7. Vijnana Bhairava, commentary v19, p19.
Manual for Self Realization: 112 Meditations of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra