Monday, October 3, 2022

Hinduism and Indra’s Net

Indra riding his elephant Airavata

"In the Mahabharata, the ceremony for the oath of a new king includes the admonition: ‘Be like a garland-maker, O king, and not like a charcoal burner.’ The garland symbolizes social coherence; it is a metaphor for dharmic diversity in which flowers of many colors and forms are strung harmoniously for the most pleasing effect. In contrast, the charcoal burner is a metaphor for the brute-force reduction of diversity into homogeneity, where diverse living substances are transformed into uniformly lifeless ashes.

“In taking this oath, the king is promising to support a coherent diversity in which a profoundly variegated culture may thrive as a unity (garland) of distinct elements (flowers). This schema avoids the two extremes that would prove deleterious to a society: incoherence, comparable to a chaotic scattering of flowers, and the reductionist, homogenous lifelessness of charcoal. The king’s oath, then, is essentially a pledge to respect the spirit of Indra’s Net. 

“Hinduism devotes much thought to exploring the relationships between the jewels of Indra’s Net, and how they are manifestations and reflections of each other. Hindu thought is distinct from Abrahamic religions, which are premised on the existence of one separate God, one absolute event in history, and one inviolable set of injunctions. Hindus, for better or for worse, tend to be natural de-centralists. This is why it is hard to understand Hinduism, and difficult to organize and mobilize Hindus under an overarching corporate institution. It is also why Hinduism has proved, thus far, difficult to destroy.” 

~ from Rajiv Malhotra’s 2014 book Indra’s Net

No comments: