Saturday, December 20, 2008
Here on this snowy Vermont Saturday morning I'm thinking about Indra's Net. The story of Indra's Net seems to be showing up in my life in many surprising and not so surprising ways. Gifts of spirit and kindness received this season, words chosen for a dying friend, joy felt when laughing with loved ones, a nod and smile from a frenzied stranger shopping for those last holiday items...
Indra's Net is about connection. I'm drawn to connection despite how profoundly I am also drawn to solitude. Perhaps that is why I am often clumsy and imperfect in my attempts to create it or respond to the invitation of it. Yet despite my stumbling, opportunities for connection continue to come in countless ways each day and are found at every intersection like the gems in Indra's Net.
The story of Indra's net is found in the Avatamsaka Sutra. This Sutra is one of the most influential Mahayana Sutras of East Asian Buddhism. The text describes a cosmos of infinite realms upon realms, mutually containing each other. Here is a brief translation:
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 FRANCIS H. COOK: HUA-YEN BUDDHISM : THE JEWEL NET OF INDRA 1977
Maybe this sutra has such meaning for me because of the particular metaphor used. Jewelry making for me is so many things...Sometimes it takes forever to complete a piece simply because I'm in such wonder at a single gemstone mined from the Earth and miraculously here, in the palm of my hand. I feel such profound connection to the organic roots of each stone...I think that's why I prefer stones that are a bit more rough-cut, and irregular rather than a more uniform and finely polished bead. For me the latter feels too far away from the Earth...too removed.
Perhaps the promise of a more quiet season may contribute to the quiet nature of these peace and transcendence that my Snowy-Buddha's face inspires prompts these thoughts. Anyway, I am grateful for connection and solitude. Today.