The Ugly and the Beautiful

That green field with mustard-yellow flowers and a stream running through it is a lovely thing to look upon, is it not? Yesterday evening I was watching it, and in seeing the extraordinary beauty and quietness of the countryside, one invariably asks oneself what is beauty. There is an immediate response to that which is lovely and also that which is ugly, the response to pleasure or of pain, and we put that feeling into words saying, ‘This is beautiful’ or ‘This is ugly,’ But what matters is not the pleasure or the pain; rather it is to be in communion with everything, to be sensitive both to the ugly and the beautiful.

To understand what beauty is, to have that sense of goodness which comes when the mind and heart are in communion with something lovely without any hindrance so that one feels completely at ease – surely, this has great significance in life; and until we know this response to beauty our lives will be very shallow. One may be surrounded by great beauty, by mountains and fields and rivers, but unless one is alive to it all, one might just as well be dead.

What is beauty? Cleanliness, tidiness of dress, a smile, a graceful gesture, the rhythm of walking, a flower in your hair, good manners, clarity of speech, thoughtfulness, being considerate of others, which included punctuality – all this is part of beauty. But it is only on the surface, is it not?

There is beauty of form, of design, beauty of life.… You may have a beautiful face, clean-cut features, you may dress with good taste and have polished manners, you may paint well or write about the beauty of the landscape, but without this inward sense of goodness all the external appurtenances of beauty lead to a very superficial, sophisticated life, a life without much significance.

Mind you… we must all have good manners, we must be physically clean and dress tastefully, without ostentation, we must be punctual, clear in our speech, and all the rest of it. These things are necessary, and they create a pleasant atmosphere, but by themselves they have not much significance.

It is inward beauty that gives grace, an exquisite gentleness to outward form and movement. And what is this inward beauty without which one’s life is very shallow? …To help you to discover what is inward beauty, without which outward form and movement have very little meaning, is one of the functions of right education; and the deep appreciation of beauty is an essential part of your own life.

Can a shallow mind appreciate beauty? It may talk about beauty, but can it experience this welling up of immense joy upon looking at something that is really lovely? When the mind is merely concerned with itself and its own activities, it is not beautiful; whatever it does, it remains ugly, limited; therefore it is incapable of knowing what beauty is. Whereas a mind that is not concerned with itself, that is free of ambition, a mind that is not caught up in its own desires or driven by its own pursuit of success – such a mind is not shallow, and it flowers in goodness. It is this inward goodness that gives beauty, even to a so-called ugly face.

When there is inward goodness, the ugly face is transformed, for inward goodness is really a deeply religious feeling.

~ J. Krishnamurti