Indra’s Net

Indra's net water drops 1
“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 infinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel in each “eye” of the net, and since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels, glittering “like” stars in 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 there is an infinite reflecting process occurring.”
~ The Avatamsaka Sutra (Translated by Francis H. Cook)

When I was in second grade, I stunk at arithmetic. I saw numbers and my brain went all scrambly and confused. When someone said math was easy and that I should know it, I felt anxious and panicky which did not help with the scrambly confusion. Not even a little bit.

I cried a lot during Mrs. Schneider’s second grade math lessons. I pushed my chair back from my desk in frustration, wept and threw pencils. Mrs. Schneider was patient. She never said it was easy or something I should know. Mrs. Schneider, with her long 1970s hair piled into a pumpkin-sized bun on her head, was far more patient with me than I was.

Sometimes we played “games” to see who could answer math problems fastest. You cannot imagine the scrambly panic these unspeakable events caused in my 7-year-old self. It was bad enough to be faced with all those stupid numbers. But to have to solve problems quickly and with a whole team of classmates counting on me? Tears and thrown writing instruments were almost guaranteed.

In the midst of the second grade math mess, I found a little trick that helped me: I broke down and reorganized the numbers so they made sense to me. Crazy and multi-stepped as it was, it got me over the scramble brain and let me breathe.

Soon after finding my reorganizing trick, Mrs. Schneider set up one of her speed “games” and said, “Raise your hand as soon as you know the answer.” It was a situation that would have caused me a sincere case of confused scramblies but with my new trick, my hand was up in a flash. Over and over. Zoom! Up went my hand.

And Mrs. Schneider saw it. She looked at me with bright eyes and pressed her wide, warm palm against my raised hand. “Yes!” she said. “You figured it out!”

To this day, I can feel her smooth strong hand against mine. I can still feel her love and her faith in me.

Buddhist teachings use the metaphor of Indra’s Net: a huge web with a jewel at the intersection of each strand. Each jewel represents everything that exists or has ever existed and every jewel is reflected in every other jewel. As Timothy Brook writes, “Everything that exists in Indra’s web implies all else that exists.”

It’s true in our bodies, in Nature, in society, our lives, the 13 Principles, everything. Everything reflects and is affected by everything else. Any belief to the contrary is an illusion.

I still stink at math. And I’m still touched by Mrs. Scheider’s kindness and encouragement. We all have her power to send ripples into the future and to see everything reflected in everything else.

So, sweet Jewels, what do you want to reflect from your corner of the Net?

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