The world is like a city seen in a mirror

Adi Shankaracharya, in the Dakshinamurthy Stotram, says —

विश्वं दर्पणदृश्यमाननगरीतुल्यं निजान्तर्गतं

पश्यन्नात्मनि मायया बहिरिवोद्भूतं यथा निद्रया ।

यः साक्षात्कुरुते प्रबोधसमये स्वात्मानमेवाद्वयं

तस्मै श्रीगुरुमूर्तये नम इदं श्रीदक्षिणामूर्तये ॥१॥

Vishvam Darpanna-Drshyamaana-Nagarii-Tulyam Nija-Antargatam

Pashyann-Aatmani Maayayaa Bahir-Ivo[a-U]dbhuutam Yathaa Nidrayaa |

Yah Saakssaat-Kurute Prabodha-Samaye Sva-[A]atmaanam-Eva-Advayam

Tasmai Shrii-Guru-Muurtaye Nama Idam Shrii-Dakssinnaamuurtaye ||1||


(Salutations to Sri Dakshinamurthy Who Awakens the Glory of the Atman within us through His Profound Silence)

1.1: The Entire World is Like a City Seen within a Mirror, the Seeing happening within One’s Own Being,

1.2: It is a Witnessing happening within the Atman, (the Witnessing) of the Externally Projected World; Projected by the Power of Maya; As if a Dream in Sleep,

1.3: One Experiences this Directly (this Play of Maya) during Spiritual Awakening within the Non-Dual Expanse of One’s Own Atman,

1.4: Salutations to Him, the Personification of Our Inner Guru Who Awakens This Knowledge through His Profound Silence; Salutation to Sri Dakshinamurthy.

This a direct experience and can be realized very easily. Anything we can experience in the world of objects is only with our consciousness. Swami Sarvapriyananda says there are three steps —


  1. There is the world of objects and there is my consciousness.
  2. I experience the world of objects with my consciousness .
  3. I realize that these objects are only known in my consciousness, there is no way to know if they exist independent of my consciousness.

WRT the 3rd point, someone might argue that, “Sure we can. Ask another person to check if the object exists. They confirm it and that’s how we know if it has independent existence apart from consciousness!”

That is a logical mistake. Why? Here’s why. Whether you know something directly using your senses and mind, or you know something indirectly, via testimony of “others”, all knowing is only in your own consciousness. Therefore, all things that are known are only in your own consciousness, never outside it.


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One Reply to “The world is like a city seen in a mirror”

  1. The sloka

    Vishvam (Universe) Darpanna-Drshyamaana-Nagarii-Tulyam (equivalent to city seen in mirror) Nija-Antargatam (within one’s own)
    Pashyann (seeing) Aatmani Maayayaa Bahir (Atman’s external mAya) -Ivo[a-U]dbhuutam Yathaa Nidrayaa (as if arising in sleep )
    Yah Saakssaat (which with own eyes) Kurute (perform/does) Prabodha-Samaye (at the time of awakening) Sva-[A]atmaanam-Eva-Advayam ( self Atman like non-duality)
    Tasmai Shrii-Guru-Muurtaye Nama (salutations unto that guru-murti) Idam Shrii-Dakssinnaamuurtaye (this sri dakSinamurti)

    Summary of my translation

    Like an entire city seen inside a mirror, universe is (seen) within one’s own. Seeing the Atman’s external mAya as if (seeing) in sleep (dream). That at the time of awakening with one’s own eyes, brings up non-duality as if seeing from Atman himself. Unto that guru-mUrti salutations , This (is) dakSinamUrti.

    My understanding of this sloka

    When we are sleeping, we see events happening around us. But that’s not the reality. It’s a perception. There is duality here. There is one reality and second our perception. This is dvayam.

    The Universe is like this, a ‘city’ seen inside a mirror. What we see inside the mirror is not the reality. It is the reflection of the City. The City has buildings, lanes big and small. The city has people moving all around. All these are inside (our) mirror. But neither the sizes, shapes, characteristics of what see in the mirror are original characteristics of the City.

    What we understand from the image of the City in the mirror is our perception. What the real city is, the reality. There is this duality here. Likewise, what we see in the Universe is the mAya of Atman. It is not the reality. Neither the sizes, shapes, characteristics of what we observe in the Universe are original characteristics. There is a different reality in our Universe, compared to our perception. There is duality here.

    But when we wake-up, the duality disappears. There is one reality. The perception disappears. This is advyam.

    So how do we wake up and see the original city or original Universe.?

    My short understanding from other slokas

    Realize that there is this Atman, who is the seed from which the Universe expanded, who is like the seed that sits at the root of a huge banyan tree in silence, giving rise to the hugely spreading banyan tree.

    Call this seed as ‘Iswar’, ‘Guru’, ‘Atman’ etc etc etc. They are all different functions of the same.

    Salutations to that Guru-mUrti, who is this dakSinamUrti.


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