Body, senses and beauty || Acharya Prashant (2015)


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Question: Why does it happen that the movements and gestures that we make in our daily life is what others make perception of ours. For example in the past two hours I have been listening to you and I can’t stop noticing the fact that you are moving your legs?

Acharya Prashant: It happens because we are so bound to the senses, that we can see nothing but the body. How do I look at a man or a woman? How do I look at him? I look at him only in terms of what is visible to the eyes, or what can be touched; sensory perception. But if that be the case, then there is nothing except material. And that is pretty insulting. That is as good as saying that right now I am talking to a Sixty Kg mass. Because if there is only the material, then material has no consciousness. Material only has weight, color, smell and other physical properties.

But that is the way we approach any human being – only in terms of what appears, not what is real, not what is actual and valuable. And that reflects in all our choices. How do you choose, for example a girlfriend? Belonging to this part of the country, it would be very very difficult for you to choose a very dark woman. It is a particular set of features that you crave for. And that is what you call as valuable and beautiful. Is that not so? Because that is all that you can see, in a human being – the body.

Let me give you another example. Upcoming engineers, all of you here, what do you ride? Bikes, cars. Yes, you do that, Right? There would be quite a few of you who would not even know, how much torque, or the maximum torque, that their bike can provide. And there would be even fewer, who would have seen their car engine from inside. Even mechanical engineers are there who would have never seen a piston. But, what have you seen? What have you seen?

Listeners: The body.

AP: The body, the sheen. You have seen the bumper, you have seen the bonnet, you have seen the rest of the chassis and you have seen the dashboard. That’s how we operate, at the body level. We never know the insides, we never know the reality. We have been so trained to remain superficial, that it is only the superficial that we value. So, somebody’s legs, somebody’s eyes, somebody’s hands, somebody’s clothes.

And that is also how we will probably choose a job. It won’t matter what I would be doing throughout the day. What starts mattering? How glossy is the brand, how colorful is the office? The body part of it.

I do not know whether the dishes that they serve in 5 stars and 7 stars are actually more nutritious and any tastier than the food that they serve at a dhaba( Roadside restaurant in India). But one thing is certain, they package it really well. Don’t they? And we are ready to pay heavily for it. To pay for something is to value it. Now what is it that you are valuing? See, what you are valuing.

The Stuff is almost the same, you are valuing the packaging.

So, it is no wonder when anybody or anything comes to you, it is the packaging, the external aspects, the body, the voice quality, the gestures, the mannerisms. This is all that catches your attention. But if you are doing that, then you are missing out on the essential. And this superficiality is now pervading every aspect of our life – our music, our arts, all that man creates, all his choices.

L: Sir, sometimes if something is moving, it is disturbing. It is moving and that is why it catches our attention. But something which is still will not catch our attention. So, there are two objects in front of us, and if one of them is presented very beautifully…

AP: Not beautifully. Wait. There is a difference between beauty and sensual gratification. Do not call it beautiful. The way they package it in a five star is not really beautiful. It is just sensually attractive. And that is not at all beauty; not at all it is beautiful. Secondly, remember, that the real thing is not at all an object. Because an object, is material, you can hold it. The real thing is immaterial.

L: Yes Sir, the real part is in the material…

AP: It is not in the material, it is immaterial. It means that it is not at all an object or a material. But if your eyes and Mind, is trained only to look at the material, then you will end up buying the books, with the best covers. And that will be used to make a fool of you, all your life. Anybody with a stupid book, can come up with a nice cover. In fact those who write stupid books, make sure that the cover is attractive. Like the dish served in the 5 star, so that you can play Rs 1000, for a simple curry.

L: Sir, if a landscape seems visually attractive, can we use the term beautiful over there or not?

AP: No, not at all. Beauty is not in sensual perception. Whether it is a landscape, or whether it is a particular aroma, or sound of music; sensual perception, sensual input, is not what beauty is. You will have to inquire what beauty really is. We are standing in front of a hillside, and we say a beautiful scenery. Don’t you say that? So, we have been accustomed to think that beauty lies in that sunset or that hillside.

L: So, what is the exact meaning of beauty or beautiful?

AP: What is ugliness?

L: Sir, it has no clear definition.

L2: Which you don’t like.

AP: What you don’t like will be very different from what he (Pointing towards another listener) does not like. Again that will vary. But, what is ugliness?

L3: Which is not conforming to our sensory perceptions.

AP: Our sensory patterns, you mean? Are you getting this? If it does not conform to your pattern, it is ugly. I just, a while back, took that example of North Indian men, not being very open towards dark skinned women. That is a stereotyping, I understand, but that’s a fair stereotyping. It is there. They can be unkind enough, to even call them ugly. Can’t they be? Especially if their features are a little negroid. We may denounce racism, but it lives here (pointing towards the brain). But the same woman, would be called as beautiful in her native country. Won’t she be? Yes?

Now, what is this beauty that is being ascribed to her, there. Just the fact that, they have been used to seeing features of that kind and color of that kind. And what is ugly over here, is just the fact that you have a certain expectation and that expectation is not being fulfilled. So, in the sense in which we use these words – beautiful and ugly – these words have no value. In fact the more you use these words, the more you are only confirming that you are conditioning bound.

There are countries for example where women with very long necks are considered very beautiful. There are countries where women with very long ear lobes are considered very beautiful. And there are tribes, where the shorter you are, the more you are handsome you are taken to be. The shortest one gets to become the head of the tribe.

So, there is this plane, in which there is always a demarcation into ugly and beautiful, based on your conditioning. There is this plane. And the Mind always operates in this plane. Whatever it looks at, it can label it as, ugly or beautiful. Ugly, if?

L:  If it does not conform to the pattern.

AP: If it does not confirm to my pattern. So, in this plane, I operate and if something doesn’t conform to my pattern, I quickly label it as? Ugly. And if something conforms to my pattern, I label it as? Beautiful. And the Mind always operates in this plane. And then there is ugly and beautiful, ugly and beautiful, ugly and beautiful.

There is a possibility of living higher than this plane. There these demarcations do not hold good at all. And that is real beauty. Now when I was here, this distinction is a foolish distinction; I will not say, “Ugly-beautiful, ugly-beautiful, ugly-beautiful…” And to not to look at the world in this way, is really beautiful.

Beauty is the eye, that does not label world and people into beautiful and ugly. So, when the beautiful is beautiful and the ugly is equally beautiful, then there is beauty in your heart. Not in the object, not in the hillside. When there is beauty in the heart, then the beautiful is of course beautiful, but the ugly is equally beautiful. That is beauty. 

L: If there is a song, where the music is not very good, but the lyrics are very meaningful, so then can we call it beautiful?

AP: You can call it beautiful in a loose sense of the language, if the song brings you to that point, where the demarcation of ugly and beautiful is lost. My Mind is always running towards the beautiful and running away from the ugly. And that is a tense state of Mind. That’s an agitated state of Mind. Is that not? To go towards something and to protect yourself from something. But if the song is of the nature, that can calm me down, relax me down, so that I don’t have to run away from the ugly or run towards the beautiful, then the song has bridged the gap that I create. It has blurred the line of distinction that I draw between ugly and beautiful. So, the song has brought my mind to the state of beauty. So, in a loose sense of language, I can say, that the song is beautiful.

Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: Body, senses and beauty The transcription has been edited for clarity.

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