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Journal of Indian Philosophy (2005) 33: 583–599 Ó Springer 2005

DOI 10.1007/s10781-005-2827-4




The glorious Lord of Gauri manifests on the extended and clear mirror of his own
Self the supreme river of Creative Action [kriya]  – which is splendorous with the
fluid-relish [rasa] of his own Śakti and is the locus of numerous, ever–arising waves
between the two banks of the subjective aspects that are [limited] cognizers, and the
objects of cognition. May he reveal to us the Supreme Truth!

Abhinavagupta, I  sini 2.1, benediction



In South Asian religious and philosophical traditions there is a long and

complex history of the use of the analogy or metaphor of reflection to
explain the relation of the Ultimate Reality, God or the higher Self – to
the multiplicity of limited subjects and the objects of their experience that
make up the universe.1 Within the Hindu orbit, one of the most ancient
examples is the instruction of Indra by Prajapati in the Ch andogya
Upanis: ad. In that account, Indra learns – contra Virocana and the
Western Narcissus – to distinguish his witness Self from his bodily self as
reflected in the eyes of others, a mirror and a plate of water.2 Also well

This paper presents some findings of an ongoing research project on the monistic
Kashmiri Śaiva philosophy of personal and soteriological identity. An earlier version
was presented at the conference, Language, Consciousness and Culture: East–West
Perspectives, Calcutta, January 2004. I wish to thank Pt. Hemendra Nath Chakra-
varty of Varanasi and Dr. Navjivan Rastogi, Prof. Emeritus of Lucknow University,
for their helpful suggestions.
Here I will use the terms ‘‘analogy,’’ ‘‘metaphor’’ and ‘‘model’’ as roughly
equivalent in meaning. Abhinavagupta and the other thinkers discussed themselves
alternate freely between explicitly comparative and metaphorical discussions of
 Upanis: ad, in Jagadisha Shastri, ed., Upanis: atsangraha
_ (Delhi: Motilal
Banarsidass, 1970), 8.7–12, 80–83.

known are the S _

amkhya and Yoga theories of the reflection of the
purus: a and arthas in the buddhi.3
In Śankara’s rather ad hoc treatment of the reflection model, we
may usefully distinguish two alternative conceptions. Śankara _
sometimes talks of reflections of the transcendent, unitary and un-

changeable Atman/Brahman in the diversity of limited subjects and
objects, with the analogies of the reflection of the sun in rippling
water and of a person in a mirror. He also sometimes describes ad-

ventitious qualifications as reflections in the Atman, with the illus-
tration of the reflection of colors in a clear crystal.4
In developing his full–fledged pratibimbavada,  Padmapada finds
greater heuristic value in the model of reflections of the Atman/ 
Brahman. For Padmapada, the j iva is not merely an accidental
qualification of the Ultimate. The great Upanis: adic utterances point
towards the identity of the individual as reflection with its the pro-
totype which is the true Self.5 This mode of explanation was
extensively developed in the Vivaran: a school.6
In its moment of immanentism, Padmapada’s reflection theory re-
sonates with more widespread usages of the model of reflection in
Hindu, Buddhist and Jaina traditions. As Phyllis Granoff has shown, in
these traditions reflection is often said to constitute the body of the
Ultimate Reality or the enlightened being. As manifest in iconography
or imaginary forms the reflection (pratibimba, pratima)  provides an
accessible mode of approach to the ultimate. Generalizing her
observations on R ajaśekhara’s Viddha 
salabha~  Granoff explains:

On the latter, see Ian Whicher, ‘‘Theory of Reflected Consciousness in Yoga,’’ in
The Integrity of the Yoga Darsana (Albany: State University of New York Press,
1998), 135–142.
See Karl H. Potter, ed., Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, vol. 3, Advaita

Vedanta  mkara
up to Sa _ and His Pupils (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1981), 84–85.
The linguistic philosopher, Bhartr: hari had used the analogy of the reflection of
colors in a crystal to describe how the meaning of an individual word is affected by
the meanings of other words in a sentence. Vakyapad  iya of Bhartr: hari with the
Commentary of Helar  aja,
 kan : d: a 3, ed. K.A. Subramania Iyer (Pune: Deccan College,
1963–1973), part 1, 3.3.40–41, 151–153. I also note that the sixteenth century com-
mentator on the Yoga S utra, Vijñ anabhiks: u, propounds a ‘‘double reflection theo-
ry.’’ According to this theory, there is first the reflection of purus: a in buddhi, and then
the reflection of buddhi in purus: a. See T.S. Rukmani, ‘‘Vijñ anabhiks: u’s Double
Reflection Theory of Knowledge in the Yoga System,’’ Journal of Indian Philosophy
16, 367–375.
Potter, 86–88.
It is not possible here to consider the complexity of later Advaita discussions of
reflection vis-à-vis sagun: a and nirgun: a Brahman.

On one level a reflection is distinguished from the object reflected and the perception
of a reflection as the reflecting object is an error. The moon on the surface of the
water is not the moon in the sky; it is not a real moon at all. On another level, in
discussions of the nature of image making and the nature of God’s body, the
reflected body is considered to be the purest body conceivable; it is the true body of
God. . .. Indeed some poetic passages on the reflected self suggest that it is only in
reflection that the true, non-corporeal self may in fact be captured. . .. In the
discourse about God’s body as reflection, the object of art, the image of the deity, as
image, ‘‘pratibimba’’ or ‘‘pratim a,’’ all terms that designate reflection as well as
likeness, captures the very essence of God’s nature.7



Turning to the monistic Kashmiri Śaiva traditions, we find occasional

and usually rather incidental examples of the analogy prior to Ab-
hinavagupta. The Vij~  Bhairava speaks of the reflection of the
universe in the buddhi as like that of the sun in water.8 Somananda in

his Sivadr: :st:i mentions the pratibimba model among various Vedantin
theories of creation.9
Utpaladeva in his foundational works on I svarapratyabhij~na refutes
the S _
amkhya theory of the reflection of the self and objects in the
buddhi,10 as well as the Sautrantika ‘‘representationalist’’ theory of the

Phyllis Granoff, ‘‘Portraits, Likenesses and Looking Glasses: Some Literary and
Philosophical Reflections on Representation and Art in Medieval India,’’ in Jan
Assmann and Albert L. Baumgarten, eds., Representation in Religion: Studies in
Honor of Moshe Barasch (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 101–102. See also her discussion,
centering on the Gan: d: avy uha, regarding the magical power of reflective jewels, and
their employment as a metaphor for the perfected body in ‘‘Maitreya’s Jewelled
World: Some Remarks on Gems and Visions in Buddhist Texts,’’ Journal of Indian
Philosophy 26 (1998), 360–361. Cf. the remarks on reflections and shadows in Wendy
Doniger, Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 70–74.
 or Divine Consciousness: A Treasury of 112 Types of Yoga, ed.
and trans. Jaideva Singh (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1979), 135, 124.
The Sivadr: :st:i of Srisomanandan
 with the Vritti by Utpaladeva, ed. Madhu-
sudan Kaul Shastri, Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies, no. 54 (Pune:
Aryabhushan Press, 1934), 6.11, 197.
Utpaladeva, The I svarapratyabhij~
 a of Utpaladeva with the Author’s Vr: tti,
corrected edition, ed. and trans. Raffaele Torella (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2002),
1.2.8, 8. This refutation is stated by the Buddhist logician p urvapaks: in. (Henceforth
the Isvarapratyabhij~  a and Vr: tti will, respectively, be abbreviated IPK and
IPKV. I will refer to this edition when citing either the latter or both together. When
referring only to the IPK, I will indicate the page numbers in the edition of Abhi-
nava’s commentary cited in the following note.)

reflection of external objects in consciousness.11 He also argues that it is

recognitive apprehension (vimar sa) that distinguishes the awareness
(prakasa) of phenomena from unconscious reflection such as the
reflection of colors in a crystal.12
Utpaladeva occasionally uses the metaphor of reflection, in the
Self, in a more constructive manner. Thus he argues that it is because
the Self is pure (svaccha) that it is able to contain a plurality of
reflections without contradicting its unitary nature.13 Utpaladeva
does not understand the reflections within the Self as adventitious
qualifications. He argues that the universe is essentially identical with
consciousness just like reflections are identical with a mirror.14
Nevertheless, Utpaladeva does not thematize reflection as a basic
theoretical and practical approach to the Ultimate Reality.



It is Abhinavagupta who may be credited with making the metaphor

of reflection into a favored trope of monistic Śaiva theological dis-
course.15 His interpretation of reflection was further diffused along
with the rest of his theology to other intellectual traditions of Hindu
tantrism. In his treatments of the metaphor, Abhinava evinces greater
familiarity with the broader South Asian discussions, though he does
not like directly to quote Advaita Vedanta. Most importantly – and
the central point of this paper – Abhinava established the use of the
metaphor of reflection fully to articulate basic mythic and reca-
pitulatory ritual structures of monistic Kashmiri Śaiva tantrism.
I will review some of the most relevant of these. While monistic
Kashmiri Śaivism comprises a plethora of interweaving traditions, such
IPK and IPKV 1.5.4–6, 20–21. I follow Abhinava’s interpretation that this is a
theory of bimba and pratibimba. I svarapratyabhij~ 
navimar sini of Abhinavagupta,
Doctrine of Divine Recognition: Sanskrit text with Bhaskar  i, 2 vols., ed. K.A. Sub-
ramania Iyer and K.C. Pandey (Reprint, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1986), 1.5.4,
1:209. (Abhinavagupta’s commentary will henceforth be referred to as IPV and the
commentary on it, Bhaskar
 i by Bh askarakan: t:ha, will be referred to as BIPV.)
IPK 1.5.11, 1:241. On vimar sa and praka sa, see below, n. 23.
IPKV 2.4.19, 60. See Torella’s remarks on this passage in his translation, ibid.,
186n. Utpaladeva is here refuting the S _
amkhya understanding of prakr: ti as
unconscious. See below on Abhinavagupta’s interpretation of this verse.
Utpaladeva, Sivadr 
: :st:ivr: tti, in The Sivadr 
: :st:i of Srisomanandan  with the Vritti
by Utpaladeva, 1.11b–13a, 14; 1.13b–17, 16.
This point is made in Navjivan Rastogi, ‘‘Some More Ny ayas as Employed by
Abhinavagupta,’’ Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute 65 (1984), 28.

as the Kaula, the Krama, the Trika and the Spanda, we may proceed
from broader patterns. Probably the most generic and distinctive fea-
ture of the broad range of phenomena that contemporary scholars call
tantrism is the pursuit of power. The common theological designation
for the essence of such power is Śakti. Its expressions vary widely from
relatively limited ‘‘magical proficiencies’’ (siddhis or vibhutis), through
political power, to the omnipotence of the liberated person performing
the divine cosmic acts.16 In his classic study, ‘‘Purity and Power among
the Brahmans of Kashmir,’’ Alexis Sanderson emphasized how the
tantric pursuit of such power transgresses orthodox, mainstream
Hindu norms that delimit human agency for the sake of symbolic–ritual
purity (suddhi).17 David Gordon White in The Kiss of the Yogini has
propounded an argument recently that is already controversial, that
this quest for power originated in ancient siddha practices aimed at
gaining benefits from yogins through offerings of sexual fluids.18
Be that as it may, as the appellation ‘‘monistic Śaivism’’ suggests,
in this stream of tantrism Śakti is encompassed by or overcoded
within the metaphysical essence of the God Śiva. According to the
central monistic Śaiva myth, Śiva performs emanation and the other
cosmic acts that control the universe – through Śakti as his
self-identical power and consort. The basic pattern of praxis, which
Sanderson has also suggested reflects the appropriation of Śaktism by
Śaivism, is the approach to Siva  
through Sakti. As the Vij~ 
Bhairava says, Śakti is Śiva’s ‘‘door’’ or ‘‘face’’ (mukha).19
One pursues identification with Śiva as the Śaktiman by reenacting
and thus assuming his mythic agency in emanating and controlling the
universe through Śakti. Thus in the Kaula sexual ritual a man realizes
himself as the possessor of Śakti immanent within his partner. In
Krama tantrism one contemplates oneself as the possessor of
sakticakras, circles of Śaktis. The Spanda Karik
 as  pursue the engross-
ment of sakticakras understood as Spanda, ‘‘Creative Vibration.’’
The typical list of five cosmic acts comprises: (1) Creation of the universe (2)
Preservation of the universe (3) Destruction of the universe (4) Bringing about the
delusion of creatures that leads them to suffer in sams  (5) Graciously liberating
_ ara
creatures from delusion and suffering.
Alexis Sanderson, ‘‘Purity and Power Among the Brahmans of Kashmir,’’ in
The Category of the Person: Anthropology, Philosophy, History, ed. Michael Car-
rithers, Steven Collins and Steven Lukes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1985), 190–216.
David Gordon White, Kiss of the Yogini (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
Vij~  Bhairava 20, 17.

Within the historical elaboration of monistic Śaiva theology, and

especially in the grand syntheses of Abhinavagupta, an astonishing
number of what might be called secondary codes were propounded for
the same mythic and ritual pattern – in terms of emanating mantras,
pantheons of higher and lower deities, cosmic principles, the iconography
of man: d: alas, and various other symbols, theories and analogies.20
The Pratyabhijñ a philosophical theology propounded by Utpaladeva
and further developed in the commentaries of Abhinavagupta follows
the same pattern.21 This system pursues the liberating realization of
identity with Śiva through saktyavis : karan: a, ‘‘the revealing of Śakti.’’
However, in order to address the Naiyayika-Buddhist debates about
vikalpa, it explains the process epistemologically in terms of recognition.
Śiva’s emanation and control of the universe through Śakti is described
as an act self-recognition (ahampratyavamar sa, pratyabhij~  22 The
Pratyabhijñ a sastra
 endeavors to lead the student to participate in the
recognition ‘‘I am Śiva,’’ by demonstrating that all experiences and ob-
jects of experience are expressions of the recognition that ‘‘I am Śiva.’’23
This same process is also described as a purification of conceptualization
_ ara) – leading from the ordinary impure (a suddha) con-
ceptualization that lacks the realization of emanatory self–recognition to
the Pure Wisdom ( suddhavidy  that comprehends the same.
a, sadvidya)
Also relevant to Abhinavagupta’s use of the metaphor of reflec-
tion, Michel Hulin and Mark Dyczkowski have drawn attention to
an innovation in the Pratyabhijña approach to ordinary, deluded
personal identity that I would describe as a correlative in philoso-
phical psychology to the theory of self-recognition. This is the
Pratyabhijñ a approach to ‘‘egoism’’ or ‘‘egoity,’’ referred to by such
terms as ahamk _ ara,
 ‘‘I-construction;’’ ahambhava,  ‘‘I-hood;’’ and
ahamt  ‘‘I-ness.’’ Utpaladeva and Abhinavagupta do not advocate
_ a,
See Rastogi for an overview of Abhinavagupta’s use of several analogies.
The Pratyabhijña methodology and substantive theories are analyzed and engaged
in dialogue with Western philosophy and theology in David Peter Lawrence, Redis-
covering God with Transcendental Argument: A Contemporary Interpretation of Monistic

Kashmiri Saiva Philosophy (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999).
In their Pratyabhijña works Utpaladeva and Abhinavagupta also identify this
self-recognition (Śakti) with the principle of Supreme Speech (parav  the meta-
physical essence of mantras, which they derive from Bhartr: hari; and omnipotent
agency (kartr: ta).
 With regard to the latter concept, see n. 32 below on the concept of
agential self-determination (svatantrya).

Śiva’s Śakti/self-recognition/Supreme Speech is immanent as recognitive
apprehension (vimar sa, paramar
 sa) constitutive of all instances of
sa, pratyavamar
awareness (praka sa). Such recognitive awareness itself idealistically generates
experienced objects. See Lawrence, 85–132.

the surrender of egoistic identity in devotion to Śiva or the sublation

of it in the identification with his higher consciousness. According to
them, the human ego is itself an immanent expression of God’s
identity, which must be universalized and transfigured into its
essential nature as what Dyczkowski calls Śiva’s ‘‘super-egoity.’’24
Another pertinent mythico-ritual code developed by the monistic
Śaivas out of antecedents in the Vedas, Upanis: ads and Gta interprets
the Self’s/Śiva’s cosmic emanation through Śakti as the true body.
The Siva utra thus proclaims that all that is observable (dr: sya), that
is, the universe, is one’s body.25 The circa 12th century C.E.
Vir  : apa~
upaks  teaches a way to the realization of identity with
Śiva through the cultivation of the conviction that the universe is
one’s own body. One empowered by that conviction is able even to
move mountains as his or her own hands.26



Abhinavagupta treats the metaphor of reflection as a code for the

mythic and ritual process of Śakti engrossment closely related to
those of egoity and the body. The pattern is similar to that observed
by Granoff regarding images or reflections as the body and immanent
mode of access to the divine. For the monistic Śaivism of Abhina-
vagupta, however, the reflections and body are traces leading to the
realization of one’s own empowered identity.
Like Śankara, Abhinava conceives of reflection as both of and in
the Self/Śiva. He alternates between the two ideas most freely in his
short Paramarthas
 a reworking of Adiśes
ara, _
: a’s Samkhya-influenced
See Mark S.G. Dyczkowski, ‘‘Self Awareness, Own Being, Egoity,’’ in The
Stanzas on Vibration (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), 37–48; and
Michel Hulin, ‘‘La notion de p
urn: aha
 mt_ a dans le Śivaisme du Kaśmr,’’ in Le principe
de l’ego dans la pensee Indienne classique (Paris: Institut de Civilisation Indienne,
1978), 279–358.
The Shiva S utra Vimarshini: Being the S utras of Vasu Gupta with the
Commentary Called Vimarshini by Ks: hemaraja,  ed., J.C. Chatterji (Srinagar:
Nirnaya-Sagar Press, 1911), 1.14, 32.
 : apa~
nca  in Tantrasamgraha
sika, _ (Part 1), ed. Gopinath Kaviraj
(Varanasi: Sansar Press, 1970), 1–22. I translate and further interpret this text in The
Teachings of the Odd-Eyed One (Albany: State University of New York Press,
forthcoming). On the monistic Śaiva body symbolism regarding the diverse and
hierarchical realia of emanation, see Gavin Flood, Body and Cosmology in Kashmir

Saivism (San Francisco: Mellen University Press, 1993).

Vais: n: ava manual. Here we find typical Samkhya as well as Advaita
Ved antin illustrations of reflection. Thus Abhinava says that there is
the reflection of the Self/Śiva in diverse bodies, organs and worlds like
the moon in moving water.27 Likewise, there is the reflection of it in
the intelligence (dhi) like a face in a mirror, and like Rahu’s shadow
eclipsing the moon.28 Conversely, he says that the universe is reflected
in the consciousness of the Self/Bhairava like a village or city in a
mirror, or colors in a crystal.29
When focusing specifically on the reconciliation of unity and
multiplicity in his Pratyabhijña commentaries and other writings on
Tantra, it seems that Abhinava generally prefers the metaphor of
reflection in the Self/Śiva. As he puts it in an epitome of the Śaiva
debate with the Buddhist logicians:
In all of the opponent’s view, this is the crux: How can what is unitary be a multi-
plicity? To this it has been replied: He who has the essential nature of consciousness
is like a mirror. [In this way] there is the possibility of a diversity of appearances
without contradicting his unity. What is the contradiction? Therefore, the Essential
Nature of things,30 though unitary through the force of recognition [pratyabhij~ 
accommodates within himself contrary divisions of his essential nature.31

Besides the example of the reflection in a mirror of a village or city,

he also talks of the reflections of elephants, mountains, a flowing
river, and other things. Abhinava argues that such reflections are not
illusory. Elaborating Utpaladeva’s earlier suggestion, he contends
that it is both the purity (svacchatva) and agential self-determination
(svatantratva) of the medium that enables it to contain a diversity of
reflections as identical with itself.32
The Paramartha-S
 of Abhinavagupta with the Commentary of Yogaraja,  ed.,
J.C. Chatterji (Srinagar: Kashmir Pratap Steam Press, 1916), 7, 21.
Ibid., 8–9, 24–27.
Ibid., 6, 18; 12–13, 35.
padarth  a. My translation follows the gloss of the term as nilapitadis
in BIPV 2.1.1, 2:9.
IPV 2.1.1, 2:8–9. This is from the discussion of the Pratyabhijña theory of action

IPV 2.4.19, 2:199; IPV 2.4.5, 2:160. The concept of ‘‘agential self-determination’’
(svatantratva, svatantrya)
 is basic to the monistic Śaivas’ analysis of Śiva’s creative
action (kriya) using Sanskrit grammatical theory – regarding the syntactic relations
between verbs expressing action and declined nouns referring to accessories to action
 roughly corresponding to the Western notion of cases). According to
Sanskrit grammar, the agent is ‘‘self-determined’’ or ‘‘free’’ (svatantra) in instigating
and controlling the processes of the other accessories, whereas they as controlled by
the agent are ‘‘determined by another’’ (paratantra). In the Śaiva syntax of omni-
potence, the Self as Śiva is the self-determining agent of all subordinate processes of
all things in the universe. See Lawrence, 133–154.

Whereas Śankara alternates between ideas of reflections of and in
because he uses the metaphor in an ad hoc manner, this is not the case
with Abhinavagupta. For Abhinavagupta there is a conceptual
linkage between the alternative kinds of reflection as interpretations
of the myth of Śiva’s emanation and control of the universe through
Śakti. Śiva/the Self is both the source and the locus of reflections. All
reflections are of the Self in the Self.33
This leads to a question regarding which Abhinavagupta does give
inconsistent answers in his texts – whether or not there is a prototype
object (bimba) for the reflection (pratibimba) that is the universe.
Sometimes Abhinava indicates that there is a bimba and sometimes
that there is not. His basic point is that there is no bimba if that is
conceived as something external to consciousness. However, he always
makes it clear that there is a cause (hetu) for the pratibimba, that is, an
efficient cause (nimitta) rather than a material cause (upad  34 That
cause is none other than Śakti, variously identified as the Kaulik Śakti,
Supreme Speech (parav  ak),
 semantic intuition (pratibha),
 the Un-
surpassed (anuttara), 35 agential self-determination (svatantrya),
the various modes of self-recognition (vimar 
sa, paramar sa, and so on).
Again elaborating Utpaladeva’s earlier view, Abhinava explains
that what makes the Self/Śiva different from other reflecting media
such as a mirror, water or a crystal is its recognitive apprehension of
Thus Abhinava’s systematic correlation between the two kinds of reflection
anabhiks: u. Whereas for Vijñ
diverges from that of the later Vijñ anabhiks: u reflections
of and in the purus: a represent two stages of the process of knowledge, for Abhinava
they are two ways of describing the same fact of emanation.
See The Tantraloka
 of Abhinavagupta with the Commentary of Jayaratha, 8 vols.,
ed. Madhusudan Kaul Shastri and Mukunda Rama Shastri, Kashmir Series of Texts
and Studies, republication, ed. R.C. Dwivedi and Navjivan Rastogi (Delhi: Motilal
Banarsidass, 1987), 3.60–61, 2:420–421. (Abhinavagupta’s work will henceforth be
referred to as TA, and Jayaratha’s commentary on it, the Tantralokaviveka,
 will be
referred to as TAV.) This denial of an upadana  : a must still be reconciled with
Abhinava’s defense of a version of satkaryav
  in his Pratyabhijñ
ada a commentaries.
See IPV 2.4.18–20, 2:194–206; and the analysis in Lawrence, 148–149.
TA and TAV 3.65–67, 2:425–427.
 of Abhinavagupta, ed. Mukunda Ram Sastri, Kashmir Series of
The Tantrasara
Texts and Studies, no. 17 (Reprint, Delhi: Bani Prakashan, 1982), 4, 11. (This text
will henceforth be referred to as TS.) The 20th century monistic Śaiva holy man,
Lakshman Joo, explains in ‘‘The Theory of Reflection,’’ in Kashmir Śaivism: The
Secret Supreme (Srinagar: Universal Shaiva Trust, 1985), 30–31:
In consciousness. . .you see only the reflected thing and not anything that is
reflected. That which is reflected (bimba) is in fact svatantrya.
 This whole universe is
reflection in god Consciousness of svatantrya.
 . .. It is svatantrya,
 the absolutely
independent will of God which is the mirror and which is the cause of this effect
which is the reflection.

itself (ahamparamar
 sa). This is the cause of the externalization of
what is internal (antarbahis: karan: a). When this self-recognition gen-
erates the apprehension (vimar sa) that ‘‘I who have the nature of
awareness am aware’’ (aham. . .praka satm se), there then arise
 a praka
the structures of ordinary multiplistic experience in the triad of
pramatr : a and prameya.37
 : , praman
The monistic Śaivas’ systematic reduction of things to emanative
manifestations of the Śakti or self-recognition of universal con-
sciousness does not except the apparent agency of limited individuals.
Śiva is the true agent of all human actions.38 Applying the reflection
model to this point, Abhinava compares the manifestation of a potter
creating a pot to the reflection in a mirror of a potter creating a pot.39


Just as Abhinavagupta uses the model of reflection in his metaphysical

interpretations of the monistic Śaiva myth, so does he use it in inter-
pretations of the praxis that recapitulates the myth. With regards to the
a philosophical theology itself, he occasionally utilizes the
metaphor to support his explanations of how the contemplation of the
arguments leads to liberation. For example, he asserts that the philo-
sophical proofs establish – through concomitances and noncomitances,
and on the basis of worldly experience – that all worldly behavior rests
upon the Lord who is inlaid (khacita) or colored by diverse manifes-
tations such as blue and pleasure, which like reflections do not exist as
separate from him. He states that those who apply concentration to this
teaching are able to find identity with Śiva within that very worldly
experience that is ordinarily regarded as the condition of sams  40
_ ara.
To give another example, according to one schema mentioned
above, Abhinava conceives the modus operandi of the Pratyabhijña
system as a purification of conceptualization (vikalpasamsk _ ara).

(In his Tantraloka
 and Tantrasara,
 Abhinava thematizes this pur-

IPV 1.5.11, 1:242–243.
See above, n. 32.
See IPV 2.4.4, 2:158. (Here he also mentions the analogy of perception within a
dream.) For other examples of Abhinava’s basic metaphysical uses of the analogy of
reflection, see IPV 1.6.3, 1:309; IPV 2.1 benediction, 2:1; IPV 2.1.8, 2:26–27; IPV
2.4.10, 2:173; IPV 3.1.1–2, 2:216–220; Bodhapa~ ncada  in Jagaddhar Zadoo, ed.,
Bodhapa~ sika and Paramarthacarc
ncada  a (Srinagar: Krishna Printing Press, 1947),
4, 5; and Paramarthacarc
  idem., 4–5, 9–11.
IPV 1.7.14, 1:390–391.

ification as typifying a broader classification of spiritual practice that

he calls the sakta  ‘‘means of Śakti,’’ which operates discursively
at the intermediate metaphysical level of bhedabheda,
and-nondifferentiation.’’ ) The pure ( suddha) and the impure
suddha) forms of conceptualization, which define the trajectory of
purification, are distinguished by whether or not one realizes one’s
emanatory self-recognition (Śakti). In this vein, in a discussion of the
Pratyabhijñ a theory of ‘‘egoity,’’ Abhinava distinguishes the pure
suddha) from the delusory (may  iya) recognitive apprehension of ‘‘I’’
(ahamityavamar sa) by qualifying the former as belonging to a ‘‘pure
nature that is inlaid with the reflections of the universe.’’42

See Lawrence, 57–65. Abhinavagupta consolidated earlier efforts of systematization
into a typology of four increasingly internal and unitive sets of spiritual practices: (1) the
: ava upaya, ‘‘individual means,’’ that is, the most concrete rituals; (2) the sakta
 up aya,
‘‘means of Śakti,’’ involving study, philosophy and discursive meditations; (3) the
 upaya, ‘‘means of Śambhu’’ higher and progressively more intuitive con-
templations; and (4) the anup aya, ‘‘nonmeans,’’ the direct absorption into the Ultimate
with little or no practice, the realization that the Ultimate has always been realized. While
the term sakta
 up aya emphasizes the importance of the process of Śakti-engrossment to
this category, one should understand that such engrossment actually occurs in all the
spiritual means.
IPV 1.6.4–5, 1:313. To explain this passage more fully, Abhinava states that the
pure egoity belongs either to a ‘‘pure consciousness undifferentiated from the universe’’
_ atre
 vi svabhinne)
 or one ‘‘having a pure nature that is inlaid with the reflections
of the universe’’ (vi svacchay
 acch atmani). The commentator, Bh askara specifies
the two qualifications as pertaining respectively to the tattvas Śiva and Sad aśiva. BIPV
1.6.4–5, 1:313. Madhusudan Kaul, in his notes to his Kashmir Series edition, The
I na of Utpaladeva with the Vimar sini of Abhinavagupta, 2 vols. (Reprint,
Delhi: Butala & Company, 1984), 1:247, correlates them with the states of the Supreme
Śiva and Sadaśiva. (These notes are believed to have some basis in Śaiva interpretive
traditions.) Despite the minor disagreement, it is significant that both scholars ascribe
the realization of the universe as reflection to Sad aśiva. Sad
aśiva is known to possess
the Pure Wisdom (  of the fact of emanation, which animates the
Pratyabhijña sastra
 and Abhinavagupta’s sakta  
Also of interest is Abhinavagupta’s brief advertence to reflection in his explanation
of the qualified student’s reception of the meaning of Utpaladeva’s introductory verse
to the Isvarapratyabhij~  arik
nak  a. Abhinavagupta exegetically unpacks a summary of
the context, purpose and method of the entire  
sastra from this verse. Focusing on
Utpaladeva’s assertion that ‘‘desiring the benefit [upakara]  of humanity, I am estab-
lishing the recognition [pratyabhij~  of him [that is, the Great Lord, Śiva]’’ (IPK
1.1.1, 1:6) – Abhinava explains that one who is qualified will interpret the reference to
humanity as applying to oneself. That is, as with the determination of individual
actions from injunctions, one will resolve what is in Western grammar called the
‘‘third person’’ (in Sanskrit the ‘‘first person’’) into the first person (Sanskrit ‘‘final
person’’). Such a qualified student will from Utpaladeva’s pronouncement receive the
transmission of the meaning of the  sastra
 like the reflection of an original image
(bimbapratibimbavat), and realize himself or herself to have attained the recognition
of the Great Lord. IPV 1.1.1, 1:44–46.

The contemplations of the Pratyabhijña sastra

 may be understood
as falling within what Abhinavagupta calls the sakta  
upaya. Abhi-
navagupta actually utilizes the metaphor of reflection most sub-
stantively and elaborately in describing the less discursive and more
unitive contemplations of what he calls the sambhava
of Śambhu,’’ which is the focus of the parallel third chapters of his

Tantraloka and Tantrasara.
 Abhinava makes the contemplation of all
things as reflections into a definitive feature of this way to realization.
As he typifies this in the Tantraloka:

The one for whom the entire, multitudinous collection of entities appears as a
reflection within his Self, which is Consciousness – he is indeed the Lord of the
universe. . ..43

In another formulation, Abhinava posits a special linkage between

reflection and the persistence (sthiti) of things. He identifies this
persistence as the expression of the divine act of preservation, inter-
mediate between creation and withdrawal:
I manifest the universe in the ether of consciousness that is nothing but my own Self.
Thus I am the creator and the essence of the universe. With this understanding, one
realizes identity with Bhairava. The entire group of the six adhvans [courses of
emanation] is reflected in me. I am the agent of their persistence [sthitikarta].
this realization, one comprehends the universe in one’s nature. The universe becomes
dissolved in me, whose nature is entwined with the flames of the eternally arisen great
wisdom [mahabodha].
 Seeing this, one finds [ultimate] rest.44

From this perspective, creation is the instigation of the reflection and

destruction the realization of the reflection’s unity with the Self/Śiva.45

TA 3.268, 2:598. Cf. Lakshman Jee, 32:
The theory of reflection (pratibimbavada)  is meant for advanced yogins. This
theory teaches them how to be aware in their daily activities, while talking, while
walking, while tasting, while touching, while hearing, while smelling. While they are
doing all of these various actions they see that all of these actions move in their
Supreme Consciousness. Their vision, their perception, heretofore limited becomes
unlimited. The mode of their actions becomes absolutely unique. They see each and
every action in their God Consciousness. They exist in the state of Sada siva. Each
and every action of their life becomes glorious. This is awareness that comes from the
practice of pratibimba.
TA 3.283–285, 2:608.
Krama tantrism, appropriated by the late Kashmiri Trika, identifies emission
(sr: st:i), persistence (sthiti), and withdrawal (samh
_ ara)
 as three phases of cognition.
Persistence is also identified with embodiment (avatara).  Alexis Sanderson,
‘‘Meaning in Tantric Ritual,’’ in Essais sur le Rituel, III, ed. Anne-Marie Blondeau
and Kristofer Schipper (Louvain-Paris: Peeters, 1995), 63. In the generic fivefold
scheme of divine acts, delusion and grace are the homologues in the experience of
limited subjects of cosmic creation and destruction.


In his discussions of the sambhava

  in the Tantraloka
upaya  and
 Abhinava propounds a number of specialized ‘‘theoso-
phical’’ ruminations on the mantric aspects of emanation, which
make use of the model of reflection. He further develops these
teachings in his Paratr
 i  : a, which may also be interpreted
as largely describing the  
upaya. This remarkably complex
scheme has been analyzed by scholars such as Andre Padoux and
Jaideva Singh, and I will only say a little bit about it here.
This scheme explains how Śiva’s Supreme Speech (parav  ema-
nates into all the phonetic components of mantras and corresponding
cosmic principles (tattvas). At the Para, ‘‘Supreme,’’ level of Abhi-
nava’s Trika rubric, Śiva subsists in unity with the Goddess Para
Śakti who is the same as Supreme Speech. As such, Śiva is also called
‘‘Bhairava, the collectivity of sound,’’ ( sibhairava) for he
contains within his unity all the undifferentiated phonemes as well as
the archetypal bimbas of all the tattvas.
The concrete phonemes from a to ks: a emerge in the descent
through the Par apara, ‘‘Intermediate,’’ and Apara, ‘‘Lower,’’ cosmic
levels. As such, they constitute the media in which are reflected the
series of pratibimbas that are the hierarchy of tattvas. Abhinava also
explains that all the tattvas, from Śakti to Earth, are manifest on
the lower levels in an inverted, mirror image of their order as
bimbas in Śiva’s monistic consciousness at the Para level.46 My basic
point is that this scheme enhances the cosmological scope of
reflection as a metaphorical code for the monistic Śaiva mythico-
ritual process. It provides both an intricate account of emanation as
the reflection of and in the true Self/Śiva and a rigorous program
for the meditations of the sambhava
  that recapitulate that
mythic reality.

See Abhinavagupta, A Trident of Wisdom: Translation of the Paratr  isika-

Vivaran: a, trans. with notes by Jaideva Singh (Albany: State University of New York
Press, 1989), passim, including the tables at 106–107; and Andre Padoux, Vac:  The
Concept of the Word in Selected Hindu Tantras, trans. Jacques Gontier (Albany:
State University of New York Press, 1990), 306–316. The Para level also includes the
bimbas of the subsequent stages of emanating speech, viz., para-pa  syanti, para-
madhyama and para-vaikhar
 i. Also notable is Abhinavagupta’s theory that the Para
level’s eternal present is the bimba of future and past times respectively at the
Intermediate and Lower levels.


Abhinavagupta applies the metaphor of reflection in a more ad hoc

manner to other practices. Particularly interesting is his use of it in
the explanation of the sexual ritual. According to Abhinava, sexual
sensations like other forms of sense experience have the character of
reflections.47 For Abhinava the sexual ritual, like aesthetic con-
noisseurship, aims at the universalization and transfiguration of
pleasure into its essential nature as the blissful self–satisfaction and
perfect egoity of Śiva’ emanating consciousness.48
Just as, in the more internalized practices described above, the
individual contemplates his or her self-reflection in the entire universe
– the participants in the sexual rites find immanent media for the
reflection of their divine identity in each other. In the following
passage, Abhinava describes the realization of power in the con-
gregation of yogins (yoginimelaka) as a mutual mirroring of the
participants, which deindividualizes their corporeality:
Consciousness is the essential nature of everything. However, it becomes contracted
in different bodies. In the congregation it becomes expansive [again] through [the
participants’] reflection of each other in their union. The flow of shining innate rays is
reflected in the consciousnesses [of the participants] like in many mirrors; blazing,
they become universal [sarvayeta] without effort.49

He further explains that the communion of the audience of singing

and dancing works in the same way:
For the same reason, in an audience of many for a series of songs, and so on, there is
delight when there is identification of all [the spectators with each other in the
experience], but not for each one [spectator] separately. In the dance, and so on, the
blissful consciousness of each individual attains such a state of unity, and thus enjoys
perfect bliss.50 When there is the absence of causes of contraction, such as envy,
jealousy, and so on, consciousness becomes expansive without obstacles. That is
the bliss of the yogin.51

TS 3, 10–11.
See The I svarapratyabhij~
navivr sini by Abhinavagupta, 3 vols., ed.
 : tivimar
Madhusudan Kaul Shastri, Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies (Reprint, Delhi:
Akay Book Corporation, 1987), 1.5.11, 2:177–179. Sanderson and White emphasize
how Abhinavagupta’s philosophical rationalization and aestheticization of the
sexual ritual domesticized tantrism for a brahmanical audience.
TA 28.373b–375a, 7:3264–3265.
urn: ananda.
TA 28.375b–378a, 7:3265–3266. To mention one more example of these ritual
applications of the reflection model, Abhinavagupta at TA 32.1–2, 7:3593–3594
interprets the mudra as a pratibimba, citing the authority of the Devyay  amala-



Thus with Abhinavagupta reflection is added to the monistic Śaiva

and high tantric repertoire of interpretive codes for the mythic and
ritual engrossment of Śakti, homologous to and intertwined with
the fundamental schema of self-recognition, egoity, cosmic embo-
diment and emanating Supreme Speech. I will conclude by quoting
a few excerpts from post-Abhinavagupta texts that – whether or not
they had the ancient scripture in mind – illustrate the monistic Śaiva
traditions’ ‘‘transvaluation’’ of the stance on reflected identity of the

Chandogya Upanis: ad’s instruction of Indra. Pun: yananda, a circa
13th century writer in the lineage of Abhinavagupa, in his Śrvidya
work Kamakal
avil  describes Śakti as the ‘‘taintless mirror
of Śiva’s recognitive apprehension of his own form’’ (sivar u-
pavimar  sa).52 Nat:anandanatha in his commentary,
Cidvalli, associates the contemplation of one’s reflection with an-
other common code for Śakti-engrossment, the king’s realization of
The essential form or aspect of Śiva is expressed ‘‘I.’’ There is the recognitive dis-
cernment [vimarsa] or recognitive apprehension [paramar sa, of that essential form].
Recognitive apprehension [paramar  sana] is the knowledge of [that] form ‘‘I.’’ The
taintless mirror [that is, Śakti] discloses [praka
sane] that [form] as facing oneself. . ..
This is the meaning: A certain enthroned and very handsome king observes facing
himself the reflection of himself on the surface of a clear mirror that is facing him. He
knows ‘‘I am the one of whom there is the reflection.’’ Similarly the Supreme Lord
also observes facing himself his own Śakti, who is [actually] situated within himself.

Pun: yananda and Nat:anandan atha, Kamak
alavil  with Commentary Cidvalli,
ed. Svamiji Maharaja Vanakhandeshvara (Datia: Pitambarapith Sanskrit Parishad,
1979), 2, 10.
See IPV 1.1.3, 1:67–68 on the king as illustrative example (dr: :st:anta)
 in the
Pratyabhijña inference of the individual’s Lordship. One infers and recognizes that
one is Lord of the universe like the king over his domain. This passage is discussed in
Lawrence, 55. As already mentioned, sovereignty is also an important practical
expression of the engrossment of Śakti. For historical perspectives see Senjukta
Gupta and Richard Gombrich, ‘‘Kings, Power and the Goddess,’’ South Asia
Research 6 (1986), 123–138; and White, ‘‘The Power of the Yogin: Tantric Actors in
South Asia,’’ in Kiss of the Yogini, 123–159.

He knows his own essential form, as is expressed ‘‘I am completely perfect

urn: a].’’54

In his eulogy of Abhinavagupta, the Gurunathapar  

aja’s describes the impact of the guru’s teachings:
The darkness of doubts had veiled the heart. All these have been removed by the
thorough study of the reasoning of Abhinavagupta. Thus this whole world-egg
shines [in the heart] like a face in a mirror. Though appearing as separate,
this [world-egg, actually] is not separate and consists of self-recognitive apprehension

Pun: yananda and Nat:anandan atha, 2, 13. This passage is discussed in Gopi-
nath Kaviraj, Bharat
 iya Samskr _ : ti aur Sadhan
  2 vols. (Patna: Bihar Rastrabhasa
Parisad, 1977–1979), 1:20. In fact, Nat:an andanatha frequently refers to the
 Upanis: ad, as he does to the Pratyabhijñ a philosophy. Note that in
speaking of a transvaluation of the Chandogya  Upanis: ad’s stance on reflected
identity, I am not addressing the broader complex of relations of tantrism with the
Vedas and Upanis: ads in myth, metaphysics, sacrifice, mantra, and so on. Tantric
as well as bhakti traditions often highlight themes in the Upanis: ads in particular
that are exegetically downplayed by other traditions, for example, in their valua-
tions of agency and immanence. In the 19th century Paul Deussen, The Philosophy
of the Upanishads (Reprint, New York: Dover Publications, 1966), echoed the
former traditions in his argument that a ‘‘pantheistic’’ identification of Atman/ 
Brahman with the world is the dominant viewpoint of the Upanis: ads. The dis-
embodied and non-imaginary witness Self with which Indra learns to identify in
 Upanis: ad, 8.7–12, 80–83, is paradoxically described in a manner of
which the monistic Śaivas would approve – as one upon the realization of which a
person ‘‘obtains all worlds and all desires’’ (sarvam _ sca lokan
_ sca
Madhuraja, Gurunathapar
 sa, ed. V. Raghavan, in Abhinavagupta and His
Works (Varanasi: Chaukhambha Orientalia, 1981), 29, 10.

Having recognitively apprehended [vimr: 

sya] the universe on the clear surface of the
mirror of self-recognitive apprehension [svatmavimar
 sa], we wander freely, relishing
[rasika] in the play of manifesting creation and destruction according to our own

Department of Philosophy and Religion,

University of North Dakota,
P.O. Box 7128,
Grand Forks, ND 58202-7128,

Ibid., 44, 15. In future publications, I plan to engage comparatively the monistic
Śaivas’ usage of the model of reflection with Western discussions of reflection and
‘‘narcissism’’ in metaphysics and philosophical psychology. Western philosophy and
theology since the Hellenistic period, including Platonism, Hermeticism, Gnosticism
and Judeo-Christian thought, have frequently described God as creating the world
and creatures in his own image. In Neoplatonism, for example, the hypostases
constitute a series of reflections emanating from the One. I mention that Julia
Kristeva has made some interesting and germane observations on Plotinus’ inter-
pretation of the myth of Narcissus. Plotinus compares one who does not immediately
trace the beauty immanent in the world to its transcendent source – to Narcissus who
perished gazing at his image in the pool. However, while Plotinus thus deplores
Narcissism, Kristeva observes that the ascent to and identification with the One that
he advocates is itself ‘‘Narcissan,’’ as he describes the experience of one who is ‘‘alone
with him who is alone’’ in terms of gaze and reflection. Julia Kristeva, Tales of Love,
trans. Leon S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), 103–121. Also
see the rich study of A.H. Armstrong, ‘‘Platonic Mirrors,’’ in Hellenic and Christian
Studies (Hampshire, Great Britain: Variorum, 1990), 147–181. As with monistic
Śaivism along with many expressions of the broader range of South Asian traditions
examined by Granoff, Neoplatonists use the concept of reflection to describe the
immanence of the transcendent, by which one may trace one’s way back to the
Ultimate Reality. For Abhinavagupta – as for Plotinus as well as Indra and Virocana
in the Chandogya
 Upanis: ad – the spiritual error is believing in the independent and
substantial existence of what is only a reflection. However, the Platonic–Neoplatonic
conception of the participation (methexis) or imitation (mimesis) of the ideal in
matter or nonbeing differs ‘‘qualitatively’’ from Śaiva and other South Asian
understandings of emanation. It may likewise be said that the ancient Neoplatonists
placed ‘‘quantitatively’’ less value on the approach to the transcendent through the
immanent than the tantric traditions. Renaissance Neoplatonism and later idealism
and Romanticism increased the valuation of the immanent reflection of the trans-