Beauty · Indian Culture · Inner View · Personal reflections · Spirituality beyond Religion · When a Picture Leads · Words of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo

Divinity in Details

The intricately carved pillars lead you into the chamber of Beauty and Divinity. Beauty in Divinity; Divinity in Beauty. 

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Your eyes want to linger on the details of the pillars, take in every piece of carving and beauty. At the same time the inner quietude pulls you in.

Disciple: Is form inseparable from the experience of beauty?
Sri Aurobindo: On the plane of matter it seems so, but it is not true on planes of consciousness above mind. There, beauty can be formless. (Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo, 12-10-1942)

 

 

Disciple: What is the utility of aesthetic refinement in spiritual development?
Sri Aurobindo: The aesthetic sense is easily purified and it can then open the path of approach to the Supreme through beauty. It is very difficult to purify a rough and gross being. (Evening Talks, 12-8-1926)

 

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Your footsteps slowly take you in, quietly, with a sense of awe and quiet anticipation. No rush, no hurrying through, you just walk through the space slowly, purposefully or with no purpose at all but just to experience the majesty and glory that is all around you.

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Or you don’t walk at all. You just stand still. Quietly, in silence, you just stay there. For as long as you must. For as long as you hear the poetry of those stones, the music in that silent space. 

The experience is not merely an aesthetic one, for that would last only till you are in the physical presence of the art. This is also not only your mind’s or heart’s journey back into the glorious past of India of thousands of years ago when thousands of Sun-worshippers would have gathered in this temple dedicated to Lord Surya, the Sun God.

This is more than that. 

This is a journey within. A journey into the chambers of the inner you where you want the Light of the Sun God to shine, into all those corners from where you want those pesky little darknesses to be gone. A journey that gradually leads you to a bright and vast openness, that makes you, the inner you more receptive to the new Light that must fill in those spaces within.

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“An Indian temple, to whatever godhead it may be built, is in its inmost reality an altar raised to the divine Self, a house of the Cosmic Spirit, an appeal and aspiration to the Infinite.” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 20, p. 273)

It is in this aspiration and appeal to the Infinite that all details find their rightful place and purpose. You begin to know intuitively why and how the detailed abundance of the majestically carved pillars and the intricately elaborate gateway are steps to experiencing the sublime beauty of the divinity within, and also the divinity of beauty within. 

A certain type of critical mind, which often fails to see the inner significance of what the outer eye meets, looks at the profusion of artistic detail on the ancient Indian temple walls, gateways and pillars, on the hallways of old palaces and other buildings and asks – why is everything so crowded, why every little space is filled up, where is the blank space, how can one take it all in?

But to an Indian heart and mind,

“that is the necessity of [India’s] superabundance of life, of the teeming of the infinite within her. She lavishes her riches because she must, as the Infinite fills every inch of space with the stirring of life and energy because it is the Infinite.” (p. 8)

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And long after you come back, the beauty of that experience still lingers within, quietly and often without your awareness. It is not really a memory, maybe something more, something subtler. It is a vibration, perhaps. And you know what you need to do to re-experience that vibration.

You just need to go back, no not to the physical space, but that space within where you first felt that touch of delight. You sit quietly and go to that space and recall.

And the words begin to resonate –

As the Infinite fills every inch of space…

…with the stirring of life and energy…

…because it is the Infinite…

These words reverberate inside, quietly. You let them. You stay in gratitude for that experience, for that vibration.

Disciple: What is it in beauty that gives us delight?
Sri Aurobindo: Beauty is the Divine himself in his Ananda power seeking to express himself in perfect form. That is, perhaps, the only definition that could be given. Since you are particular about it one can say that there are several elements of beauty: one is the power of Ananda that seeks expression, the other is the form – or you can say, the manner in which it expresses itself. (Evening Talks, 27-8-1926)


For another photo-essay inspired by the Sun Temple at Modhera, Gujarat, click HERE.

All photographs by Suhas Mehra. Please do not reproduce or copy without permission.


Linking with ABC Wednesday, Round 20, E: E is for Experience

Linking with Vidya Sury’s Gratitude Circle Gratitude-Circle-Vidya-Sury-Final-e1453801581346

 

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27 thoughts on “Divinity in Details

  1. Beloo, I am left wondering… if the photos move me so powerfully, what might it be like to experience this temple in the ‘flesh’? I’m sorrowful afresh that my recent Gujarat trip had to be cancelled. Modhera was very much on our itinerary. But then, watching it through your eyes is just as pleasurable.

    Such exquisite intricacy! Our people were such outstanding craftsmen! What happened to that lofty standard of excellence and painstaking perfection? How have we arrived at where we are? Can it only be the impact of colonial rule that we stopped giving a damn? How weak of us!

    1. Yes, we are extremely fortunate to have inherited such wealth of beauty from our ancestors. And oh how unfortunate and sad it is that we have let it go so much of it to waste! But we still don’t learn… You ask a very good question – how have we arrived at where we are now? Much to ponder upon there, including recognising that civilizations and cultures also move in cyclical manner which will include a phase of decline. So we suffered a long, looooong period of decline, but the question is are we out of that cycle? Are we now on upward spiral? Answer will depend on many things including our point of view.

      I really hope you get another opportunity to visit Gujarat and get to go to Modhera. It isn’t to be missed! I will perhaps share a few more pictures from this majestic place in another post in a few weeks.

  2. I have become more of a passive traveller these days and your posts are a treat to the eyes as well as the mind. Looking at beauty through your eyes ably assisted by Suhas’ photographs is indeed very satisfying as Dagny says.

    While it would have been easy for a lesser mind to bring divinity down to form, it takes the sublime thoughts of Sri Aurobindo to lift beauty to formlessness. That one will be etched in my mind forever. And once again, for the millionth time, kudos to you for picking out the most apt quotes to embellish your posts.

    1. Zephyr, you and Dagny are so kind to praise these scribblings of mine, but as you already know it is the Master’s words which always move me and show me to ‘see’ things in this way! His vision of Life, Beauty, Indian culture and Art constantly become my guide and source of inspiration as I wander through these glorious places wherever I get to visit. Like what you pick up from this post here – about beauty in formlessness. I just feel so happy and blessed when posts like these come together as I sift through my notes, books and photographs. And yes, it is always extremely helpful to have a photographer as a traveling companion 🙂

      1. you are welcome 😉

        I like them indeed, very much maybe extra because I am not used to buildings like that and the way thet are made…. Hope so too… Time will tell

  3. The pictures are absolutely breathtaking – such intricate work on those pillars – just like the thoughts you shared. The beauty and peace of the surroundings encourages one to look within – what a beautiful thought.

  4. I recently finished Elif Shafak’s Forty Rules of Love and the thing about the journey being within just struck a chord here. I loved the pictures. The details are not just the ones on the outside. It’s on the inside too.

  5. Loved the magic of your words, Beloo, I was transported to another world. The pictures are beautiful. Thank you for sharing such a blissful experience. 🙂

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