Connected by the Web


The Church for the Fellowship for All Peoples on Russian Hill lists itself as "an interfaith, interracial, intercultural community of seekers dedicated to personal empowerment and social transformation". Sunday's sermon concerned our relationship to one another as human beings. I believe that despite our superficial differences, we are all one people, reflecting each other in everything we do.On Sunday, the Church's pastor, Rev. Dorsey Blake, borrowed heavily from the writings of Rev. Nobuaki Hanaoka, a retired United Methodist minister and a survivor of the 1945 atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, who lives in Berkeley but grew up Christian in the predominantly Buddhist culture of Japan.His book, "On the Back of a Buffalo: Eastern Stories for Western Journey", is a collection of Buddhist parables written for a Western audience. One story in particular, "The Story of Indra's Net", has caused me to gain a new appreciation of the Internet. Read these excerpts from "Indra's Net" and share your thoughts with me. The last paragraph in italics contains Rev. Hanaoka's analysis of the story: Far, far above in heaven, there is a realm where Indra, the king of gods, lives. There hangs a canopy of magnificent net made of fine silk, undoubtedly the work of many extraordinary craftsmen. It is so vast that it stretches out indefinitely in all directions, and a glittering jewel is set on each node of the net. Since the net is infinite in size, the jewels are also infinite in number. Like the glistering stars you see in the sky above on dark nights, the jewels are brilliant and innumerable. The magnificence of Indra's jeweled net is matched only by that of his power and glory. If you picked one of those jewels for inspection and looked closely at it, you would discover that within its polished surface are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, each of the jewels reflected on the surface of his own jewel also reflects all the other jewels, so that the process of reflection is also infinite....Indra's Net teaches that all things are in the web of interconnectedness and inter-causality. Nothing exists or happens in isolation. Everything reflects everything else. At each intersection of time and space (at each node of horizontal and vertical threads of Indra's Net) is an individual entity, which is connected to all others through the web, and each entity reflects all other individual entities indefinitely......Exclusiveness, absolutism and ignorance are no longer acceptable in this pluralistic, global society...In the face of mass starvation, ethnic cleansing, genocide, the AIDS epidemic, poverty and nuclear proliferation, those of us who stand on the rich spiritual legacy of our religious traditions have no time to waste in fights against each other, each claiming superiority and demonizing others. We must learn to respect and work with each other for we have so much to do today to protect its dignity and the environment everywhere in the world.We have entered the age of a new frontier, cyberspace, where theoretically all of us are now connected through the Internet. Some have suggested that Indra's Net is a perfect metaphor for what the Internet can and ought to be. Like Indra's Net, the Internet is infinite in size and the jewels in it are infinite in number. Each website can be linked to all others, and all are interdependent. We have an infinite amount of information at our disposal. It is our hope that our humanity has matured enough and evolved enough to use the power we now possess wisely to further our respect for each other and to protect life and dignity of all in the world. With the power we now have, we have no more excuses.As I see it, the challenges we now face as citizens of California and the US require us to recognize our interconnectedness. As we train our focus beyond the political earthquakes that continually rock Sacramento and Washington, it is time to reconsider the impact of the coming budget cuts and program eliminations on education, health care, parks, even prisons.Now we must ponder the fates of millions of people who will have to adjust their lives to this new economic reality. If, as the metaphor of Indra's web implies, our lives and our actions are truly reflected in the lives and actions of each and every other one of us, then it is clear we must concern ourselves with the goodwill of the entire population.If the Internet is our new Indra's Net, then we must use it to search for the best ideas and available resources to alleviate the suffering that is just around the corner for millions who have been caught in the budget squeeze. Our use of the Internet reflects our society as well. Hate speech begets hate, positive community-building begets a positive community. In our search for solutions to these worldwide problems, we must reach out to one another. It is truly a World Wide Web.