The village was dirty, but there was tidiness around each hut. The front steps were washed and decorated daily, and inside the hut was clean though somewhat smoky from the cooking. The whole family was there, father, mother and children, and the old lady must have been the grandmother. They all seemed so cheerful and strangely contented. Verbal communication was impossible, as we did not know their language. We sat down, and there was no embarrassment. They went on with their work, but the children came near, a boy and a girl, and sat down, smiling. The evening meal was nearly ready, and there was not too much of it. As we left, they all came out and watched; the sun was over the river, behind a vast, solitary cloud. The cloud was on fire and made the waters glow like remembered forest fires.
The large house had a lovely garden with high, white walls all around it. The garden was full of colour and bloom, and a great deal of money and care must have gone into it. It was extraordinarily peaceful in that garden; everything was flourishing, and the beauty of the large tree seemed to protect all the other things that were growing.
She was a dancer, not by profession but by choice. She was considered by some to be a fairly good dancer. She must have felt proud of her art, for there was arrogance about her, not only the arrogance of achievement but also that of some inner recognition of her own spiritual worth. As another would be satisfied with outward success, she was gratified by her spiritual advancement. The advance of the spirit is a self-imposed deception, but it is very gratifying. She had jewels on, and her nails were red; her lips were painted the appropriate colour. She not only danced, but also gave talks on art, on beauty, and on spiritual achievement.
Vanity and ambition were on her face; she wanted to be known both spiritually and as an artist, and now the spirit was gaining.
She said she had no personal problems, but wanted to talk about beauty and the spirit. She did not care about personal problems, which were stupid anyhow, but was concerned with wider issues. What was beauty? Was it inner or outer? Was it subjective or objective, or a combination of both? She was so sure of her ground, and surety is the denial of the beautiful. To be certain is to be self-enclosed and invulnerable. Without being open, how can there be sensitivity?
‘What is beauty?’
Are you waiting for a definition, for a formula, or do you desire to inquire?
‘But must one not have the instrument for inquiry? Without knowing, without explanations, how can one inquire? We must know where we are going before we can go.’
Does not knowledge prevent inquiry? When you know, how can there be inquiry? Does not the very word knowing indicate a state in which inquiry has ceased? To know is not to inquire; so you are merely asking for a conclusion, a definition. Is there a measure for beauty? Is beauty the approximation to a known or an imaginary pattern? Is beauty an abstraction without a frame? Is beauty exclusive, and can the exclusive be the integrated? Can the outer be beautiful without inner freedom? Is beauty decoration, adornment? Is the outward show of beauty an indication of sensitivity? What is it that you are seeking? A combination of the outer and the inner? How can there be outer beauty without the inner? On which do you lay emphasis?
‘I lay emphasis on both; without the perfect form, how can there be perfect life? Beauty is the combination of the outer and the inner.’
So you have a formula for becoming beautiful. The formula is not beauty, but only a series of words. Being beautiful is not the process of becoming beautiful. What is it that you are seeking?
‘The beauty of both form and spirit. There must be a lovely vase for the perfect flower.’
Can there be inner harmony, and so perhaps outer harmony, without sensitivity? Is not sensitivity essential for perception either of the ugly or the beautiful? Is beauty the avoidance of the ugly?
‘Of course it is.’
Is virtue avoidance, resistance? If there is resistance, can there be sensitivity? Must there not be freedom for sensitivity? Can the self-enclosed be sensitive? Can the ambitious be sensitive, aware of beauty? Sensitivity, vulnerability to ‘what is’ is essential, is it not? We want to identify ourselves with what we call the beautiful and avoid what we call the ugly. We want to be identified with the lovely garden and shut our eyes to the smelly village. We want to resist and yet receive. Is not all identification resistance? To be aware of the village and the garden without resistance, without comparison, is to be sensitive. You want to be sensitive only to beauty, to virtue, and resist evil, the ugly. Sensitivity, vulnerability is a total process, it cannot be cut off at a particular gratifying level.
‘But I am seeking beauty, sensitivity.’
Is that really so? If it is, then all concern about beauty must cease. This consideration, this worship of beauty is an escape from ‘what is’, from yourself, is it not? How can you be sensitive if you are unaware of what you are, of ‘what is’? The ambitious, the crafty, the pursuers of beauty, are only worshipping their own self-projections.
They are wholly self-enclosed, they have built a wall around themselves; and as nothing can live in isolation, there is misery. This search for beauty and the incessant talk of art are respectable and highly regarded escapes from life, which is oneself.
‘But music is not an escape.’
It is when it replaces the understanding of oneself. Without the understanding of oneself, all activity leads to confusion and pain. There is sensitivity only when there is the freedom which understanding brings-the understanding of the ways of the self, of thought.
Excerpt from Commentaries on Living I by Jiddu Krishnamurti