In Chapter 15 of the Gita, Shankara makes it the sun instead of the moon and he describes multiple reflections in jars of water; the sun shines from each pot of water. Now this is an illustration of the Lord projecting himself into many bodies: the pots can be carried about, and it seems that the reflected sun is carried about too.
In some of the far eastern poems about the moon in the water it is said in a similar way that you can capture the moon in the water if you go up to the lake with a dipper; you can catch the moon and carry it away if you hold it very steadily. You have carried the moon away and yet it is still there in the lake and more than that, it is there in the sky. These are themes for meditation, and one of the great Zen meditations is called Moon in the Water.
To return to Shankara and the sun reflected in the pots. Shankara uses this pot illustration to show how how the Lord incarnates in a body, limiting himself to the body as a reflection. He says in one place that the ray of the sun is so to speak like the projection of a part of the sun deep into the water, and if the water is dried up that ray returns to its source in the sun. That is to say the illusory reflected sun is as deep in the water as the real sun is high above. When the water is dried up that illusory depth along with the illusory reflection returns to the sun.
There are many verses in the Gita which speak of this reflected self.
13.31: The Supreme Self, abiding in the body.
13.32: Abiding in the body the self is not stained.
2.13: As to the embodied soul in this body come childhood, youth, old age so they come into another body. The wise man is not confused herein.
3.40: With these it confuses the embodied soul obscuring his knowledge.
13.15: Without and within all beings. (Sankara says “Within refers to the inmost self, pratyag-atman, inside the envelope of the skin”)
How can the Lord be confined to a body? He has given the illustration of the sun seeming to be confined to the water pot and this is developed. We experience this clearly when we see the reflection undisturbed; then by a jump we can realise that it is a reflection of the great sun and we don’t think that sun is confined to the innermost self of man simply. But the ripples have to be reduced by actual practice and experiment.
© Trevor Leggett