please go ahead and start a new topic :slight_smile: If you’d like us to move any posts there just let me/the other mods know by replying here :slight_smile:

:slightly_smiling_face: :sunflower:


I just want to express a word of thanks to everyone who contributed to this discussion. It was very enjoyable and I learned a lot! if I get time, I may reconsider some points in my essay in light of these, but for now, I’ll just be content to listen.


Can you say more about this, I’m finding it hard to see how one gets from:

  1. All dharmas are empty of svabhava


  1. Every dharma contains every other dharma / all dharmas interfuse with each other.

I can see how if all dharmas are empty of svabhava, then the barriers and differences between them are fluid and fuzzy, but it seems like a leap to say that this means that each dharma contains all others within it or that each dharma is interfused with every other dharma.


Well, dharma don’t exist at all in the later sunyavada thought that arose with the Prajnaparamita texts, so there’s nothing to actually have fuzzy barriers. This assertion leads to a conceptual quandary. Clearly, there’s a world, and we talk about things, yet there’s a logic that says dharmas don’t have any inherent existence individually. This is the contradiction of the conventional and supreme truth.

I think this Indra’s Net metaphor was a way to explain this problem by superimposing both views onto each other. The jewels only exist as parts of a whole and only insofar as they relate to each other as parts of it. Otherwise, there aren’t any jewels. Try to look at one jewel, and you see other jewels (rather than nothing).

There’s also the poetic notion that you can see the whole in each of its parts. The Avatamsaka and other Mahayana Sutras have fractal imagery that plays into this as well: Grains of a world that contain whole countries, or entire chiliocosms that exist on the tips of a bodhisattva’s body hairs. Etc. These are poetic images and metaphors that playfully demonstrate that dharmas we think are real are products of our collective agreed-upon imaginations.


Thanks, perhaps this teaching is then more of a metaphorical way of pointing to a religious experience of emptiness rather than being based on a logical argument from emptiness?

But then, wouldn’t you say that this is not really a “logical” consequence, but more of a meditative one…?


It’s very much a philosophical concept that Indra’s Net is illustrating, and it’s a logical consequence of emptiness in its collision with native Chinese philosophy. You can explore all the stuff I’m skipping here because it’s too much of a digression in books like Chang’s The Buddhist Teachings of Totality. He summarizes the complex philosophical models that Huayan writers built up using native ideas to comprehend Mahayana sutras. There’s probably more recent scholarship out there on the subject, but that’s a good place to start for non-Chinese readers.


Thank you!