“The Net of Indra is a profound and subtle metaphor for the structure of reality. Imagine a vast net; at each crossing point there is a jewel; each jewel is perfectly clear and reflects all the other jewels in the net, the way two mirrors placed opposite each other will reflect an image ad infinitum. The jewel in this metaphor stands for an individual being, or an individual consciousness, or a cell or an atom. Every jewel is intimately connected with all other jewels in the universe, and a change in one jewel means a change, however slight, in every other jewel.”
From The Enlightened Mind, by Stephen Mitchell
For as long as I can remember, I have held an innate view of life as holographic in nature, so naturally I was fascinated by the astute analogy of Indra’s Net.
Searching the web, I came across a great site www.heartspace.org, that gives a deep and penetrating exploration of Indra’s Net.*
1. The Holographic Nature of the Universe
Long before the existence of the hologram, the jeweled net is an excellent description of the special characteristic of holograms: that every point of the hologram contains information regarding all other points. This reflective nature of the jewels is an obvious reference to this.
This kind of analogy has been suggested by science as a theory for an essential characteristic of the cosmos, as well as the functioning of the human brain, as beautifully described in The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot.
2. The Interconnectedness of All Things
When any jewel in the net is touched, all other jewels in the node are affected. This speaks to the hidden interconnectedness and interdependency of everything and everyone in the universe, and has an indirect reference to the concept of “Dependent Origination” in Buddhism. Additionally, Indra’s Net is a definitive ancient correlate of Bell’s Theorem, or the theory of non-local causes.
3. Lack of a substantive self
Each node, representing an individual, simply reflects the qualities of all other nodes, inferring the notion of ‘not-self’ or a lack of a solid and real inherent self, as seen in the Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism and Buddhism in general.
Indra’s Net shoots holes in the assumption or imputation of a solid and fixed universe ‘out there’. The capacity of one jewel to reflect the light of another jewel from the other edge of infinity is something that is difficult for the linear mind, rational mind to comprehend. The fact that all nodes are simply reflections indicates that there is no particular single source point from where it all arises.
5. Innate Wisdom
The ability to reflect the entirety of all light in the universe attests to the inherent transcendent wisdom that is at the core of all nodes, representing all sentient beings, and to the inherent Buddha Nature.
6. Illusion or Maya
The fact that all nodes are simply a reflection of all others implies the illusory nature of all appearances. Appearances are thus not reality but a reflection of reality.
7. Universal Creativity
A familiar concept in various high dharmas is one of an impersonal creative intelligence that springs forth into reality through the instruments of all living beings.
8. The Mirror-like Nature of Mind
The capacity to reflect all things attests to the mind being a mirror of reality, not its basis. This is a common thesis among various schools and religions.
It’s also interesting to note that contemporary physicists are in general agreement that this ancient metaphor is indeed a good description for the universe. And Indra’s Net has been used as a defining metaphor for the Internet. One major web hosting site is www.indra.com.
*Reprinted with permission.