Indra’s Net: Recognizing our Interdependence

Indra’s net, in Hinduism and Buddhism, is a metaphor used to illustrate the philosophy of interdependence. The image associated with it is beautiful! A net where every node is a jewel (diamonds) representing life, and each jewel reflects all the others.

While the concept is now used in studies related to the environment and sustainability, it was first applied by dharma practitioners towards understanding the interconnectedness of life, one of the goals of meditation. Awareness and even a passing experience of such a concept, makes the meditator respect all life and refrain from hurting anyone by word, action or in thought. For we cannot hurt others without hurting ourselves. And similarly the love and kindness given to others always returns to us. (It’s an experience not an ideology. Meditation is one path to that experience).

Lighting the lamp within
Lighting the lamp within 

In the last post we discussed how sometimes uncomfortable feelings may emerge as a result of meditation. In this post we will focus on two things.

1. How to deal with negative emotions that hinder a deep meditative experience?

2. How dealing with these negative emotions helps us better connect with others?

Because when our minds are calm, all that we have buried comes to the surface. Remorse, guilt, shame, confusion, regret....are the first to bubble up. It is usually at this time, we shut down or avoid going deep in our meditation.

What if responded differently?

What if, in that moment of fear of facing our own feelings, we consciously sit down in the middle of the feeling? Invite the remorse, guilt, shame and confusion? What if we become our own caretaker by showing compassion to ourselves?

Yoga sutra 1:33 states that ‘by cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness (Sri Swami Satchidananda).

So, when you sit to meditate and find that restlessness of the mind due to negative feelings restricts you from going deeper, you can do the following.

  1. Accept: that there is restlessness.
  2. Invite: invite the feelings that cause you restlessness.
  3. Experience not explore: the emotions that are causing the restlessness. Face them directly and acknowledge them.
  4. Be grateful: for the feelings, regardless of the discomfort they bring, for they reveal a certain aspect of yourself to you.
  5. Generate the opposite feeling: of the negative emotion. For example, if you feel fear then generate the feeling of being supported, if you feel anger, generate the feeling of love, if you feel cheated, then generate the feeling of gratitude.
  6. Show: compassion towards your suffering. If you are feeling any of the negative feelings, it is a form of suffering. It is time to recognize them, and let them go by generating the opposite feelings. This ‘letting go’ is a long process and can be achieved through abhayasa (repeated sustained effort), as touched upon earlier in the February 24, 2015 post.

One might ask why must we face these feelings, when we can live just fine without acknowledging them? Simply, because in facing these difficult emotions we may understand how others feel and empathize with them.

Keeping Indra’s net in mind, we recognize that the state of our mind reflects in all our interactions. If we learn how to be compassionate towards ourselves, we can extend the same care to others who may or may not be aware of negative feelings in themselves.

Concepts similar to Indra’s net have also been expressed in philosophies of some African countries, as the concept of Ubuntu—which states that a person becomes him/herself through interaction with others.

If that be the case, then in our meditation we want to generate loving kindness towards others and the self by focusing on the interconnectedness of all life.

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