By Aparna Sharma December 2012 When you respond to beauty, you take a giant leap from the mundane to the sublime. Beauty can be a healing tool, a deeply moving experience, or even a form of meditation, says Aparna Sharma One evening as the sun went down, painting the lake in a hundred shades of red, orange and crimson, a young girl sat on the bank tossing pebbles into the water. Ripple after ripple appeared in concentric circles expanding into infinity. She watched, transfixed. The spectacular beauty of the ripples mesmerized her, casting impressions that stayed a lifetime. Decades later, 36-year-old Shalu Bhuchar recalls, “For once, I saw so clearly that the smallest action of mine does not stop at me but the impact carries on from person to person till I don’t know where.” That one scene of one of the many hundred evenings over a lifetime left such a strong imprint that beauty and nature became an essential part of Shalu’s work as a Learning and Development consultant.Yamini from Dwarka (NCR) shares how beauty became her path when she started painting. This 23-year-old paints only from a space of beauty within her. “Beginning like an amateur, painting mountains and streams, I suddenly quit when I painted a Ganesha. I began to realize that I can paint well only when it comes from a space within. Painting from a space of beauty within me has changed my paintings and has changed me as well,” she shared. For Yamini, her art became her path as she tried to tap into that space of beauty within, and it changed her life course. “Once when I hit a rough phase in life, feeling utterly hopeless and useless, my self-esteem at an all time low, I learnt mosaic. And then I learnt candle-making. I started making mosaics and candles just for the sake of creating them, one after the other. On one Diwali we lit 350 candles at home. The dazzling beauty of the golden flames changed my perspective about myself completely. I was not useless. I was beautiful. It felt amazing. It changed my course forever. Now this artist follows only the path of beauty as her meditation, seldom charging for her paintings. “It is something holy for me. I cannot charge money for my creations.” They say when the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, ventured into outer space, his first lesson was not in astronomy or science but in beauty. “What beauty! I saw clouds and their light shadows on the distant dear earth. The water looked like darken, slightly gleaming spots. When I watched the horizon, I saw the abrupt, contrasting transition from the earth’s light-colored surface to the absolutely black sky. I enjoyed the rich color spectrum of the earth. It is surrounded by a light blue aureole that gradually darkens, becoming turquoise, dark blue, violet, and finally coal black.” Alan Shepard, the NASA astronaut, echoes, “If somebody had said before the flight, ‘Are you going to get carried away looking at the earth from the moon?’ I would have said, ‘No, no way.’ But yet when I first looked back at the earth, standing on the moon, I cried.”However, we do not have to go to the moon to appreciate the beauty of the earth. The intricate swirls of rose petals or the strength of a grand oak tree are incredibly small fractions of the beauty surrounding us. The fluttering butterfly, the patient ladybird, the curl of a newborn’s fingers, the deep blue oceans and playful mountain streams, glacial peaks and eerily empty deserts, a raindrop pausing tentatively at the tip of the leaf and a bird singing much before the sun has come up are only a beginning of the incomprehensible vastness of beauty in the universe. Why is beauty appealing? Why has the concept of beauty held such a significant role in human consciousness down the ages? Spiritual teacher and author of The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle, says, “When you look upon another human being and feel great love towards them, or when you contemplate beauty in nature and something within you responds deeply to it, close your eyes for a moment, and feel the essence of that love or that beauty within you, inseparable from who you are – your true nature.” He talks about the first time a man might have marveled at the beauty of a flower, a thing otherwise utterly unprofitable to him. In that moment his consciousness took a giant step from the mundane to the sublime. The first time beauty appeared in its highest form in any element, heralds the evolutionary transformation of its consciousness, says Tolle. The first flower to bloom, the first mammal who flew instead of crawling, the first rock that crystallized and turned into a jewel – represented the self-realization of each of these life forms. One day, a critical threshold was reached and the first flower appeared. One day, a critical threshold was reached and a man became a Buddha, a teacher, a sage. Beauty in various traditions Virtually every religious and spiritual tradition has looked at beauty as an image of God. The magnificent cathedrals, the vast spaciousness of ornate mosques, the serenity of Zen gardens, and the majestic temple spires are an attempt to recreate the marvel of the beauty of God. Hindus in the subcontinent have always loved to worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity and the embodiment of beauty. About her, Sri Aurobindo wrote, “Harmony and beauty of the mind and soul, harmony and beauty of the thoughts and feelings, harmony and beauty in every outward act and movement, harmony and beauty of the life and surroundings, this is the demand of Mahalakshmi. But all that is ugly, mean, and base, all that is poor, sordid, and squalid, all that is brutal and coarse repels her advent. Where love and beauty are not or are reluctant to be born, she does not come; where they are mixed and disfigured with baser things, she turns soon to depart or cares little to pour her riches. The Hindu seers equated truth, God, and beauty when they said ‘Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram.’ The poet John Keats echoed this connection when he sang “ ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’– that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’ The Sufis, all over the Arabic and Persian world related beauty in the form of Saki (or God). Much of their poetry is infused with references to the ‘celestial drink’, a secret, sacred drink that imparts wisdom and bliss — wine, amrita, ambrosia, dew, tea, elixir, virgin’s milk. However, the ‘saki’ they talk about is not a woman, the ‘wine’ they talk about is not wine, and the mystic’s drunkenness is not intoxication. In fact the entire effort of the Sufi is to remain wrapped in the beauty of the Supreme Beloved, in ishq. The Greeks worshiped Aphrodite as the goddess of love and beauty. The Bible asserts, “God made man in his own image.” Hafiz, the Persian poet, was enamored by the beauty of the angel Gabriel and thus started his search for the Creator of that beauty. By and by we come from formless beauty to beauty worshiped in a form. Meera fell in love with the beautiful idol form of Krishna. The entire Vaishnav sect revels in the beauty of ‘leelas’ of their very beautiful gods. The Shakta poets worshiped the beauty of Mother Goddess. In fact, as per legend the Southern doors of the Kanyakumari temple at the Southernmost tip of the Indian peninsula are kept closed through most of the year. As per ancient legends, the brilliance of the goddess’s nose ring was such that it would dazzle and blind the mariners on the sea causing shipwrecks. Thus was the effect of beauty! The beauty formula How often has man tried to imitate the Divine or the unsurpassed beauty of nature? We have studied patterns, coined formulas, copied endless diagrams to emulate the beauty in nature. Mathematical considerations, such as symmetry and complexity have been used to study aesthetics. Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of the human body emphasized that it is the proportion or the ratio called ‘Golden mean’, which is at the root of all beautiful faces, shapes, and patterns. He gave the formula for this Golden mean or Golden ratio based on the mathematical series of Fibonacci numbers wherein the division of any two adjacent numbers gives the amazing Golden number which mathematicians call ‘phi’ (Golden Ratio or Golden Section): Φ=1.618. Da Vinci studied that the proportions of any beautiful human face follows the Golden Ratio in the proportions of the length of the nose, the position of the eyes and the length of the chin. Similarly, buildings are more attractive if the proportions used follow the Golden Ratio. The incredible design and beauty in leaves, flowers, vegetables, sea shells, earth patterns, galaxies, virtually any shape in nature follows this ratio based on the Fibonacci series. Da Vinci’s drawing of the Vitruvian Man (based on the work of the ancient architect Vitruvius) represents the beauty, complexity, and symmetry of the human frame and represents a cornerstone of Leonardo’s attempts to relate man to nature. Beauty as a healing tool The beauty in nature has a therapeutic effect on almost everybody. In my personal life, whenever the going got tough, I sat under a tree, feeling the beauty of its leaves, branches, fragrance, feeling its very pulse in my entire being. It has been therapeutic for me. The beauty in nature or the lyrics of a song give me the solace no amount of therapy can. Dr. Rashmi Menon, a 36-year-old doctor turned psychotherapist from Mumbai shares, “ When one is in a depression, one feels a sense of loss. This could be loss of power, of creative potential. What brings about healing is when a person is himself able to create objects of beauty. Creating gives them a sense of empowerment, re
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