Yogic View of Beauty

We are trained to appreciate external beauty of form, whether in life or in art. This training internalizes cultural preferences. Thus, the ideal of beauty changes depending on which culture is providing the cultural background and which time-frame encompasses the judgment term. Based on whatever our frame is for the judgment, we determine if something is beautiful or not. This is all, however, based on the ego-standpoint and does not take into account the divine standpoint. Where we do not observe beauty, the divine standpoint may see the perfection of beauty.

Can we see and appreciate the beauty in all aspects of existence, in the experiences that are pleasing to the eye and those that are abhorrent to us? When the seeker shifts out of the ego-standpoint to the divine standpoint, an entirely new vision proceeds, which turns everything into a form of beauty, an expression of the bliss of existence.

Some believe that this shift wipes out all distinctions and it is something akin to “seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses”. But for the yogic practitioner, there is a dual view, the view of unity and the harmony and beauty of the whole, as well as a detailed view of the diversity and an appreciation of the individual elements that make up the whole.

For an artist, trying to express something deeper than the superficial appearance, the real inner beauty, the radiance of the Divine, is what must be brought forward. When this is done, even an image of something we might consider to be grotesque, takes on a new significance and we experience the radiant glow of the spirit peaking through the outer form.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “There is a certain state of Yogic consciousness in which all things become beautiful to the eye of the seer, simply because they spiritually are — because they are a rendering in line and form of the quality and force of existence, of the consciousness, of the Ananda that rules the worlds, — of the hidden Divine. What a thing is to the exterior sense may not be, often is not beautiful for the ordinary aesthetic vision, but the Yogin sees in it the something More which the external eye does not see, he sees the soul behind, the self and spirit, he sees too lines, hues, harmonies and expressive dispositions which are not to the first surface sight visible or seizable. It may be said that he brings into the object something that is in himself, transmutes it by adding out of his own being to it — as the artist too does something of the same kind but in another way. It is not quite that, however; what the Yogin sees, what the artist sees, is there, his is a transmuting vision because it is a revealing vision; he discovers behind what the object appears to be, the something More that it is. …”

“But there is one thing more that can be said, and that makes a big difference. In the Yogin’s vision of universal beauty, all becomes beautiful, but all is not reduced to a single level. There are gradations, there is a hierarchy in this All-Beauty and we see that it depends on the ascending power (Vibhuti) of Consciousness and Ananda that expresses itself in the object. All is the Divine, but some things are more divine than others. In the artist’s vision too there are or can be gradations, a hierarchy of values.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 12, Other Aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Beauty, pp. 355-356

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