Indra's Net of Jewels
by Patricia Adams Farmer
JEWELS ARE PRECIOUS not only because they are beautiful, but because their beauty refuses to be self-contained. Jewels draw us into them; they dazzle unapologetically; they move us to poetry. They reveal the truth about the world: everything reflects. Everything connects.
Songhe Wang tells a story about how everything connects, how snow and ice are jewels, and people and insects, too--all reflecting each other’s beauty and belongingness.
There is an ancient story about jewels called “Indra’s Jewels” or “Indra’s Net.”
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. (told by Francis Harold Cook)
This “infinite reflecting process” not only describes the philosophy of ancient India and and Mahayana Buddhism, but of Whiteheadian thought, too. For Whitehead ‘s Process and Reality describes the world as an organic web of lively interconnections, forever reflecting and penetrating and co-creating one another. Whitehead's world is a beautiful world, a bejeweled world where everything reflects and everything connects.
Songhe’s story about insects as jewels lures me back to Mary Oliver’s famous poem, "The Summer Day," where she speaks of the grasshopper "who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—/ who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes."
The poet is lured into another world through the eyes of the grasshopper. Those “enormous and complicated eyes” reflect the world like jewels, beckoning us to understand Indra’s cosmic net which, at every single “ eye,” holds a jewel that reflects all other jewels.
Everything reflects; everything connects. We live in a bejeweled world with enormous, complicated eyes that ask of us:
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
Jewels as Insects, Snow, People
by Songhe Wang
NOT LONG AGO I listened to a lecture by the well-known teacher Chenguo in Fudan University in China. In the lecture, she described her interesting experience: One day she visited a painter friend, and he showed her a book of photos named “Jewelry.” She went through the book page by page, but to her surprise, there was no one piece of jewelry there. The book is full of insects. So she said to herself that there must have been a mistake in naming the book, and instead of “Jewelry,” the book of photos should have been named “Insects.” Then she gave the name a second thought; suddenly she realized something unusual and marvelous there.
“Yes,” she said to herself, “insects are jewelry carved and polished by nature. If you look carefully at them, each of them is unique and beautiful in their own way: the patterns and colors on their bodies, the way they move, etc. Because of these natural jewels, designers get inspiration. For example, Chanel has white camellia as its trade mark; the Beetle car …”
If the insects are jewelry in the world, what I want to say is that we human beings are jewels, too, and shine in our own way. We are a piece of dust in the endless universe. However, the mind in the tiny piece of dust thinks and explores the vast universe and tries to discover its secrets one by one.
I live in Harbin, northeast China. It is one of the coldest places in China. In other words, we have a lot of snow and ice in winter time. We make a crystal world each year with the natural jewels of snow and ice, since 1985. This crystal world is called Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival. Seeing the ice-lanterns and snow sculptures is one of the main activities during the Spring Festival. They make our life colorful and full of fun. Thus, it draws tens of thousands of foreign tourists as well. We add meaning to the snow and ice, giving life to them by putting our dreams or imagination in them. For example, we once made an ice rocket, an ice Great Wall, Snow Laughing Buddha…
The natural jewels—snow and ice— decorate and beautify our life; and our dreams and imaginations about the mysterious world embellish the whole universe. As the poet Blake says:
To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.