THE PURPOSE OF BEAUTY
There are two different temperaments that we generally see in the world. One says, "I will not hear music on Sunday, it is a religious day; liking for colours is emotional; to look at pictures is passionate; to enjoy any perfume, to like fragrance is sensuous." And then there is another temperament who feels the vibrations of the colours, who enjoys delicious food, who admires the straight line and the curve, who is touched and moved by music, and who feels exalted by the beauty of nature. What difference do we find between these two temperaments ? The difference is that one is living and the other lacks life. One is living because he is responsive to all aspects of beauty, whether the beauty appeals to his eyes or ears or to his senses of taste or touch; the other one is incapable of enjoying it.
Man in his innermost being is seeking for happiness, for beauty, for harmony; and yet, by not responding to the beauty and harmony which is before him, he wastes his life which is an opportunity for him to experience and enjoy life. What self-denial is it to deny the divine beauty which is before us ? If we deny ourselves the divine beauty which surrounds us, then the beauty which is within will not unfold itself, because our condition is that the soul is born with its eyes open outwardly; it does not see the life within. And the only way of wakening to the life within, which is most beautiful, is first to respond to the beauty outside. This world with all its unlimited beauty - nature with sublimity, personalities with divine immanence - if we ignore all this, why have we come and what have we accomplished here ? The person who ignores it turns his back on something which he is continually seeking after; he is his own enemy. By this he cannot be spiritual, he cannot be religious. By denying himself all that is beautiful around him he cannot be exalted, for if beauty within was the only purpose of life, God would not have created man and sent him on earth.
Besides this, it is the vision of the beauty on the earth which wakens to the vision of the beauty which is in the spirit. Some say that it is sensuous and that it deprives one of spiritual illumination. It would, if a person were to be wholly absorbed in it and were to live only in it, and did not think that there was something else besides. For the beauty which is outside no doubt has a transitory character; it is passing and therefore it is not dependable. For the one who depends upon this beauty and has become absorbed in it, and by having become absorbed in it has turned his back on that beauty which is everlasting - no doubt for that person this is wrong. But at the same time no soul has ever arrived at beholding the vision of the spiritual beauty which is to be found within, without being wakened to the beauty which is external.
In my explanation, spiritual means living. A spiritual person who is wakened to the beauty of poetry, who is quick to admire the subtlety of a poem, who is appreciative of the beauty of melody, of harmony, who can enjoy art and be exalted by the beauty of nature, who lives as a living being, not as dead, it is that person who may be called spiritual. And you will always find that the tendency of spiritual personalities is to be interested in every person in their lives. That is the sign - because they are living. A person who is shut up in himself, closes himself; he has made four walls around himself. Then it becomes his grave, he is buried in it. The person who is living naturally sees all, and as he sees all he sympathizes with all, he responds to all, he appreciates all in everybody. And in this way he wakens in himself the sublime vision of the immanence of God.
Question : A child who dies very young cannot come to that spirituality through the beauty of life. What of that ?
Answer : The child sometimes is more responsive to beauty than a grown-up person, because a grown-up person has developed in his nature a pessimistic attitude, a prejudice, and through that prejudice he is incapable of seeing that beauty which a little child can see and appreciate. For instance, when we look at a person we make a barrier of our preconceived idea before we look at him. A child, an angel on earth, looks at him as he would look at his best friend; no enmity, no preconceived idea about anyone. Therefore, the child is open to beauty. A child does not know that the fire burns; the child only knows that the fire is beautiful. Therefore, a child is so blessed that every moment of his life he lives in a complete vision of beauty. And as long as this state lasts a soul is in the Garden of Eden. It is exiled from the day when the mind has touched the earthly human nature.
Question : If within the soul there was not the capability of appreciating beauty, how would it be able to perceive the external beauty first ?
Answer : The soul has, born in itself, a natural craving for beauty. It is a lack in the person if he does not seek it rightly. Is there any person who is not a lover of beauty, who is not capable of appreciating it ? He denies himself that beauty which he could have admired freely.
Question : Is the quality of appreciating beauty more spiritual than the craving for knowledge ?
Answer : Where does knowledge come from ? Knowledge comes by observation. Observation comes by love of beauty. The first thing is that the flower attracts one's attention; then one begins to find out where the flower comes from, what is its nature and character, what benefit it is, how to rear this plant. The first thing is that one is attracted by its beauty; the next thing is that one wants to find out its nature. From this comes all knowledge.
Question : not recorded
Answer : There is a kind of artificial learning. That is not natural learning. It may be called time-saving. A person says, "Now there are people who have learned in their lives; they have discovered things for us and written about them in books, and I must learn that by reading their books." But he does not know that then he has not learned what the person who has written the book has learned. For instance, someone who has read the books of Luther Burbank, if he has read fifty books on horticulture, has not learned what Luther Burbank has learned, for he has made experiments for himself; he has been in the garden; his joy is such that he cannot explain it. No doubt another person will benefit by what he has given, but another person cannot enjoy what he has enjoyed, unless he pursues the same course.
Question : Is true education bringing out that which is within ?
Answer : That is the thing.
Question : Does not a soul miss very much when he cannot bear music ?
Answer : A Hindustani poet has said, "The animals are attracted by music, the snakes are charmed by music, the birds and animals feel it, and if man does not, I do not know what to call him". But what often happens is that it is not so that the soul is not craving for music. When a person says, "I do not like music", it can only mean that he does not like to enjoy it. It does not mean that he is not capable of enjoying it. By saying it he makes a kind of auto-suggestion.
Question : Is it the same with people who do not like children ?
Answer : It is the same thing. They impress something upon their mind which may-be does not belong to the soul.
Question : These same people, when in the jinn-world, did they turn their back on things of beauty ?
Answer : Of course they have had a deep impression, but at the same time the thing is that we must be master of our likes and dislikes. By disliking our dislikes we begin to like all things. Sometimes dislike forms a kind of vanity. When a person says, "I dislike perfume", it means, "I am above perfume"; it means that he is so proud that it cannot reach him. Certainly he is above it, but it would be best if he could enjoy it.
It all depends upon not being responsive to beauty; it does not mean that the soul does not like it. If there is a boxing match going on somewhere, thousands and thousands of people will go there just to see who hits the other worse. There is nothing beautiful, nothing enjoyable to see, but still such a large number of people is going there; it is psychological. Man keeps himself from progress.
Question : What is the tendency in man that keeps him back from progress ?
Answer : At the present time the world is becoming very commercial, even to such an extent that, absorbed in commercialism, it overlooks the sense of beauty. In other words, the sense of beauty is being sacrificed to commercialism. At the same time there is no purpose accomplished in it. This is the fault of this particular time. It is its wakening to beauty in all its aspects that accomplishes the purpose of the soul.
Question : This was not so in ancient times ?
Answer : No, there were other faults, but this is the fault of this particular time.
Nevertheless, whatever be the condition of the world, those who walk in the spiritual path do not need to be disappointed, for their striving for spirituality is not because others must appreciate, it is because they wish to tread the spiritual path. And therefore, if they keep in their minds that the divine truth is the most beautiful thing in the world and that by responding, by appreciating and by admiring beauty in all its aspects, by recognizing the divine in all beauty - the sweetness of the fruit, the colour of the flower, the fragrance of roses, the light of the stars, in all things - in this way man expands. And it is this which allows the soul to unfold itself and to manifest the divine spirit.