The Universe as we see it is a reflection in the mirror of God Consciousness. ~Swami Lakshmanjoo

In this excerpt from the Audio Study Set, Kashmir Shaivism The Secret Supreme by Swami Lakshmanjoo, Chapter 4, Swamiji explains one of the core principles of Kashmir Shaivism, pratibimabavāda, the theory of reflection.

The Universe as we see it is a reflection in the mirror of God Consciousness. ~Swami Lakshmanjoo

The Universe as we see it, is a reflection in the mirror of God Consciousness. ~Swami Lakshmanjoo

Just as in a fine clean mirror, where there is no dust, it’s spotless, a refined an absolutely clear mirror, just as in that mirror everything is reflected, everything is seen in that mirror, earth, water, etc. everything, whatever is there will be reflected in that mirror, but that mirror must be clean. There must not be dust on it. If there is dust then it reflects [objects] but they are not seen [clearly]. And these [objects] are seen separately.

For instance, this whole room is reflected in a mirror eighteen by ten inches. In an eighteen by ten inches mirror, if this whole room is reflected, then this room must be reflected in one ball [image]. This whole room can’t enter in this eighteen by ten inches [mirror], but it has come. It has come. You will see the distance there. In that eighteen by ten inch mirror you will see the distance of so many feet; twenty feet by ten feet distance of that room in that reflected mirror. All of these things are seen reflected in that mirror, in that small mirror separately.

In the same way all of these modes of action – śabda, sparśa, rūpa, rasa and gandha, sound, touch, form, taste and smell – all of these things are reflected in the Lord of consciousness, in the mirror of the Lord of consciousness. The Lord of consciousness is the mirror, a refined mirror, where everything is seen, reflected. [But] there is a difference between this [ordinary] mirror and that [universal] mirror.

In this [ordinary] mirror only forms are seen, you can’t touch them, you can’t touch that room. You can’t use that tumbler which is reflected in the mirror. If you want to take a sip of water in that mirror you can’t carry it to a waterfall and taste it. Only there is formation. It is seen only. You can’t touch it. You can’t smell it. You can’t taste it. You can’t hear its sound.

But the objective world, which is reflected in the mirror of the Lord of consciousness, you can use freely because this whole universe is reflected in that Lord of consciousness, in the mirror of the Lord of consciousness. So there is a difference. There [in a mirror] you find only rūpa, ‘formation’. Here you find all of the five [sound, touch, form, taste, and smell].

Now he says according to the tradition of our masters what is refinement. The refinement of that mirror is svasminnabhedā, although He has taken the whole objective world in [His] own nature, i.e. this whole objective world is existing in that mirror, although it is one with the mirror (because if this mountain is reflected in a mirror, a mountain is so heavy, you couldn’t move that mirror then if a mountain was reflected in that, but the weight of that mirror is the same). This is the refinement; this is the nirmalatā of mirror.

Nothing else, no other agency is there. No other foreign matter is there. Although everything is there, although everything is reflected in that mirror, but nothing is reflected in nature because there is no weight in that. Weight has not increased in that mirror. He takes all of these formations in [His] own nature and after that and makes you see everything separately, not in one ball. Everything is separately seen in that mirror. And at the same time the mirror is not destroyed. If the whole universe has come in the reflection of that mirror the formation of mirror is not destroyed. The formation of the mirror is the same. This is the nirmalatā, this is the refinement of that mirror. It is described in this way by our masters.

So, if the definition of this universe is pratibimba, it is ‘a reflection’, [still], it is not reflected [because] the definition of [the object which is] reflected is not existing, it is absent here. Na hānir, there is no harm if you admit that there is only the reflection, only there is one point, your question will rest in cause. How this reflection has taken place? You can’t say whose reflection is this universe. You can only ask how; how this reflection has taken place in the mirror of consciousness. You cannot say of whom? This question of yours will end only in cause, in the field of cause.

And in that section of causes there are two sections of causes. One is instrumental cause and one is material cause.

  1. Instrumental cause is potter, instrumental cause is that wheel, instrumental cause is that stick. That is instrumental cause.
  2. Material cause is earth from which potter makes pot. Material cause is called upādāna kāraṇa, and instrumental cause is called nimitta kāraṇa.

And your question, that will end in causes only. And that too in the instrumental cause, not in the material cause. Because the reflection of the universe in the mirror of consciousness, the cause of this must be instrumental not material. Because this reflection, when you perceive this reflection in an external mirror, your face does not become the material cause of it, your face is an instrumental cause. If it would have been the material cause then your face would be no more existing when the reflection would have taken place; as the earth doesn’t not exist when a pot is made by the potter.

But instrumental causes exist. After you prepare, construct that pot, even then the instrumental causes exist.

Don’t they exist?

The potter exists, that wheel exists, that stick exists, everything exists, but the material cause [earth] does not exist. So the external face in the external mirror is reflected. At the time of reflection this reflected object is unharmed, it is existing there, without any change in it. So you can ask this question, “what is the instrumental cause of this reflection in the mirror of consciousness?” The instrumental cause you can ask, not the material cause.

Swamiji with cowDEVOTEE:  You can ask what is its material reflection? What is its material reflection?

SWAMIJI:  No, material cause. Material cause is earth for a pot. When you make a pot from earth, earth does not exist at that time. Earth has transformed in the formation of the pot. Earth has become a pot.

DEVOTEE:  At the time of the pot?

SWAMIJI:  At the time of the pot the earth is not there, but the instrumental causes are still there. Potter is [still] there, existing.

DEVOTEE:  So at the time of reflection, reflected . . .

SWAMIJI:  Reflected [object] is there, unharmed, it has not become reflection. At the time of reflection, reflected [thing] has not become reflection. It has only thrown its shape in it, but . . .

DEVOTEE:  . . . no material.

JOHN:   Also, if there is some material cause for reflection there’ll be some change in that mirror. If there were a material cause in reflection there’ll be some change . . .

SWAMIJI:  And that change does not take place in the mirror.

And nimitta karaṇānāṁ ca kadācit kvāpi saṁbhavaḥ, and the instrumental causes, it is not necessary that the instrumental causes must always be a stick. Instrumental causes can become your finger also. In place of a stick you can put a finger and move the wheel.

DENISE:   Substitute.

SWAMIJI:  Substitute. So there is a substitute. How this reflection has taken place in the mirror of consciousness – there is a substitute. You can ask what is the substitute of that cause, of that instrumental cause. There is an instrumental cause, but not an instrumental cause as bimba. There is another cause in place of bimba.

That he will explain now in the following ślokas.

In the reflection, in the reflection of the universe, the cause, the substitute cause of this reflection is his free svātantrya śakti–by his free will.

By his free will this reflection has taken place in the mirror of consciousness, but there is nothing reflected, there is not any reflected object. Because, objects and reflections are all excluded (included) in the reflection in the mirror of consciousness. Everything is in the mirror of consciousness. This is in the mirror of consciousness, and the reflection of this ‘kongari’ (fire pot) also is in the mirror of consciousness, this and this both.

Kashmir Shaivism Secret Supreme Swami LakshmanjooSo everything, whatever exists in this universe is a reflection only in the mirror of consciousness.

By the attribution of inserting reflection he becomes one with the reflection, the reflected becomes one with the reflection. Because there is arpakāt. Arpakāt, one who bestows its reflection, that is arpakāt. I bestow, I surrender my image in this mirror and in the mirror you can perceive the reflection of your face, and you become, and that reflection of your face becomes just like your face. But there is a difference in the mirror of consciousness. Cittattavasya tu nijaiśvaryāt, in the mirror of consciousness the reflection takes place by His own sweet will, not by the grace of the reflected [image], [but] by the force of His own svātantrya śakti.

So this whole universe, which is consisting of six adhvans

    1. bhuvanādhva,
    1. kalādhva, and
    1. tattvādhva, and
    1. varṇādhva,
    1. mantrādhva, and
  1. padādhva;

letters [varṇa], words [mantra], and sentences [pada], one hundred and eighteen worlds [bhuvana], thirty-six elements [tattva], and five circles [kalā] of the universe1 – this whole universe is only a reflection, in which, in whom? Bhairavī cidambare, Bhairavanātha, who is Bhairava, who is one with cidākāśa, who is absolutely a ‘vacuum of consciousness’. And this reflection is sufficiently settled in that transparent mirror of consciousness but not by the grace of any other agency. There is no grace of any other agency needed, as in external reflections there is the grace of another agency needed.

What is that other agency?

The [object which is] reflected.

Just as in an external mirror this whole universe is perceived in the form of a reflection, in the same way, in the mirror of consciousness the reflection takes place not by the grace of the reflected, but by the grace of His own free vimarśa, svātantrya. But this greatness is not found in an external mirror.

Bas! Here ends the pratibimabavāda.


1. See Secret Supreme, chapter 2, The Sixfold Path of the Universe. [Editor’s note]

(source: Kashmir Shaivism: The Secret Supreme, by Swami Lakshmanjoo)
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