Indra’s Net

Photo: Indra's Net. Copyright Doug Benner

Photo: Indra’s Net. Copyright Doug Benner (Click for larger image)

There’s a beautiful Hindu legend about the god Indra, who commissions an artisan to craft a vast net across the universe.

When the net is complete, at each junction Indra places a shining jewel – the facets of which reflect every other jewel in this cosmic network.

Each jewel represents a single atom, cell or life form in the Universe and all are intimately connected with one another. Any change in one jewel produces a change, however small, in all the others.

The legend also reminds me of a passage from Sinuhe the Egyptian, written by Mika Walthari in 1949:

For I, Sinuhe, am a human being. I have lived in everyone who existed before me and shall live in all who come after me. I shall live in human tears and laughter, in human sorrow and fear, in human goodness and wickedness, in justice and injustice, in weakness and strength. As a human being I shall live eternally in all mankind.

Both of these stories – a 3rd century metaphor and a post-WWII novel – resonate for me in relation to our modern, networked world.

As human beings we are all interconnected. Even a small change in one of us can ripple out through those connections to make changes in others.

Or, as Peter Block said more recently, we can “change the world, one conversation at a time”.


My thanks to Doug Benner for his kind permission to use the beautiful photograph above.


  1. Richard Reeve says

    What’s so neat about our acts in this space is that they really do stick in the net…Your thought here, the tweets and this comment all have a new sense of duration tied to them that I think is only beginning to dawn within our collective awareness.

    • A ‘sense of duration’ is a great phrase to encapsulate how I see that interconnectedness too. Thank you. And as for it dawning in our collective awareness, I think you’re right this is a relatively young phenomenon.

      I also sometimes think that this kind of awareness can become hidden behind the day to day ‘busyness’ of life. Not only behind the plethora of blogging, tweeting, emailing and other online expressions of Indra’s net, but also behind the bustle of other other daily and face-to-face activities.

      There’s an ‘ant view’ in which we’re simply aware of each action, each human transaction, in the moment – not necessarily seeing its connectivity, although we can be fully present with that particular moment and appreciating its depth or significance. Then there’s also the ‘helicopter’ view, in which we lift our eyes from that single moment to see not only the interconnections of Indra’s net, but also the durability of them – and that can be an awesome sight. :)

      For me, both views are important to living a full and ‘mindful’ life.

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