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