Beauty and Ananda

What is the difference between the artistic look and the vital look?

In the artistic look there is only the perception of beauty and the joy of it because it exists and one has seen and felt it. There is no desire to possess or enjoy in the vital way.

The artistic way of seeing is better than the vital.

When I see certain faces, I like to look at them and, though ordinarily one may expect a wrong vital movement, I feel no such movement. Is such a thing possible?

One can have a preference or appreciation of a face or a body for aesthetic or other reasons without its being sexual — but when it is from a man to a woman the sex can come in at any moment unless one is master of one’s own consciousness.

Is it not true that Beauty and Truth are always one — wherever there is Beauty there is Truth too?

In beauty there is the truth of beauty. What do you mean by Truth? There are truths of various kinds and they are not all beautiful.

You have written: “Beauty is an expression, a form of Ananda.” In that case, is not Beauty itself part of the essence of the Divine, as are Ananda, Consciousness and Existence?[1]

If it is, should not one think that Love, Knowledge, Force, Light etc. are also expressions of Sachchidananda?

The word “expression” means only something that is manifested by the Ananda and of which Ananda is the essence. Love and Beauty are powers of Ananda as Light and Knowledge are of Consciousness. Force is inherent in Consciousness and may be called part of the Divine Essence. Ananda is always there even when Sachchidananda takes on an impersonal aspect or appears as the sole essential Existence; but Love needs a Lover and Beloved, Beauty needs a manifestation to show itself. So in the same way Consciousness is always there, but Knowledge needs a manifestation to be active, there must be a Knower and a Known. That is why the distinction is made between Ananda which is of the essence and Beauty which is a power or expression of Ananda in manifestation. These are of course philosophical distinctions necessary for the mind to think about the world and the Divine.

You further said in the letter on Beauty: “Aesthetically, the delight takes the appearance of Rasa and the enjoyment of this Rasa is the mind’s and the vital’s reaction to the perception of Beauty.” I find it difficult to understand how Beauty, Rasa and delight are connected with one other.

That can hardly be realised except by experience of Ananda. Ananda is not ordinary mental or vital delight in things. Rasa is the mind’s understanding of beauty and pleasure in it accompanied usually by the vital’s enjoyment of it (bhoga). Mental pleasure or vital enjoyment are not Ananda, but only derivations from the concealed universal Ananda of the Spirit in things.

You have said that peace, silence and knowledge come from above the mind. Do not love and joy too descend from above?

The soul’s love and joy come from within, from the psychic being. What comes from above is the Ananda of the higher consciousness.

How is it that only a rose looks beautiful and not many other flowers?

The rose is not the only beautiful flower, there are hundreds of others; most flowers are beautiful.

There are degrees and kinds of beauty, that is all.

The rose is among the first of flowers because of the richness of its colour, the intensity of sweetness of its scent and the grace and magnificence of its form.

What makes a flower beautiful?

Form, colour, scent and something else which is indefinable.

Plato’s book, The Banquet, is said to be about Love and Beauty. Is it a kind of philosophy?

Not much philosophy there, more poetry.

Shelley has translated The Banquet into English. Could I read it?

If you want to read it as a piece of literature, it is all right.

I did not find so much of poetry in the book. Perhaps you have read it in the original Greek?

Even in a good translation the poetry ought to come out to some extent. Plato was a great writer as well as a philosopher — no more perfect prose has been written by any man. In some of his books his prose carries in it the qualities of poetry and his thought has poetic vision. That is what I meant when I said it was poetry.

How do you find Plato’s ideas about philosophy, about Nature, existence of the soul, etc.?

I don’t know what are his ideas about philosophy or Nature. He believes in the soul and immortality and that is of course true.

When poets, authors, inventors, etc., bring down or create something quite new, do they do so by going for the time being beyond the human consciousness?

No. They remain in the human consciousness, but they open to something in the larger mind or larger vital (worlds of thought and vision, worlds of beauty) and become a medium for the expression of things that are [there].

You have explained to me something about Beauty and Ananda but not yet about the Divine Light. What is it and what is its function?

It has no function — it is just Light of Divine Consciousness. If you mean the result, it is supposed to illumine, to remove darkness and obscurity, to make the nature fit for true consciousness, Knowledge etc.

How do you define true consciousness?

The consciousness that is aware of the Divine and the truth and does not look at things from the ego — it is wide and calm and strong and aspires to union and surrender — many things besides, but this is the essential.


[1] Here is the letter of Sri Aurobindo to a Sadhaka which led me to seek elaboration from him:

“Beauty is not the same thing as delight, but like Love it is an expression, a form of Ananda, — created by Ananda and composed of Ananda it conveys that delight to the mind of which it is made. Aesthetically, the delight takes the appearance of Rasa and the enjoyment of this Rasa is the mind’s and the vital’s reaction to the perception of Beauty. The spiritual realisation has a sight, a perception, a feeling which is not that of the mind and vital; — it passes beyond the aesthetic limit, sees the universal beauty, sees behind the object what the eye cannot see, feels what the emotion of the heart cannot feel and passes beyond Rasa and Bhoga to pure Ananda, — a thing more deep, intense, rapturous than any mental or vital or any physical rasa reaction can be. It sees the One everywhere, — the Beloved everywhere, the original bliss of existence everywhere and all these can create an inexpressible Ananda of beauty, — the beauty of the One, the beauty of the Divine, the beauty of the Beloved, the beauty of the eternal Existence in things. It can see also the beauty of forms and objects, but with a seeing other than the mind’s, other than that of a limited physical vision — what was not beautiful to the eye becomes beautiful, what was beautiful to the eye wears now a greater marvellous and ineffable beauty. The spiritual realisation can bring the vision and the rapture of the All — Beautiful everywhere.”

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