What is beauty, actually?

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What is beauty, actually?

Postby manas » Sat Sep 18, 2010 10:57 pm

I have been contemplating for a long time the seeming mystery of beauty, both what and why it is. Are we attracted to certain forms rather than others due to:

1. Conditioning. A male human feels attracted to a female human form, but repulsed by a female lobster form for example. But a male lobster would see things otherwise! So it is very subjective.

2. Mathematical laws (such as the Golden Mean, Fibonacci Numbers and their relationship with the growth of living things in general). I have read that human faces, for example, that have more of certain mathematical relationships expressed in their structures are generally agreed upon as being more beautiful than those that don't (if this is the case, I wouldn't do particularly well here...). Also that these same laws are expressed in the patterns of growth and thus structures in flowers, seashells, trees etc...

3. Last of all (the non-Buddhist explanation) is what I used to believe, and what has been seriously brought into question by my years of Buddhist practice: Beauty in this world is the mundane reflection of the true Beauty of the Divine / Ultimate / Nibbanic (whatever you wish to call the Summum Bonum) realm. Beauty, as it were, is the fingerprint left by the Divine Orderer, (who / which) makes available both all of the manifested universes, and the process of Awakening itself. (Ok...some old Hindu influences here...).

I personally find beautiful things (eg sunsets, flowers, the moon,the blue sky...) very soothing and conducive to mental calm, and I note that the Buddha makes use of images of beauty in his analogies (of various sublime states of mind, for example). But what is beauty, actually? I am very eager to be informed of any scriptural elucidations on this subject, if they exist, or just the realizations. opinions or musings of others.
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Re: What is beauty, actually?

Postby cooran » Sun Sep 19, 2010 12:06 am

Hello manasikara, all,

I am handicapped at the moment by having to depend on Internet Cafes with my texts all at home ~ but this may be a start:

AN 5.43 Ittha Sutta: What is Welcome
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

SN 47.20 Sedaka Sutta: At Sedaka (2: The Beauty Queen) The Beauty Queen
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

with metta
Chris
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Re: What is beauty, actually?

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Sep 19, 2010 12:26 am

Greetings,

manasikara wrote:But what is beauty, actually?

A subjective perception.

manasikara wrote:I am very eager to be informed of any scriptural elucidations on this subject, if they exist, or just the realizations. opinions or musings of others.

Subha saññā means "perception of beauty" - as with any perception, is it impermanent (anicca), not-self (anatta) and unsatisfactory (dukkha).

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: What is beauty, actually?

Postby bodom » Sun Sep 19, 2010 12:51 am

To add to what Retro said Subha saññāi (perception of beauty) is a distortion of reality...

vipallāsa: 'perversions' or 'distortions'. - ''There are 4 perversions which may be either of perception (saññā-vipallāsa), of consciousness(cittav.)or of views (diṭṭhi-v.).And which are these four? To regard what is impermanent (anicca)as permanent; what is painful (dukkha)as pleasant (or happiness-yielding); what is without a self (anattā)as a self; what is impure (ugly: asubha)as pure or beautiful'' (A. IV, 49). -


Source: Buddhist Dictionary, Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines, by NYANATILOKA MAHATHERA

http://glossary.buddhistdoor.com/en/word/4436/vipallasa

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: What is beauty, actually?

Postby bodom » Sun Sep 19, 2010 1:11 am

On the other hand there are many instances of appreciation of natural beauty by the Buddha and his disciples in the cannon..

Venerable Sariputta saw venerables Revata and Ananda coming in the distance and said, "Welcome friend, Ananda, the close and near attendant of the Blessed One. Friend, Ananda, in the moon light, the Sala forest is very pleasing the flowers in full bloom, give a heavenly scent." - MN 32


The color of blue-dark clouds, glistening, cooled with the waters of clear-flowing streams covered with ladybugs: those rocky crags refresh me. - Thag 1.13


Peacocks, crested, blue, with gorgeous necks, cry out in the Karamvi woods, thrilled by the cold wind. They awaken the sleeper to meditate. - Thag 1.22


With clear waters & massive boulders, frequented by monkeys & deer, covered with moss & water weeds, those rocky crags refresh me. - Thag 1.113


:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: What is beauty, actually?

Postby ground » Sun Sep 19, 2010 4:09 am

manasikara wrote:I have been contemplating for a long time the seeming mystery of beauty, both what and why it is. Are we attracted to certain forms rather than others due to:


The cause is the karma of human beings.

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Re: What is beauty, actually?

Postby 5heaps » Sun Sep 19, 2010 4:16 am

a complicated topic since its in essence a question of how we cognize anything at all (called the study of pramana in sanskrit).

i understand it to generally involve 3 different things: conventions, concepts, and direct experience.

an example is:
through direct experience you see shiny white skin and it induces the mental factor of happiness (due to past karma. it could easily cause distaste due to past karma). this direct experience falls under the human convention of "healthy", or whatever convention a person might fantasize about due to their habits, tendencies, moods, etc which too are based on past karma. an example of how ridiculous conventions can be is that if youre in a store and someone in front of your orders the exact same kind of drink then you induce the convention of "oh we have such a good connection". or, based on clothing, you induce the convention "this person is so intelligent".

finally, in dependence upon direct experience accompanied by happiness and conventions accompanied by happiness conceptualization kicks in and the category "beautiful" (or whatever) is applied. how it is applied is again a vast topic in pramana and extremely important to understand, and more importantly to catch in meditation. the specific difference between categories and conventions too is very important. so too is of course the difference between direct experience and generalities.
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Re: What is beauty, actually?

Postby alan » Sun Sep 19, 2010 4:28 am

Karma is the cause of beauty? Is that what you are saying?
I'm sorry but you don't seem to have thought this through.
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Re: What is beauty, actually?

Postby ground » Sun Sep 19, 2010 4:38 am

alan wrote:Karma is the cause of beauty? Is that what you are saying?
I'm sorry but you don't seem to have thought this through.


This is an invalid statement if you do not present your own line of reasoning

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Re: What is beauty, actually?

Postby ground » Sun Sep 19, 2010 4:50 am

alan wrote:My style is clear. Your reasoning is not.
Show me what Kamma has to do with perception of beauty, please.


The buddha taught that rebirths are depending on one's motivations and actions. So if rebirth in hell, as an animal or human etc is depending on one's karma then the objects of attraction in one of these forms of life are also depending on one's karma. Otherwise both animals and humans should be attracted to the same kind of objects which is not the case. Of course "animals" and "humans" are just convenient conventional categorizations because there are a lot of sub-types. However the sense faculties of humans have common features, so have the objects appearing due to these sense faculties and other physical features.

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Re: What is beauty, actually?

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Sep 19, 2010 5:24 am

Getting back to the OP:
manasikara wrote:I have been contemplating for a long time the seeming mystery of beauty, both what and why it is. Are we attracted to certain forms rather than others due to:

1. Conditioning.
2. Mathematical laws ... Also that these same laws are expressed in the patterns of growth and thus structures in flowers, seashells, trees etc...
3. Last of all ...Beauty in this world is the mundane reflection of the true Beauty of the Divine
... But what is beauty, actually? I am very eager to be informed of any scriptural elucidations on this subject, if they exist, or just the realizations. opinions or musings of others.

Here's a fourth theory, one which seems to me to have a fair bit of truth in it:
What we find beautiful is what shows most evidence of healthy life: in other people, bodily features showing youth, good health and freedom from injury and chronic poverty; in food, much the same; in landscapes, signs of serenity and stability which imply a safe environment.
If you accept this analysis, 'beauty' has survival value, which may be the reason it has been so important to people for so long.

That is not saying anything about how important beauty is to us as Buddhists. Personally, I feel that the world-hating meme, and therefore the anti-beauty programme, in Buddhism is a distortion of the original teachings. Ideally, we can enjoy the world without clinging to it - equanimity, after all, is one of the Brahmaviharas; loathing isn't.
:namaste:
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Re: What is beauty, actually?

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Sep 19, 2010 5:31 am

Greetings,

Alan's unnecessarily confrontational posts have been removed (as have a few posts that responded to Alan, and no longer make sense without their original frame of reference).

:focus:

Alan ~ please consider whether your style of posting is the most effective means to get your message across.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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Re: What is beauty, actually?

Postby alan » Sun Sep 19, 2010 5:57 am

What do you want me to do?
Not respond to stupid statements?
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Re: What is beauty, actually?

Postby octathlon » Sun Sep 19, 2010 5:59 am

W. Somerset Maugham wrote:Beauty is an ecstasy; it is as simple as hunger. There is really nothing to be said about it. It is like the perfume of a rose: you can smell it and that is all.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:Beauty is the moment of transition, as if the form were just ready to flow into other forms.

Curtis Siodmak wrote:Everything seems beautiful because you don't understand. Those flying fish, they're not leaping for joy, they're jumping in terror. Bigger fish want to eat them. That luminous water, it takes its gleam from millions of tiny dead bodies, the glitter of putrescence. There's no beauty here, only death and decay.
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Re: What is beauty, actually?

Postby alan » Sun Sep 19, 2010 6:07 am

No one really knows.
Everybody tries to get it but it is all just grasping at the wind. And any attempt to explain it fails.
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Re: What is beauty, actually?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Sep 19, 2010 6:09 am

alan wrote:What do you want me to do?
Not respond to stupid statements?
A statement may be stupid, but merely saying that it stupid does not make it so. That is just adding stupidity to the situation. Show that the statement is stupid by a smart, well reasoned and polite counter-argument.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: What is beauty, actually?

Postby manas » Sun Sep 19, 2010 6:37 am

Well once again, the Dhamma Wheel forum has surprised me with many thoughtful replies, even some scriptural quotations that I can follow up on. My sincere thanks everyone! :thanks:
Last edited by manas on Sun Sep 19, 2010 9:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What is beauty, actually?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Sep 19, 2010 7:18 am

TMingyur wrote:The buddha taught that rebirths are depending on one's motivations and actions. So if rebirth in hell, as an animal or human etc is depending on one's karma then the objects of attraction in one of these forms of life are also depending on one's karma.

This is certainly implicit in many Suttas and explicit in the Abhidhamma and Commentaries.

:anjali:
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Re: What is beauty, actually?

Postby Ytrog » Sun Sep 19, 2010 12:44 pm

Just to add my two cents:
I believe that an object has certain properties and that beauty is an interpretation of those properties and not a property of the object itself.
Suffering is asking from life what it can never give you.


mindfulness, bliss and beyond (page 8) wrote:Do not linger on the past. Do not keep carrying around coffins full of dead moments


If you see any unskillful speech (or other action) from me let me know, so I can learn from it.
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Re: What is beauty, actually?

Postby chownah » Mon Sep 20, 2010 2:15 pm

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder....and....like anything else lodged in the beholder's eye the beholder would do best to remove it quickly before inflamation sets in which is often followed by serious infection with its puss and bad humors.
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