Fa Tsang answered, “Just watch, your majesty, how each mirror not only reflects the one flame in the center, each mirror also reflects the reflections of the flame in all the other mirrors, until an infinite number of flames fills them all. All these reflections are mutually identical; in a sense they are interchangeable, in another sense each one exists individually. This shows the true relationship of each being to its neighbor, to all that is. Of course, I must point out, your majesty,” Fa Tsang went on, “that this is only a rough approximate and static parable of the real state of affairs in the universe, for the universe is limitless and in it all is in perpetual multidimensional motion.” Then the master covered one of the infinite number of reflections of the flame and showed how each apparently insignificant interference affects the whole organism of our world. Kegon expresses this relationship by the formula: One in all, all in one, one in one, all in all.
Then Fa Tsang, in order to conclude his command performance, held up a small crystal ball and said, “Now watch, your majesty, how all these large mirrors and all the myriad forms they reflect are mirrored in this little sphere. See, how in the ultimate reality, the infinitely small contains the infinitely large and the infinitely large the infinitely small, without obstruction. Oh, if only I could demonstrate to you the unimpeded mutual interpenetration of time and eternity, of past, present and future. But alas, this is a dynamic process that must be grasped on a different level….”
Man is not an island; nothing is. All is interrelated, all is interdependent. Independence – the very word – is false; so is dependence. The reality is interdependence.
Everything is so deeply connected with everything else that nothing can exist apart. If you can understand a small roseflower in its totality, root and all, you will have understood the whole cosmos, because the whole cosmos is involved in that small roseflower. In the smallest leaf of grass all is contained. But remember, as Fa Tsang said to the empress: All illustrations, all descriptions are static, and existence is a dynamic flux. It is a river. Each thing goes on moving into each other thing. It is impossible to draw lines where one thing ends and another begins; there are no demarcating lines – there cannot be. So all distinctions are only for practical purposes, they have no existential value.
This is the first thing to be understood. This is very fundamental to the Taoist alchemy. Once this is understood, then the whole alchemy of Taoism becomes comprehensible. Then the lower can be transformed into the higher, because the lower contains the higher already. The baser metal can be transformed into gold because nothing is separate – the baser contains the gold already: as above, so below; as below, so above.
The very idea that all is interconnected makes transformation possible. If things are not interconnected then there is no possibility of any transformation. If the world consists of the philosopher Liebnitz’s monads – windowless, separate, atomic individuals, not connecting with each other at all because they are windowless – then there is no possibility of any transformation.