Thursday, May 14, 2009

Indra's Net = Internet ?

This is the epigraph I've placed on page one of The Principle of Ultimate Indivisibility:

Far away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net which has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches out indefinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel at the net’s every node, and since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels, glittering like stars of the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look closely at it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that the process of reflection is infinite.

---The Avatamsaka Sutra
Hua-Yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra
Francis H. Cook
(drawing by Wendy Drolma)

When the authors of the Vedic texts first described Indra's Net over 2,500 years ago, it almost seems they were describing the mind-numbingly myriad nodes and threads of today's Internet. Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, the whole social networking complex is a clumsy, rough-edged facsimile of the infinite sparkling elegance of the net of Indra. Were the ancients spookily prescient? Well, anything's possible. I imagine they were sadhus, exploring the vast inner deep, and giving us a metaphor for what they encountered there: the indescribable unity and inter-penetration of all things.

In other words, they were describing the same truths about humans and the universe that govern us today, and that we are currently manifesting through technology. Some days as I surf Facebook, I've been surprised by a nudge of excitement to be part of the physical manifestation of a long-hidden esoteric principle, our blind striving for unity. We have no choice but to manifest this at this time in history because we are who we are. On one level, we are programmed by evolution to seek connection with other humans: a cellular impulse tells us we’re safer in groups than alone. On another level, quantum physics has shown that we and everything else we see are all momentary flickers in one vast energy field. We are intimately connected because we are all One.

But still, everyday life happens. We must behave as if the illusion is real. Enmeshed in the dazzling net of Indra, we still must do the laundry. And as we do it, invisible lines of energy radiating like the reflections of jewels from total strangers, exert subtle influence on our every decision, turning our paths in new directions. Then we in turn unknowingly alter the lives of others, and the reflections multiply, ripples spreading ever outward in all directions.

I hope my book of stories gives a fleeting glimpse of not only the lives of others like me and you, but also of the sparkling web that weaves us all together.


  1. Well, that certainly is a different take on all the Internet twaddle. I'll have to think about it. Thanks for sending me the email about your blog. Mine is called "Notes from a Crusty Spiritual Seeker." Hello, fellow traveler.

  2. Interesting notion, the Internet as a facsimile of Indra's net. So far, our technology does not shine as brightly. Before it enslaves us, like any dutiful servant, cyberspace may one day be viewed as a poor cousin to what we all should be able to do without resorting to bits and bytes.


  3. Betsy, thanks, I'll take a look at your blog.

    And Malcolm, yes, won't it be great when someday humans have evolved to the point where all this hardware and software will no longer be necessary. That will be REAL technology. (Of course, I don't expect this to happen in my lifetime or my grandchildren's but note the optimism that it could happen at all... eventually.)

  4. Its time we reassessed the question of how we interract with Earth at the most basic levels. Where we get our water, our food. We have the technology and knowledge now to live in bliss, yet we say that that technology and knowledge is our excuse for not living in bliss. I have been musing over radical societal structures the past few hours. Electricity is central to the new primitive homestead movement. Its about getting our wires dirty... Let us marry the joys of conveniance with the bliss of enjoying our simplest, instinctual actions, cupping water to your face after tending the crops - RETAINING OBSCURE JAPANESE PUNK ON YOUTUBE WHILST