The "Net of Indra"

Steve Farmer saf at SAFARMER.COM
Fri Aug 11 17:46:37 EDT 2000


I'm writing an article on extreme variants of a common premodern
cosmological idea -- that each part or "level" of reality in some
way reflects every other. I've traced the development of this
idea in late-ancient and medieval thought in different old world
societies. I'm now interested in tracing its *earliest* roots in
Chinese, Greek, and Indian commentarial traditions.

In India, one later variant shows up as the "Net of Indra," which
is discussed in the AvataMsaka Suutra. The text was translated
into Chinese in the 5th century CE and was central to the Huayan
school in China and Kegon school in Japan. Each node of the
Indra's net, viewed as a cosmic symbol, was said to be decorated
with a jewel that reflected not only every other jewel but also
every *reflection* of each jewel in every other -- and so on to
infinity. Similar metaphors evolved independently in mature
commentarial traditions in other old world socities at
predictable points. Exactly how they emerged depended on a
variety of exegetical factors.

In Indian traditions, I've traced precursors of this kind of idea
(not the "Net of Indra" itself) as far back as the BraahmaNas.
I'm now searching for *extreme* ideas of this sort as *early* as
possible in Indian (and hopefully Vedic) traditions. Does anyone
know any good candidates? =Examples of *extreme* anticipations of
these ideas (e.g., elaborate correlations of directions, numbers,
colors, sounds, Vedic metres, emotions, etc.) would also be
appreciated. (I emphasize "extreme" here since I know lots of
garden-variety Vedic examples.)

Also, if anyone knows of early instances of the "Net of Indra"
idea, or knows anything about its origins, please let me know.

Thanks in advance,
Steve Farmer



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