C O N S C I O U S N E S S
The Mandala of Shiva, from the Shiva Rahasya, Jodhpur, 1827
R E A L I T Y • T H I CH NHAT HANH
The Avatamsaka Sutra is the source of the well-known image of Indra’s Net. Indra’s Net is a vast, cosmic lattice that contains precious jewels wherever the threads cross. There are millions of jewels strung together to make the net, and each jewel has many facets. When you look at any facet of any one jewel, you can see all the other jewels reflected in it. In Indra’s Net, the one is present in the all, and the all is present in the one.
INDRA’S NET Ancient traditions and religions have known intuitively and for millennia what quantum physics is now proving: that all things are interconnected and the whole of creation is interdependent. This vast web of being – Indra’s Net – pervades us all. What we do to one part of the web is reflected in all other parts of the web, like a hologram. Therefore, the destruction humanity wreaks upon the planet it is inevitably wreaking upon itself.
In our ordinary discriminatory world, we see a teapot as a single, independent object. But if we look deeply enough into the teapot, we will see that it contains many phenomena – Earth, water, fire, air, space and time – and we realise that in fact the entire universe has come together to make this teapot. That is the interdependent nature of the teapot. A flower is made up of many non-flower elements, such as clouds, soil and sunshine. Without clouds and Earth, there could be no flower. This is interbeing. The one is the result of the all. What makes the all possible is the one. We can see the nature of interbeing and interpenetration in every seed and formation. Interpenetration means that the all is in one. The flower cannot easily exist by itself alone. It has to ‘inter-be’ with everything else. All phenomena are like that. The Buddha said, “This is, because that is.” This is a simple but profound teaching. It means that everything is related to everything else. Everything enters into and is entered into by everything else. The sunshine interpenetrates the vegetation, the vegetation interpenetrates the soil and animals, and we interpenetrate each other.
18 Resurgence No. 256 September/October 2009