The Glittering Net That Enfolds the Universe

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Modern science speaks to us of an extraordinary range of interrelations. Ecologists know that a tree burning in the Amazon rain forest alters in some way the air breathed by a citizen of Paris, and that the trembling of a butterfly's wing in Yucatan affects the life of a fern in the Hebrides. Biologists are beginning to uncover the fantastic and complex dance of genes that creates personality and identity, a dance that stretches far into the past and shows that each so-called "identity" is composed of a swirl of different influences. Physicists have introduced us to the world of the quantum particle, a world astonishingly like that described by Buddha in his image of the glittering net that unfolds across the universe. Just like the jewels in the net, all particles exist potentially as different combinations of other particles.

So when we really look at ourselves, then, and the things around us that we took to be so solid, so stable, and so lasting, we find that they have no more reality than a dream ...

Impermanence has already revealed to us many truths, but it has a final treasure still in its keeping, one that lies largely hidden from us, unsuspected and unrecognized, yet most intimately our own.

The Western poet Rainer Maria Rilke has said that our deepest fears are like dragons guarding our deepest treasure. The fear that impermanence awakens in us, that nothing is real and nothing lasts, is, we come to discover, our greatest friend because it drives us to ask: If everything dies and changes, then what is really true? Is there something behind the appearances, something boundless and infinitely spacious, something in which the dance of change and impermanence takes place? Is there something in fact we can depend on, that does survive what we call death?

Allowing these questions to occupy us urgently, and reflecting on them, we slowly find ourselves making a profound shift in the way we view everything. With continued contemplation and practice in letting go, we come to uncover in ourselves "something" we cannot name or describe or conceptualize, "something" that we begin to realize lies behind all the changes and deaths of the world. The narrow desires and distractions to which our obsessive grasping onto permanence has condemned us begin to dissolve and fall away.
Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying


What maketh thee of this? I find it resonates so strongly within me. Perhaps the most disturbing concept to the Western mind is the statement about nothing being "real". We may tend to skip to the notion that he therefore means that nothing exists. I'm not so sure that Sogyal means that - although if he does (and I can understand the conclusion reached), this is where I perhaps begin to depart in my own thinking from Tibetan thought.

But then, in the very same breath, I do begin to wonder to myself whether he and I are not simply looking at the same thing from different sides of the mountain perhaps. I do think here, when he refers to things not being real he is speaking about the appearance of things. That things do not exist simply within their own little containers, separate to everything else. Indeed, the container we look at contains more space than it does anything else. This I can subscribe to. This is trippy. And truly, nothing stays the same, ever. Not even me. Thank God :)

Pic: Nirolo


  1. Oh and by the way...I like this excerpt.

  2. Sue, just today a long time client who I consider a good friend came in for a haircut and we had the most wonderful conversation. I wish you had been there. She was born in Taiwan and moved to America when she was pretty young. She has a very interesting perspective born out of her life experience. We talked about culture and how the scripts we are given are so difficult to break free from and yet how important it becomes to break free from them. We talked about Buddhism and christianity. She is presently writing her memoir. It's a collection of 30 different stories from her life experience. She told me today that she has 7 people with whom she values their perspectives that she wants to read it once she is finished with it. I happen to be one of them. Knowing Theresa and knowing her hilarious wit and the peace she is coming to know in her life I'm so looking forward to reading it.

    She and I and my brother Michael have countless times completely disrupted the salon with hilarious laughter, laughing at her telling stories her or her laughing at our stories. She's one of those people that have so enriched my life.

  3. My first inclination on reading this was to make some snide yet witty comment about how you've switched my brain to overload status.... and it seems you succeeded cuz I've no juice left for pithy commentary. Aarrgghh.

    Have a nice day.

  4. Kent - yeah, it's a pretty cool excerpt, isn't it. I love those books and conversations that just bubble up the inspiration and hte vistas. Sounds like that would be how it would be with Thereasa - wish I'd been there!

    (You could have cut my hair while you were there ;) Split enz

    Norm - LOL! It's good to have your brain explode on occasions :) Thanks for the pithy "have a nice day" at the end. Was that intended? :)

  5. But of course it was, m'dear!!

    Say 'pithiness' 10 times fast - GO!

  6. I got to seven and then was saying pitennem :)

  7. You left out the part about having to wipe your chin ;-)


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