Woven from Indra’s Net

Self-Inquiry in an Interpersonal World

Nathan Smith
Interfaith Now

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Mural depicting Indra, Apsara, and musician (5th century India). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

In ancient Vedic thought, the cosmos is — or at least may be compared to — a net filled with jewels. This net of jewels was crafted by Indra, king of divine beings, who is said to have vanquished every adversary of humanity — which is to say that his net is nothing to sneeze at. Which is good news, given you and I are tangled up in this net already.

In Huayan Buddhism — a school of thought which began in China and went on to influence several Buddhist lineages (including Zen) — Indra’s net of jewels is used as a way of conceptualizing our own situation in the universe. According to the Flower Garland Sutra (Huayan’s primary text), this net of jewels is fractal in nature. In other words, you’re not merely a homogenous jewel caught in a cosmic net; you yourself are a net full of jewels of your own, each of which comprises a net of jewels of its own, ad infinitum. The same goes for when you pan out: our own cosmic net of jewels is but one jewel in an even greater net full of countless other jewels — and so on. As with any net, when you tug at one part of Indra’s net, the rest is moved. And every jewel in this net is so immaculately polished that they reflect their neighboring jewels as well. As if this were not dizzying enough, it’s important to understand that this is not just a commentary on space, but time. We are…

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Nathan Smith
Interfaith Now

Writer, therapy student, queer; interested in psychology, philosophy, literature, religion/spirituality. YouTube.com/@MindMakesThisWorld @NateSmithSNF