Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Indra's Net

Possibly first used in an early, c. 1000 BCE Atharva Veda Hindu text, the Avataṃsaka Sūtra repurposed this imagery to symbolize the Buddhist principles of emptiness and interdependent origination. The 7th Century Chinese Buddhist Huayan school developed these ideas further and "Indra's Net" became a symbol for "True Self" — the vast, interconnected web that includes all phenomenon.
Each interdependent, individual jewel or point of connection (our consciousness), in a mirror-like way reflects the totality of this vast network. All experience at these points spreads back and through Indra's Net influencing it just like all of the experiences at the other points come back and influence our "True Self."
These teachings became an important influence on Chinese Chan Buddhism, the Korean Hwaeom school, and the Japanese Shingon lineage. For hundreds of years, this concept permeated mystical traditions and taught the oneness and omnipresent sacredness of all life, the illusion of all feelings and thoughts of separateness.
Today, these ideas have entered the world of science, the multidimensional theories of modern physics, and as an insightful way of understanding how our brains function.

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Quotes (75)

“That which is the finest essence–this whole world has as its soul. Tat tvam asi — thou art that.”

Yājñavalkya 1
One of the earliest non-dual philosophers

“Faced with chaos or conflict, the sage commander looks first to the largest reference point. No matter what ground he has been given, he always thinks bigger… he looks to the space around things.”

Sun Tzu 孙武 544 – 496 BCE via Denma Translation Group
(Sun Zi)
HIstory's supreme strategist
from Art of War 孙子兵法

27. No Trace

“at one time there grew to be the one alone out of many, and at another time it separated so that there were many out of the one”

Empedocles 490 – 430 BCE
"The father of rhetoric"—Aristotle
from On Nature

“The ten thousand things are all within us.”

Mencius 孟子 372 – 289 BCE
(Mengzi)
from Book of Mencius 孟子

33. Know Yourself

“When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.”

Anonymous 1
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history
from Native American saying

Themes: Money Indra's Net

“A grain of corn contains the Universe:The hills and rivers fill a small cooking-pot.”

Anonymous 1 via Zen proverb
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

“You are not an isolated entity, but a unique, irreplaceable part of the cosmos... an essential piece of the puzzle of humanity, a part of a vast, intricate, and perfectly ordered human community.”

Epictetus Ἐπίκτητος 55 – 135 CE via Sharon Labell
from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

“Looking outward we see many faces; look inward and all is one head. If a man could but be turned about, he would see at once God and himself and the All.”

Plotinus 204 – 249 CE
from Enneads Ἐννεάδες Plotinus / Porphyry

Themes: God Indra's Net

39. Oneness

“Although it has many parts like arms and legs, our bodies are one whole. In a similar way, all beings with their yearnings for happiness, their joys and sorrows are like one body, different but equal.”

Shantideva ཞི་བ་ལྷ།།། 685 – 763 CE via B. Alan Wallace, Shan Dao
(Bhusuku, Śāntideva)
from Bodhisattva Way of Life, Bodhicaryavatara

“Each person’s life is like a mandala – a vast, limitless circle. We stand in the center of our own circle, and everything we see, hear and think forms the mandala of our life.”

Saraha 1

“The world is just reflections and echoes.”

Layman Pang 龐居士 740 – 808 CE

“The interaction of the yin and yang through different combinations of the five agents generates all things in a process of endless transformation.”

Zhou Dunyi 周敦頤 1017 – 1073 CE via Wing-Tsit Chan
(Chou Tun-i)
from Penetrating the Book of Changes

“Supreme view is beyond all duality of subject and object…
Supreme view is free from reference point.”

Machig Labdrön མ་གཅིག་ལབ་སྒྲོན། 1055 – 1149 CE via Lama Tsultrim Allione

“things themselves are the true self and the true self itself is things”

Yuanwu Keqin 圜悟克勤 1063 – 1135 CE via J.C. and Thomas Cleary
(Yuánwù Kèqín)
from Zen Letters

“Everything that is in the heavens, on earth, and under the earth is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness.”

Hildegard of Bingen 1098 – 1179 CE

39. Oneness

“When one displays the Buddha mudra with one’s whole body and mind, sitting upright in this samadhi even for a short time, everything in the entire dharma world becomes buddha mudra, and all space in the universe completely becomes enlightenment.”

Dōgen Zenji 道元禅師 1200 – 1253 CE

Themes: Indra's Net

“At this time, because earth, grasses and trees, fences and walls, tiles and pebbles, all things in the dharma realm in the universe in ten directions carry out buddha-work, therefore everyone receives the benefit of wind and water movement caused by this functioning, and all are imperceptibly helped by the wondrous and incomprehensible influence of buddha to actualize the enlightenment at hand.”

Dōgen Zenji 道元禅師 1200 – 1253 CE

“The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God's eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.”

Meister Eckhart 1260 – 1328 CE
(Eckhart von Hochheim)

14. Finding and Following the Formless Form

“To understand the essence, listen to the call of frogs, the billowing wind, the falling rain, all speaking the wonderful language of the essential Nature.”

Bassui Tokushō 抜隊 得勝 1327 – 1387 CE
Meditation master without distraction

“Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”

Leonardo da Vinci 1452 – 1519 CE

Themes: Indra's Net

“Man is a microcosm, a little world, because his is an extract from all the stars and planets, from the earth and the elements, and so he is their quintessence.”

Paracelsus 1493 – 1541 CE
(Theophrastus von Hohenheim)
Revolutionary, shamanistic alchemist
from Archidoxies, 1525

“One night as I walked in the desert, the mountains rode on my shoulders, the sky became my heart, and the earth - my own body”

Meera 1498 – 1546 CE
(Mirabai, Meera Bai )
Inspiring poet, cultural freedom inspiration

“There is as much difference between us and ourselves as there is between us and others.”

Montaigne 1533 – 1592 CE
Grandfather of the Enlightenment

12. This Over That

“All things are in the Universe, and the universe is in all things: we in it, and it in us; in this way everything concurs in a perfect unity.”

Giordano Bruno 1548 – 1600 CE
from Cause, Principle, and Unity: And Essays on Magic

“And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. I would not change it.”

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616 CE
from As You Like It

51. Mysterious Goodness

“The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together: our virtues would be proud if our faults whipped them not; and our crimes would despair, if they were not cherished by our virtues”

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616 CE
from All's Well That Ends Well

“Each simple substance is a perpetual, living mirror of the universe and this interconnection of all created things to each other brings it about that each simple substance has relations that express all the others.”

Leibniz 1646 – 1716 CE
(Gottfried Wilhelm (von) Leibniz)

“There still remains to mortify a wit The many-headed monster of the pit.”

Alexander Pope 1688 – 1744 CE
Second most quoted English writer

Themes: Indra's Net

“All are but parts of one stupendous whole whose body Nature is, and God the soul.”

Alexander Pope 1688 – 1744 CE
Second most quoted English writer

“He looked at his Soul with a Telescope. What seemed all irregular, he saw and showed to be beautiful Constellations; and he added to the Consciousness hidden worlds within worlds.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1772 – 1834 CE
from Notebooks

“The seat of the soul is where the inner world and the outer world meet. Where they overlap, it is in every point of the overlap.”

Novalis 1772 – 1831 CE

39. Oneness

“Without a center, without an edge… without an inside, without an outside… as far as the sky pervades, so does awareness.”

Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol ཞབས་དཀར་ཚོགས་དྲུག་རང་གྲོལ། 1781 – 1851 CE via Matthieu Ricard
from Life of Shabkar: The Autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin

14. Finding and Following the Formless Form

“Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship.”

Bahá'u'lláh بهاء الله‎‎, 1817 – 1892 CE
("Glory of God")

“Blessed are they who never read a newspaper, for they shall see Nature and through her, God.”

Henry David Thoreau 1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from Essays and Other Writings

“For all is like an ocean, all flows and connects; touch it in one place and it echoes at the other end of the world.”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский 1821 – 1881 CE
from Brothers Karamatzov

“All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow.”

Leo Tolstoy 1828 – 1910 CE

39. Oneness

“There can be no difference anywhere that doesn't make a difference elsewhere”

William James 1842 – 1910 CE
"Father of American psychology”
from Pragmatism (1907)

“everything that exists in influenced in some way by something else... a vast network of acquaintanceship

William James 1842 – 1910 CE
"Father of American psychology”

Themes: Indra's Net

“Though free to think and act, we are held together, like the stars in the firmament, with ties inseparable. These ties cannot be seen, but we can feel them.”

Nikola Tesla Никола Тесла 1856 – 1943 CE
from The Problem of Increasing Human Energy​

Themes: Indra's Net

“I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight”

Black Elk 1863 – 1950 CE
(Heȟáka Sápa)

“For me whatever is in the atoms and molecules is in the universe. I believe in the saying that what is in the microcosm of one’s self is reflected in the macrocosm.”

Mahatma Gandhi 1869 – 1948 CE

4. The Father of All Things

“As I looked about me I felt that the grass was the country as the water is the sea... the whole country seemed, somehow, to be running.”

Willa Cather 1873 – 1948 CE
Modern day Lao Tzu

from My Ántonia

“Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.”

Willa Cather 1873 – 1948 CE
Modern day Lao Tzu

39. Oneness

“This philosophy [Lü Dongbin's] is—to a certain extent—the common property of all Chinese trends of thought. It is built on the premise that cosmos and man in the last analysis obey common laws; that man is a cosmos in miniature and is not divided from the great cosmos by any fixed limits.”

Richard Wilhelm 1873 – 1930 CE
Translator bridging East and West
from Introduction to Secret of the Golden Flower

“Like every other being, I am a splinter of the infinite deity, but I cannot contrast myself with any animal, any plant, or any stone.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE via Richard and Clara Winston
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Memories, Dreams, Reflections

Themes: Indra's Net

“Nature compels us to recognize the fact of mutual dependence, each life necessarily helping the other lives who are linked to it. In the very fibers of our being, we bear within ourselves the fact of the solidarity of life.”

Albert Schweitzer 1875 – 1965 CE

“Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace.”

Albert Schweitzer 1875 – 1965 CE
from Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

“Nothing could persuade me that 'in the image of God' applied only to man. In fact, it seemed to me that the high mountains the rivers, lakes, trees flowers, and animals far better exemplified the essence of God than men with their ridiculous clothes, their meanness, vanity, mendacity, and abhorrent egotism”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Memories, Dreams, Reflections

“This same eternal idea, which for us has been embodied in the Glass Bead Game, has underlain every movement of Mind toward the ideal goal of a Universitatis Litterarum, every Platonic Academy, every league of an intellectual elite, every rapprochement between the exact and the more liberal disciplines, every effort toward reconciliation between science and art or science and religion.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE
from Glass Bead Game

Themes: Indra's Net

“the Glass Bead Game... As an idea we find it already performed in earlier ages, e.g. at Pythagoras. The same eternal Idea was the basis of every movement of the mind towards the ideal goal of a Universitas Litterarum, of every Platonic Academy, of any congregation of a spiritual elite, every attempt to approximate the exact and the free sciences, every attempt to reconcile science and art and the art of science and religion.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE
from Glass Bead Game

Themes: Indra's Net

“In each of us, the entire history of the world is reflected. And however autonomous our soul, it is indebted to an inheritance worked upon it from all sides—before it came into being—by the totality of the earth's energies.”

Teilhard de Chardin 1881 – 1955 CE via Bernard Wall, Shan Dao
from Divine Milieu

“You are not enclosed within your bodies, nor confined to houses or fields. That which is you dwells above the mountain and roves with the wind.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

“The harmony of the part with the whole may be the best definition of health, beauty, truth, wisdom, morality, and happiness.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
from Heroes of History

39. Oneness

“I came to think of myself, not as a dance and chaos of molecules, but as a brief and minute portion of that majestic process”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Transition

“We always want to alter the outer hoping thereby to change the inner…I think we miss this basic thing, which is; the world is me and I am the world.”

Krishnamurti 1895 – 1986 CE
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)
from Awakening of Intelligence

25. The Mother of All Things

“I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald 1896 – 1940 CE
Prototype of "Jazz Age" exuberance
from Great Gatsby

“He talks to the plants and they answer him. He listens to the voices of all those who move upon the earth, the animals. He is as one with them. From all living beings, something flows into him all the time, and something flows from him.”

John Fire Lame Deer 1903 – 1976 CE via Richard Erdoes
from Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions

51. Mysterious Goodness

“All aspects of every phenomenon are completely clear and lucid, the universe is open and unobstructed, everything mutually interpenetrating.”

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche དིལ་མགོ་མཁྱེན་བརྩེ། 1910 – 1991 CE
"Mind" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
from Maha Ati

25. The Mother of All Things

“Imagine a multidimensional spider’s web in the early morning, covered with dew drops. And every dew drop contains the reflection of all the other dew drops. And in each reflected dew drop, the reflections of all the other dew drops in that reflection. And so ad infinitum.”

Alan Watts 1915 – 1973 CE

Themes: Indra's Net

“No part of us is unrelated to other parts, even down to the single cell. Every cell probably knows the whole of us. There is a new consciousness implied in these premises; namely, that reality is a complex, interrelated and integral structure, including our own body-mind-emotions-spirit, as well as our relationship to others and to our environment.”

Ralph Alan Dale 1920 – 2006 CE
Translator, author, visionary
from Tao Te Ching, a new translation and commentary

“True self is non-self, the awareness that the self is made only of non-self elements. There's no separation between self and other, and everything is interconnected.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh tʰǐk ɲɜ̌t hɐ̂ʔɲ 1926 CE –

“We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh tʰǐk ɲɜ̌t hɐ̂ʔɲ 1926 CE – via David Loy

“In truth we are not separate from each other or from the world… there is just one mysteriously palpitating aliveness.”

Toni Packer 1927 – 2013 CE
A Zen teacher minus the 'Zen' and minus the 'teacher.’

Themes: Indra's Net Magic

39. Oneness

“The Life I am trying to grasp is the me that is trying to grasp it.”

R. D. Laing 1927 – 1989 CE
from Politics of Experience

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Martin Luther King Jr. 1929 – 1968 CE
Leading world influence for equality, peace, non-violence, and poverty alleviation

“Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and slaughters a visible Nature without realizing that this Nature he slaughters is the invisible God he worships.”

Hubert Reeves 1932 CE –

“Our ancient experience confirms at every point that everything is linked together, everything is inseparable.”

Dalai Lama XIV Tenzin Gyatso 1935 CE –

39. Oneness

“The air we breathe, the water we drink, the forests and oceans which sustain millions of different life forms, and the climate that governs our weather systems all transcend national boundaries.”

Dalai Lama XIV Tenzin Gyatso 1935 CE –
from Mind, Heart, and Nature, 2009

Themes: Indra's Net

“The Mandala is earth and man, both the atom that composes the material essence of man, and the galaxy of which the earth is but an atom… the microcosm and the macrocosm, the largest structural processes s well as the smallest. It is the gateway between the two.”

José Argüelles 1939 – 2011 CE
from Mandala

“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.”

Stephen Mitchell 1943 CE –
from The Enlightened Mind​

Themes: Indra's Net

“We know from science that nothing in the universe exists as an isolated or independent entity.”

Meg Wheatley 1944 CE –
Bringing ancient wisdom into the modern world.

“By accepting and yielding to that groundlessness, I can discover that I have always been grounded in Indra's Net, not as a self-enclosed being but as one manifestation of a web of relationships which encompasses everything.”

David Loy 1947 CE –

Themes: Indra's Net

“..don't read anything except what destroys the insulation between yourself and your experience...”

Louise Erdrich 1954 CE –

“The essence of our life is not limited within the confines of our bodies but rather is distributed across all the people and things that we are connected to... like a vast net connecting us to all other lives on this planet”

Karmapa XVII ཨོ་རྒྱན་འཕྲིན་ལས་རྡོ་རྗ 1985 CE –
(Orgyen Thrinlay Dorje)
from Interconnected (2017)

Themes: Indra's Net

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