Mon Mar 20, 2023
Social Sciences 129
|Cosmopolitan Philosophy at Berkeley
Contemplating Indra’s Net: Metaphysics for Interdependence in Huayan Buddhism
Indra’s Net is an array of mirror-like jewels. Each jewel in this array reflects, and is reflected within, every other jewel. The Huayan tradition of Chinese Buddhism uses Indra’s net as a metaphor for mutual dependence. Huayan envisions reality as a realm in which each individual includes, and is included within, every other. Contemporary interpretations of Huayan metaphysics–endorsed by Francis Cook and Graham Priest, among others–claim that Huayan endorses a conception of dependence that is symmetric. On this interpretation, whenever one includes another, the other simultaneously includes the one. I maintain that this is a mistake. For the Huayan tradition, each includes every other, but it is incorrect to conceptualize these inclusion relations as simultaneous. To show this, I review the instructions the Huayan masters give for contemplating Indra’s net, introduce some of their technical terminology for conceptualizing inclusion relations, and explain how they use this terminology to understand Indra’s net. The result is a heterarchical conception of dependence. This is a conception in which each individual acts as foundational for all others, individuals “take turns” enacting this role, and this taking of turns precludes one including another when the other includes the one.