Krishnamurti on Beauty
‘Can there be beauty in the external world without understanding the beauty of life in oneself?’
This week’s podcast has five sections, including an exclusive recording made for the book ‘Krishnamurti to Himself’, which has not been heard before, outside of the archives.
The first extract (2:06) is from Krishnamurti’s fifth talk in Saanen 1982, titled ‘What is beauty?’
The second extract (9:22) is from the fourth talk in Saanen in 1985, titled ‘Is it beauty when you are absorbed by something?’
The third extract (27:02) is from Krishnamurti’s fourth talk in Madras 1974, titled ‘The silence of a quiet mind is the essence of beauty’.
The fourth extract (37:18) is from the fourth talk in Ojai 1978, titled ‘Beauty and desire’.
The final extract this week (53:54) is from a recording by Krishnamurti in Ojai 1983, titled ‘A new day has begun, full of beauty’.
What Is Beauty?
Our whole civilization, whether in the East or in the West, has been the investigation of the external, making the external pleasant, agreeable, comfortable, and so on; making the external beautiful – a beautiful house, beautiful furniture, a lovely garden, beautiful clothes, marvellous paintings, extraordinary poems, the great cathedrals, the temples, a beautiful woman or man, and so on – external – making the external as perfect as possible, as accurate as possible. In this part of the world, you will see the mechanical things are extraordinarily long-lasting; you don’t have to call the plumber every other day. Here they endure. So, our history is the story of mankind, and that mankind is you – history is the story of yourself. And we have made the external as so-called beautiful as possible. If you see an aeroplane, it is really extraordinarily beautiful, or a diamond, or a marvellous bridge expanding vast waters.
So is that beauty? When you see a mountain against a blue sky, the shadows, the valley, the rivers, that is an astonishing sight. So one asks, what is beauty? Is there beauty without having inner beauty? We will go into the word ‘beauty’ presently. You may have a beautiful face, beautiful body, proportion, good eyes and all the rest of it – the external beauty of a person is nice, attractive, pleasant, and is that beauty without understanding the depth and the meaning of beauty?
So what is beauty? Is it only in the external world? Can there be beauty in the external world without understanding the beauty of life in oneself? So we are inquiring together. Please, I must emphasise together, cooperating together to find out what beauty is – not according to the magazines, not what the artistic authorities say is beauty, but to understand for ourselves the nature of beauty. Because without that, love cannot be.
Has beauty a cause? As love has no cause, as intelligence has no cause, which we went into previously, has beauty a cause? So we are going to inquire if there is a cause to beauty.
When you see something extraordinarily great, marvellous, majestic, what is your response to it? You observe it, if you are at all aware of something external that is taking place, you say, ‘How extraordinary; how beautiful that is; let’s go and have tea.’ Such a response is very, very superficial.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1984, Talk 5
Is It Beauty When You Are Absorbed by Something?
It is such a lovely morning, beautiful, a clear blue sky, the quiet hills, the deep shadows and the running waters, the meadow, the grove and the green grass. We should talk over together what beauty is, on such a lovely morning. Could we talk about what beauty is? Because that is a very important question. Not the beauty of nature or the extraordinary vitality, dynamic energy of a tiger. You have only seen tigers in a zoo, but the poor things are kept there for your amusement. If you go to some parts of the world, where the speaker has gone, he was close to a wild tiger, as close as two feet away. Don’t get excited! We should also go into this question because without beauty and love there is no truth.
We ought to examine very closely the word ‘beauty’. What is beauty? You are asking that question, and the speaker is asking that question, so we are both together looking, not only at the word, the implications of that word, and the immensity, the incalculable depth of beauty. Should we talk about it? We can talk about it, but the talk, the words, the explanations and the descriptions are not beauty. The word ‘beauty’ is not beauty. It is something totally different. So one must be, if one may point it out, very alert to words because our brain is active in a movement of words. Words convey what one feels, what one thinks, and one accepts the explanations, descriptions because our whole brain structure, most of it, is verbal. So one must go into it very, very carefully not only with regard to beauty but also with regard to austerity, with regard to self-interest. We are going to go into all these questions this morning, if we will.
So we are asking ourselves: what is beauty? Is the beauty in a person, in a face? Is beauty in the museums, paintings – classical paintings, modern paintings? Is beauty in music – Beethoven, Mozart, Bach and all the rest of them? Is beauty in a poem? In literature? In dancing? In all the noise that is going on in the world called music? Is all that beauty? Or is beauty something entirely different? We are going into it together. Please don’t, if one may respectfully point out, accept the words, merely be satisfied with the description and explanation, not agreeing and disagreeing, all that business – let’s put all that out, if we can, from our brain and look at it very carefully, stay with it, penetrate into the word.
The quality of beauty is sensitivity, which implies not only the beauty of nature – the deserts, the forests, the rivers and the vast mountains with their immense dignity and majesty – but also feeling – not the romantic imaginations and sentimental states; those are merely sensations. Is beauty, then we are asking, a sensation? Because we live by sensations. Sexual sensation, with which goes pleasure, and also the pain that is involved in the feeling that it is not being fulfilled, and so on. If we could this morning put out all those words from our brain and look at, go into this enormous, very complicated, subtle question: what is the nature of beauty? We are not writing a poem!
When you look at those mountains, those immense rocks jetting into the sky, if you look at it quietly, you feel the immensity of it, the enormous majesty of it. And for the moment, for a second, the tremendous dignity of it, the solidity of it, puts away all your thoughts, your problems. For a second. And you say, ‘How marvellous that is!’ So what has taken place there? The majesty of those mountains, for a second, the very immensity of the blue sky and the snow-clad mountains drives away all your problems. It makes you totally forget yourself for a second. You are enthralled by it, you are struck by it. Like a child, who has been naughty all day long, or naughty for a while, which he has a right to be – you give him a complicated toy and he is absorbed by the toy. Until he breaks it up, the toy has absorbed him. The toy has taken him over and he is quiet, he is enjoying, he has forgotten his family, his mother, the ‘do this, don’t do that,’ and the toy becomes the most exciting thing for him. The mountain, the river, the meadows and the groves absorb you and you forget yourself. So is that beauty?
To be absorbed by the mountain, by the river or the green fields, means you are like a child being absorbed by something. For the moment you are quiet, being absorbed, taken over, surrendering yourself to something. Is that beauty, being taken over, surrendering yourself to something great? And that thing is forcing you for a second to forget yourself. So then you depend, depend as the child does on a toy, or we depend on the cinema or television. For the moment, you have identified yourself with the actor or actress. Surely all that is a form of being taken away from yourself. Would you consider that state, being taken over, surrendering, being absorbed, that quiet second, beauty?
When you go to a church, temple or mosque, there the chanting, the rituals, the intonation of the voice – everything is so organised, so carefully put together to create a certain sensation, which you call worship, which you call a sense of religiosity. Is that beauty? Or beauty is something entirely different. Are we understanding this question together?
Is there beauty where there is self-conscious endeavour? Or there is beauty only when the self is not, when the ‘me’, the observer, is not? So is it possible, without being absorbed, taken over, surrendering, to be in that state, without the self, without the ego, the ‘me’ always thinking about itself? Is that possible at all, living in this modern world with all its specialisations, with its vulgarity, the immense noise that is going on – not the noise of running waters or the song of a bird – is it possible to live in this world without the self, the ‘me’, the ego, the persona, the assertion of the individual? In that state when there is really freedom from all this, only then there is beauty.
Krishnamurti in Saanen 1985, Talk 4
The Silence of a Quiet Mind Is the Essence of Beauty
You can make the mind quiet by taking a drug. By repeating a mantra or a word, constantly repeating, repeating, naturally your mind will become quiet. Such a mind is a dull, stupid mind, and you call that transcendental meditation – or whatever you like to call it.
There is a silence between two noises, there is silence between two notes, there is silence between two movements of thought, there is silence of an evening when the birds have made their noise, chattering, and have gone to bed. There isn’t a flutter among the leaves, there is no breeze, there is absolute quietness – not in the city but when you are out with nature, when you are among the trees or sitting on the banks of a river, then silence descends on the earth and you are part of that silence. So there are different kinds of silence but the silence we are talking about, the quietness of a mind, that silence is not to be bought, it is not to be practised, it is not something you gain, a reward, a compensation to an ugly life. It is only when the ugly life has been transformed into the good life – ‘the good’ I mean not having plenty but the life of goodness, the flowering of that goodness, the beauty – then the silence comes.
And also you have to inquire: what is beauty? I’m afraid in this country you have lost touch with nature. Though in your books nature is mentioned, you, the modern man, have lost touch with nature. Having lost touch with nature, you have also lost touch with man, with your neighbour. So you have to find out what beauty is.
What is beauty? Have you ever gone into this question? Will you find it in a book and tell me or tell each other what that book says about what beauty is? What is beauty? Did you look at the sunset this evening as you were sitting there? The sunset was behind the speaker. Did you look at it? Did you feel the light and the glory of that light on a leaf? Or do you think beauty is sensory, sensuous, and a mind that is seeking sacred things cannot be attracted to beauty, cannot have anything with beauty because beauty implies the woman, therefore suppress it, therefore only concentrate on your little image which you have projected from your own thought as the good? So you have to find out.
If you want to find out what meditation is, you have to find out what beauty is. Beauty in the face, beauty in character – not character; character is a cheap thing that depends on your environmental reaction, and the cultivation of that reaction is called character. The beauty of action, the beauty of behaviour or conduct, the inward beauty, the beauty of the way you walk, the way you talk, the way you gesture – all that is beauty. And without having that, meditation becomes merely an escape, a compensation, a meaningless action. And there is beauty in frugality, there is beauty in great austerity. Not the austerity of the sannyasi but the austerity of a mind that has order. The mind that has understood the disorder it lives in – out of this disorder, you create a pattern of order. But that is not order. Order comes when you understand the whole disorder in which you live, and in the understanding of that disorder, out of that disorder comes naturally order which is virtue. Therefore virtue, order is supreme austerity; not the denial of three meals a day or fasting or shaving your head and all the rest of that business.
So, there is order which is beauty. There is order, there is beauty of love, the beauty of compassion. And also there is the beauty of a clean street, of good architectural form of a building, there is beauty of a tree, the lovely leaf, the great big branches – to see all that is beauty. Not merely go to museums and talk everlastingly about beauty.
So, silence of a quiet mind is the essence of beauty. And because it is silent and because it is not the plaything of thought, in that silence comes that which is indestructible, which is sacred. And in the coming of that which is sacred, life becomes sacred. Your life becomes sacred, our relationship becomes sacred; everything becomes sacred because you have touched that thing which is sacred.
Krishnamurti in Madras 1974, Talk 4
Beauty and Desire
If you have observed, most of the religions have said: deny desire, control desire, subjugate desire, deny desire in the service of God. Monks throughout the world have said: don’t have desire. But when you deny desire, suppress desire, it has greater strength, greater vitality, and so you inwardly burn with desire. Outwardly have a calm face, read the book, don’t look at a woman, don’t look at the beauty of the world, nature, the marvellous earth, because that might awaken desire, so don’t concern yourself; you are a monk, don’t look at anything but the book. And when you do look at a woman, consider her as your sister, your mother, anything but what she is. This has been the way of the monks throughout the world. But we are not saying suppress, control, deny, run away from desire. On the contrary, we are trying to understand the nature of it. And when we have comprehended fully its structure and its nature, then it has its right place. Then it doesn’t fill the horizon, your whole life, therefore there is neither denying it nor suppressing it.
So it is important to understand the nature of desire, what desire is. Surely desire is a reaction to a stimulus. The stimulus is when you see something, say in a shop window, or when you see a woman or a boy or a man, or a beautiful car, or a dress, and so on. So desire arises through perception, seeing – please observe it for yourself; it is not because I say so – through seeing, then contact, then sensation; then thought creates out of that sensation the image, and that very creation of that image is desire. Please don’t accept what the speaker is saying, observe it in yourself. You see a beautiful dress, shirt, trousers, whatever it is, and seeing it, touching it, the contact, the sensation, and thought creates the image of you wearing it, and desire arises.
Please, as we said, this is not analysis; this is observation. When you observe, analysis has no place. When you observe the movement of sensation, the sensation, whether it be sexual, whether it be any kind of sensation, arises through seeing, the optical seeing – the observation, the contact, the sensation and the image-making. That is the whole movement of desire. But the problem is that movement demands fulfilment, demands that it should gain what it wants, should buy the dress, or whatever it desires. Now the problem is, where does thought come in and make it into a desire, demanding fulfilment? Where does thought come in?
You see a beautiful car – I am taking the car, it may be a woman, it may be a man, it may be a marvellous picture, a piece of furniture, a piece of jewellery – whatever it is. You see a car. Then the contact with it, the sensation to own it. Sensation, and thought creates the image of you sitting in the car and driving it. Then the whole problem arises whether thought can separate itself from sensation. I wonder if this is clear. It is not. I’ll make it a little more clear. You see the car: sensation, and the desire – you sitting in the car, driving it. And if you haven’t got enough money to buy the car, you are jealous, you are anxious, you do all kinds of things.
So the problem arises when desire demands fulfilment. You see a beautiful woman or beautiful man: sex, urge, and all the rest of it – the desire always wanting its fulfilment. The desire is constant. The objects of desire may vary but desire is constant. And then the struggle begins: I must not desire, I must desire, the edict of religions – if you pay attention to that kind of thing anymore. Or because you desire, you fulfil whatever you want – the permissiveness of this country, which is spreading unfortunately throughout the world. You are setting the standard, unfortunately.
So this constant struggle to do whatever desire demands. It may bring pain, it may bring satisfaction, it may bring pleasure, it may bring all kinds of things, but there is constant struggle. Where there is struggle, there is expenditure of energy. So the monks have said: don’t waste that energy, withhold desire; that energy is necessary to serve God – whatever it is – Jesus Christ and all the rest of it. All put together by thought. I am sorry we are speaking next to a church!
So how to prevent the conflict is the question. Desire is always creating conflict. You may be satisfied with one fulfilment of a desire, but that satisfaction demands more, so there is constant pressure, constant drive, which brings about a great deal of conflict. The question then is, is it possible to prevent this conflict? Because one realises conflict is a wastage of energy, when you are related with a man or woman, to be in conflict with each other is so futile, meaningless. And in the same way, one must find out whether this wastage of energy through conflict, which desire inevitably brings about, whether that conflict can end.
How does this conflict arise in the movement of desire? Are we together in this? Please, are we understanding each other? Some of you perhaps will, some of you don’t – doesn’t matter, it’s up to you. We are asking, where does conflict arise in desire? Observation, sensation, contact, sensation. If that stops, there is no conflict. I wonder if you see that. You see the car: contact, sensation. That is normal, natural. You see a beautiful thing, a beautiful mountain, beautiful trees, a lovely morning: sensation. But thought says, ‘I wish such a beautiful day could continue tomorrow, without rain.’ So is it possible – please listen – is it possible to be so alertly aware for sensation to stop and not let thought interfere with it?
That is, have you ever observed the sea, or the mountains, or your friend, or your boy or girl, with total awakening of all the senses? Not just the eyes or the ears – with all your senses to observe? I wonder if you have ever done it. Then you will see there is no division between the observer and the observed. That is, when you observe totally, with your heart, with your mind, with your eyes, with your ears, with all the senses awakened, with all the senses observing, then there is no desire as thought interfering with sensation. Do try now, as you are sitting there, to observe, doesn’t matter what, the tree, with all your senses, not only with your eyes. If you do, the sensation of seeing the colours, the sparkling leaves in the sun, the clarity of the blue sky, the sensation, if you so completely observe, there is no centre from which you desire.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1978, Talk 4
A New Day Has Begun, Full of Beauty
It is a new day, and the sun won’t be up for an hour or so. It is quite dark, and the trees are silent, waiting for the dawn and the sun to rise behind the hills. There ought to be a prayer for dawn. It comes so slowly, penetrating the whole world.
Here in this quiet, secluded house, surrounded by orange trees and a few flowers, it is extraordinarily quiet. There are no birds as yet singing their morning song. The world is asleep, at least in this part of the world, far from all civilization, from the noise, the brutality, the vulgarity and the talk of politicians.
Slowly, with great patience, the dawn begins in the deep silence of the night. It was broken by the mourning dove and the hoot of an owl. There are several owls here; they were calling to each other. And the hills and the trees are beginning to awaken.
In silence, the dawn begins. It gets lighter and lighter, and the dew is on the leaf, and the sun is just climbing over the hill. The first rays of the sun are caught in those tall trees, in that old oak that has been there for a very, very long time. And the mourning dove begins with its soft mournful call.
Across the road, over the orange trees, there is a peacock calling. Even in this part of the world, there are peacocks, at least a few of them. And the day has begun. It is a wonderful day. It is so new, so fresh, so alive and full of beauty. It is a new day without any past remembrances, without the call of another.
There is great wonder when one looks at all the beauty – those bright oranges with the dark leaves, and the few flowers, bright in their glory. One wonders at this extraordinary light which only this part of the world seems to have. One wonders as one looks at the creation which seems to have no beginning and no end – a creation not by cunning thought but the creation of a new morning.
This morning, it is as it has never been before, so bright, so clear. And the blue hills are looking down. It is the creation of a new day as it has never been before. There is a squirrel with a long bushy tail, quivering and shy in the old pepper tree which has lost many branches; it is getting very old. It must have seen many storms, as the oak has in its old age, quiet, with a great dignity.
It is a new morning, full of an ancient life; it has no time, no problems. It exists, and that in itself is a miracle. It is a new morning without any memory. All the past days are over, gone, and the voice of the mourning dove comes across the valley. The sun is now over the hill, covering the earth. And it too has no yesterday. The trees in the sun and the flowers have no time. It is the miracle of a new day.
Krishnamurti in Ojai 1983, Direct Recording