There is the story of the infant Krishna, wrongly accused of eating some dirt. His mother, Yashoda, comes up to him wagging her finger and scolds him: ‘You shouldn’t eat dirt, you naughty boy.’
‘But I haven’t’, says the unchallenged lord of all and everything, disguised as a frightened human child.
‘Tut! Tut! Open your mouth’, orders Yashoda. Krishna does as he is told. He opens his mouth and Yashoda gasps.
She sees in Krishna’s mouth the whole, complete, entire timeless universe. All the stars and planets of space and the distances between them; all the lands and seas of the earth and the life in them; she sees all the days of yesterday and all the days of tomorrow; she sees all ideas and all emotions, all pity and all hope, and the three strands of matter; not a pebble, candle, creature, village or galaxy is missing, including herself and every bit of dirt in its truthful place. ‘My Lord, you can close your mouth’, she says reverently.
In any part of the universe there is a whole universe. Hamlet saw the infinite space in a nutshell; William Blake saw a world in a grain of sand, heaven in a wildflower, eternity in an hour.
Our daily perception relies on the assumption that reality is like a building and as such, is made of building blocks. However, at a very microscopic level, quantum physics describes to us a scenario where elemental particles are basically energy fields. Activity is not the by-product of matter interacting, but the other way round. Entities turn out to be temporarily stabilized nodes in a web of interactions.
The things that we perceive and imagine are assemblies of a provisional nature. This essential fact is what Buddhism defines as emptiness. In fact, some of the most original ideas of the ancient Mahayana Buddhism (Nāgārjuna, c. 150 –c. 250 CE) are its critiques of the notion of identity: there are no two identical things in nature; nothing is identical toanother thing. And the central notion of “emptiness” suggests that there is nothing that exists only in itself, independent of everything else. The echo with modern physics is clear.
‘In a certain sense, everything is everywhere at all times. For every location involves an aspect of itself in every other location. Thus every spatiotemporal standpoint mirrors the world.’