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Question: What is beauty?
Speaker: So we are talking about beauty. There is beauty in the dualistic sense – where something is beautiful, only if correspondingly there is something ugly, to compare it with. And then there is the non-dualistic, ‘advaitik’ beauty, where there is no opposite of beauty, where Beauty alone is; independent and all-encompassing.
Since in this non-dualistic Beauty, there is nothing except Beauty, so obviously there is nothing to compare beauty with. Beauty alone is. What would you compare it with? Hence it leaves no space for the ugly. That which alone is – is the Truth. And in the non-dualistic sense – Beauty alone is. There is nothing ugly.
Truth alone is. And in the real definition of beauty, Beauty alone is, because there can be nothing ugly, given that it is a non-dualistic definition. Now combine these two, and what do you get? Truth is beautiful. Truth alone, is Beauty alone. Truth alone, is Beauty alone. That is the purport of the statement that you often hear, “Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram (Truth, Godliness, Beauty)” Truth is Beauty. Do you get this now?
But when Truth is Beauty, remember, there is nothing ugly. If you still are seeing the world in a divided way, where you see things still as ugly, then one really does not have the right to utter this statement. This is about the non-dualistic beauty.
I will want to come back to the dualistic world. Something fine needs to be understood there. When we look at the world around, there are differences. What we call as ‘human life,’ is a life of discrimination, differentiation and discretion. We have to differentiate between ‘white’ and ‘black’. We have to differentiate between ‘day’ and ‘night’, between ‘being’ and ‘non- being’. That is what human life as a body is all about, right?
Your eyes do not look at the non-dual Truth, they only look at differences. Your ears do not hear the non-dualistic silence. They only hear wave forms comprising of differences, changes, modifications. So when we talk of this world, we have to talk about the art of discrimination, because discrimination will be there.
Beauty might be sitting in your heart, but when you look outside through your eyes, you will have to differentiate. And the moment you say, “Differentiate,” beauty cannot be all-encompassing, at least externally. Internally it might be, internally it might be your life-breath, internally it might be your very life-force, but your eyes, I repeat, can only see duality. Your mind can only think by way of inclusion and exclusion. Your entire process of living as body-mind, is dualistic. Or is it not? Your very sense of ‘I am — as body-mind’ is dualistic.
So then the question that arises is, “Even if there is an all-encompassing beauty sitting in my heart, how to differentiate between the ‘beautiful’ and the ‘ugly’ in the external world. The world is always external. I repeat the question, and it’s a very pertinent question. The question is: “Even if the Beauty, the Truth is sitting in my heart, how do I differentiate between ‘beauty’ and ‘ugliness’ in the external world. How do I differentiate between the ‘Truth’ and ‘falseness’ in the external world?”
The answer is actually, pretty simple and obvious. There will really be no need of asking for a ‘how to’, ‘how to differentiate’. If Beauty is sitting in your Heart, that enables you to find Beauty outside. How? There are only two kinds of minds, and there are only two kinds of sensory inputs that you receive. The mind is a dislocated child. The mind is a wanderer, looking for its home. There are only two kinds of inputs that can come to this lost and wandering child. First kind of input is – the one that takes it back to its Home, the second kind of input is – that which takes it further away from its Home.
‘Beautiful’ is – the input that takes you towards Beauty.
How do I decide that what is beautiful in this world? We said, “The Heart is always beautiful.” We said, “Beauty alone exists, Truth alone exists.” But Truth alone exists only to the Truth itself. We as creatures of falseness, we as lost minds, for us both true and false exist. Otherwise, there is no question of being lost. So for us, in the world, not only beauty, but also ugliness exists. The question that we are probing is, “How do I know that what is beautiful and what is ugly in this world.” The answer we said, is simple.
The Heart is beautiful, the Heart is the center of all Beauty, and you are receiving inputs all the time from this world. Whatever takes you towards your beautiful Heart, is Beautiful. Do you get this? Whatever takes you towards your beautiful Heart, is beautiful. And whatever takes you away from the Beauty in your Heart, is ugly.
You read a book, and it disturbs your already disturbed mind, you are justified in calling it ‘an ugly book’. Are you getting it? You go to a place, you are disturbed already, otherwise you wouldn’t have gone to this place. You go to a place which disturbs you, you are justified in calling that place ‘ugly’. Now remember, I am cautioning you, that place is not actually ugly. That place is ugly for you. It is just a subjective labeling that you are doing. But you are justified in doing that labeling, because for you, it is indeed ugly. Why is it ugly? Because as far as you are concerned, that place is taking you away from Heart, away from Silence, away from Truth and Peace. So you are justified in calling that place ‘ugly’.
Do not take this labelling very rigidly. Do not think that this is a universal and absolute Truth that – the place is ugly. But it is simultaneously alright to say that as far as you are concerned, for you obviously, that place is not auspicious. You must avoid it. Yes, there may be somebody else who does not need to avoid that place. There may be somebody else who might feel actually nice being in that place. There is somebody else who actually starts feeling peaceful in that place. He need not say, “The place is ugly.” Let him say, “The place is beautiful.” And you need not quarrel with him, because all labeling is anyway subjective.
We are talking right now about the ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’ in the world, and the world itself is subjective. So no wonder that whatever we are talking of, is just subjective. Are you getting it? This is how you should look at the world. What is beautiful? That which takes you towards the Beautiful. What is ugly? That which takes you away from the Beautiful.
Which place is a temple? That which reminds you of the Truth. Any place that reminds you of the Truth, is a temple. And even if a place is labelled as a ‘temple’, but it disturbs you even more, you have no need to call it a ‘temple,’ because it is not a temple for you. And all that matters is, whether it is a temple for you.
Absolute definitions do not matter in the world. The absolute matters only to the Absolute. And to creatures of non-duality, only non-dualistic definitions are useful. To them, an Absolute Truth makes no sense.
What I am talking of becomes more important when you contrast it with your classical definition of the’ beautiful’ and the ‘ugly’. How do you conventionally decide, what is ‘beautiful’ and what is ‘ugly’? You say, “That which pleases my conditioning, is beautiful.” Don’t you say that? And, “That which violates, and hurts, and breaks my conditioning, is ugly.” Don’t you do that? You have been conditioned to hear one particular kind of music, since childhood. And what do you do? You start finding it beautiful.
In the world you always differentiate between the ‘beautiful’ and the ‘ugly’, we are trying to see that what is the right way of making that differentiation. Usually how do you differentiate? Usually you say, “What pleases my conditioning, is beautiful. Being born in this milieu, looking at particular kind of faces, I think that a brownish complexion is better than a blackish complexion, a wheatish complexion is better than a brownish complexion.” Don’t we carry all these prejudices?
A fair face comes in front of us, and we are more likely here, given that we are sitting in this part of the world, when a fair face comes in front of our eyes, we are more likely to call it ‘beautiful’, which is nothing but conditioning and prejudice. But it happens all the time, does it not happen?
Even today, if you look at your popular actors and actresses, are most of them not cut out in similar ways? There may be a little bit of divergence here and there. But do you see radically different personas? Look at actresses, for example. Are not most of them ticking the same boxes? “She must have a particular height, she must have a particular body-type, and she must have a particular kind of face.” Is that not happening? And that’s what you call as ‘beautiful’. This is an ugly way of deciding between ‘the beautiful’ and ‘the ugly’.
I will come back to the fundamental issue. What I am saying is – In the world, because we are creatures of duality, so we have to differentiate between the ‘beautiful’ and the ‘ugly’. It will inevitably happen. Even if we grandly declare, “Beauty alone is,” it is a meaningless statement. In the world we keep on differentiating, don’t we differentiate? We differentiate between ‘blue’ and ‘green’, we differentiate between ‘hot’ and ‘cold’. So we will end up differentiating between ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’.
So we have taken up the issue of – how to rightly differentiate between ‘the beautiful’ and ‘the ugly’? The conventional way is – “What suits my conditioning is beautiful, what hurts my conditioning is ugly,” that is the conventional way of deciding. We are saying, “Lets come to a more spiritual way, more real way of making this distinction.” So we are saying, “That which takes you towards your Heart is Beautiful, that which takes you away from your Heart is ugly.”
That is not beautiful – which pleases your senses. That is not ugly – which your mind repulses. Let that not be a criterion at all. Criteria should be, “Reading this book, did I get to peace? Sitting in front of this man, did I experience silence?” If such is the book, call it ‘a beautiful book’. If such is the man, call him ‘a beautiful man’. A man is not beautiful, if he looks a particular way. Whether or not a person is beautiful, is to be determined, by how you feel near that person. It’s a very subjective definition. But yes we are talking of subjectivity. We are talking of this dualistic world, where everything is subjective.
Whether or not your wife is beautiful, is not determined by the way she talks and looks. It is determined by how you feel when you are next to her. Does she bring you to that beautiful silence, or do you get further agitated by being in her company? Does she excite you? Then she is disturbing you. Or does her very presence calm you down? If her presence calms you down, then she is beautiful.
Are you getting it?
I do not know how Kabir might have looked as a person, but I know that he is Beautiful, and there is nobody more beautiful than Kabir. I keep calling Jesus ‘handsome’. It is not because he was young, and tall, and fair, and muscular. I keep calling him ‘handsome’, for what he was. Meera is indeed so beautiful, not because she has sharp features, or she is an attractive young woman. Meera is beautiful for her devotion. Meera is beautiful, because when you are with Meera, then some of her devotion simply rubs-off on you. Sitting next to Meera, you get a taste of Krishna. That is why Meera is beautiful.
Buddha is so handsome, so is Mahavira. They are not handsome because they are attractive personalities. They are handsome because of what they are. They are handsome because when they are in front of you, you cannot be violent anymore. It is said of these people, that when they would walk, even animals would lose their violent tendencies for a while. Next to them, even animals would cease to be violent. And that is why they are handsome.
Do not just praise the eyes of your girlfriend. Her eyes are beautiful, if they can carry you into the Beyond. If her eyes just seduce you sensually, then they are very ugly eyes, very-very ugly eyes. But looking her eyes, if you are transported beyond your everyday problems, if you forget all about the trivial matters that occupy your mind, then her eyes are indeed beautiful. That is the way to decide, whether or not something or somebody is beautiful. Are you getting it?
Look at most of the things that people usually call as ‘beautiful’. Do they calm you down, or do they excite you more? When you call somebody ‘beautiful’, what happens when you are in his or her company? Are you calmed down, or do you become more excited and agitated? Yes? What happens? It only results in more excitement. If in somebody’s presence, you become excited, then that presence is not really good for you.
Now, we will try to be more watchful and alert when we utter these words: beautiful and ugly. You may look at a landscape, and say, ‘beautiful’. The moment you say, ‘beautiful’, ask yourself, “Was it because it excited me, or was it because it calmed me down?” If it calmed you down, only then you are justified in saying it as ‘beautiful’. Usually, if it calmed you down, then you will not be excited enough to say ‘beautiful’. For, “Beauty is Peace and Peace is Silence.”
If you are uttering ‘beautiful’, chances are, it didn’t calm you down. It excited you. Had it really calmed you down, why would you have been excited enough to say ‘beautiful’? You may still say, we are not ruling out the possibility, but chances are, when you will really experience beauty, you will become silent. The thought of praising it, or saying something about it, will not come to you. It would only probably be later, in some other context that you would want to attach a word or label to it. Only when somebody would ask, “Was it a beautiful experience?” then you would reply, “Oh indeed it was!” Only upon probing, would you want to give it a name, otherwise you won’t want to even give it a name.
Live cautiously in this world which uses sacred terms in profane ways. In this world, ‘beauty’ has become a cheap word. ‘Beauty’ is a sacred word, as sacred as ‘Truth’. You purchase a new gadget; hold yourself from calling it ‘beautiful’. You look at a skyscraper, a new building, check yourself, if you feel like calling it ‘beautiful’. You look at a song, which is giving you a semi-erotic experience, and what do you do? You call it ‘beautiful’. This is sacrilege.
‘Beautiful’ is that which takes you towards your Beautiful Heart. That’s what Beauty is.
~ Excerpts from a Shabd-Yog session. Edited for clarity.
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