LIFE IS FOR LIVING by Surendra Narayan

Chapter 4

 Beauty is The Lover’s Gift

The age old saying that beauty is the lover’s gift, apart from its obvious reference to physical beauty, can be seen to have deeper spiritual connotations as well. Life is a benediction, is meant to be beautiful, is in essence beautiful, for it is an expression of the Supreme Beauty, a gift of the Divine Love.

So much has been written, painted and sung by poets, artists, and mystics about the beauties of nature. Poets have gone into ecstasies about its glories—the play of colour on clouds, the cascading mountain streams, the lush green valleys, the deep dark woods, the snow-covered peaks, the delicate perfume of flowers, the joyous chirping of birds on trees and the gracefully romping deer in forests. All this loveliness and grace is seen as divine beauty breaking through the veil of the world. Rabindranath Tagore in one of his poems says:

Yes, I know, this is nothing but thy
O beloved of my heart—this golden
That dances upon the leaves, these idle
Clouds sailing across the sky, this
Passing breeze leaving its coolness
upon my forehead.

And when the mystics observe the beauty of the human form, they perceive the Divine Lover casting his own reflection to make it look glorious. Moving on to the deeper human consciousness, it has been mentioned that it is Divinity again which implants or invests its own beauty in the consciousness. Unfortunately, however, that beauty often gets covered up or shrouded by ignorance or illusion of a separate self. Plotinus once wrote that “Being is desirable because it is identical with Beauty, and Beauty is loved because it is being…We ourselves possess Beauty when we are true to our own being; ugliness is in going over to another order, knowing ourselves, we are beautiful; in self-ignorance, we are ugly”—or we make ourselves ugly. A somewhat similar perception of life and consciousness comes out in one of the Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett wherein it is mentioned that evil, which can be equated with ugliness, has no existence per se; it is the human being who by selfishness and greediness creates evil. The letter then adds that except by accident, neither a savage nor a wild free animal dies of disease; death is brought in naturally by old age.

Beauty flowers in the largeness or immensity of consciousness. It begins to wither when restricted by narrowness and self-enclosing identity. William Blake puts it poetically thus, using a different metaphor:

He who bends to himself a Joy
Doth the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses Joy as it flies
Lives in Eternity’s sunrise.

Beauty expresses itself in greater sensitivity. In our behaviour it is reflected in care and concern for others, based on deep observation of things around and within us. Is my thought centered round myself or moving unkindly towards others; is it indifferent, proud and imbued with a feeling superiority? Am I gentle and courteous in my behaviour or arrogant and unmindful of others’ feelings and sensibilities? Do I rush out to help one in pain and agony or remain unmoved? Does my speech reflect deep concern for others or does it often tend to become harsh, hurtful or even haughty? A beautiful expression occurs in The Light of Asia in the context of speech wherein it says:

Govern the lips
As they were palace-doors, the King
Tranquil and fair and courteous be all
Which from that presence win.

Our actions or deeds arise out of what we think, feel or say. If the source of the water that flows out is not pure, that water pollutes everything it touches, is ugly in itself and makes for ugliness elsewhere too.

Perfect beauty means being sensitive to everything – the grass, the trees, birds, animals and most of all, all other human beings. Sensitivity leads naturally to sharing, gradually merging with others in consciousness and becoming one with them all. Perception of that oneness leads to great richness, fullness and joyousness, with no outward source and with no end in time.

Purity is also of the same nature and quality as sensitivity. Its absence dims the glow of the light within. The state of impurity has been attempted to be described in the scriptures in various ways, all meaningful. When a lake gets covered by moss or the growth of wild hyacinth it looks impure. When a flower bed is overtaken by weeds, it loses its beauty. When a clean and shining piece of metal gets rusted it looks ugly. Tulasidasa in his epic Ramacharitamanas says: “When pure drops of rain fall on the earth, they become muddy water and a similar thing happens when the pure Self gets enveloped by maya or illusion.” He adds that the true nature of jiva , or being, is divine consciousness, which is pure and therefore naturally joyous. However, coming under the sway of maya, this same jiva gets itself shackled like a monkey caught in a trap. And how were monkeys trapped in those days? The symbolical story is well known but may bear repetition. A small pitcher with a narrow mouth was fixed in the ground and grain put into it. A monkey saw it, felt tempted and put its hand into the pitcher, grabbing the grain in its fist, but as the fist full of grain now could not come out of the narrow mouth of the pitcher, the monkey got trapped. To be free it had only to let go of the grain in its fist. In The Light of Asia, Lord Buddha puts it thus:

Ho! ye who suffer! Know
Ye suffer from yourselves. None else
None other holds you that ye live and
And whirl upon the wheel, and hug
and kiss
Its spokes of agony.

This world is surely beautiful and life in it is also beautiful and joyous, if lived in sensitivity and immensity of consciousness. Thomas Moore in his recent book Care of the Soul stresses the need for developing “soul-ecology”, by which he means “a responsibility to the things of the world based on appreciation and relatedness”.

Life is what we make of it. Within us is seated the Divine Lover who imparts beauty to it. We have only to reach the source of that radiant beauty within and let it purify and illumine our entire being.

A beautiful life is affectionate and yet detached; joyous yet serene, calm yet intensely compassionate, careful and yet totally carefree. When the inner, the deeper consciousness lights up and inspires the outer, life becomes beautiful and is lived in “heartful” vibrancy.