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Dialogue 11 - New Delhi - 29th December 1970 - ‘Beauty and perception’
Questioner P: Where is the resting place of beauty? Where does it reside? Obviously, the outer manifestations of beauty are observable; the right relationship between space, form and colour and between human beings. But what is the essence of beauty? In Sanskrit texts three factors are equated – the Truth, the Good, the Beautiful – Satyam, Sivam, Sundaram.
Krishnamurti: What are you trying to find out? Do you want to find out the nature of beauty? What do the professionals say?
P: Traditionalists would say – Satyam, Sivam, Sundaram. The artist today would not differentiate between the seemingly ugly and the seemingly beautiful, but would regard the creative act as the expression of a moment, of a perception that gets transformed within the individual and finds expression in the action of the artist.
Krishnamurti: You are asking what is beauty, what is the expression of beauty, and how does the individual fulfil himself through beauty? What is beauty? If you started as though you knew nothing about it, what would your reaction be? This is a universal problem with the Greeks, the Romans and with modern people. So what is beauty? Does it lie in the sunset, in a lovely morning, in human relationship, in the mother and the child, husband and wife, man and woman? Does it lie in the beauty of an extraordinarily subtle movement of thought and the beauty of clear perception? Is that what you call beauty?
P: Can there be beauty also in the terrible, the ugly?
Krishnamurti: In murder, in butchery, in throwing bombs, in violence, in mutilation, torture, anger, in the brutal, violent, aggressive pursuit of an idea, in wanting to be greater than somebody – is there beauty in that?
P: In all these acts there is no beauty.
Krishnamurti: What is beauty if a man hits another?
P: In the creative act of the artist who interprets the terrible, like the Guernica of Picasso, is there beauty?
Krishnamurti: So we have to ask what is expression, what is creativeness. You are asking what is beauty? It lies in a sunset, in the clear light of the morning, the evening, the light on the water, relationship and so on. And does beauty lie in any form of violence, including competitive achievement? Is there beauty per se: and not in how the artist expresses himself? A child tortured can be expressed by the artist, but is it beauty? P: Beauty is a relative thing.
Krishnamurti: The “I” which sees is relative, conditioned and is demanding self-fulfilment.
First of all, what is beauty? Is it good taste? Or has beauty nothing whatsoever to do with all this? Does beauty lie in expression and therefore fulfilment? Therefore the artist says I must fulfil myself through expression. An artist would be lost without expression which is part of beauty and self-fulfilment.
So before we go into all that, what is the inwardness, the feeling, the subtlety of the word ‘beauty’, so that beauty is truth and truth is beauty?
Somehow through expression we try to find beauty in architecture, in a marvellous bridge – the San Francisco Golden Bridge or the bridge over the Seine – in the modern buildings of glass and steel and the gentleness of a fountain. We seek beauty in museums, in a symphony. We are always seeking beauty in the expression of other people. What is amiss in a man who is seeking beauty?
P: The expressions of other people are the only sources of beauty that are available to us.
Krishnamurti: Which means what?
P: In seeing the bridge a certain quality arises within me which we call beauty. It is only in the perception of something beautiful that the quality of beauty arises in many individuals.
Krishnamurti: I understand that. I am asking, is beauty in self-expression?
P: One has to start with what exists.
Krishnamurti: Which is other people’s expression. Not having the perceptive eye, the strange inward feeling of beauty, I say how beautiful that picture is, that poem, that symphony. Remove all that, the individual knows no beauty. Therefore he relies for his appreciation of beauty on expression, on object, on a bridge or a good chair.
Does beauty demand expression, especially self-expression?
P: Can it exist independent of expression?
Krishnamurti: Perception of beauty is its expression; the two are not separate. Perception, seeing, acting – perceiving is expressing. In that there is no time interval at all. Seeing is doing, acting. There is no gap between seeing and doing. I want to see the mind that sees, where seeing is acting; I want to observe the nature of the mind that has this quality of seeing and doing. What is this mind?
It is essentially not concerned with expression. Expression may come but it is not concerned. Because expression takes time – to build a bridge, to write a poem – but the mind which sees, the mind to which perceiving is doing, to such a mind there is no time at all, and such a mind is a sensitive mind.
Such a mind is the most intelligent mind. And without that intelligence there beauty?
P: What is the place of the heart in this?
Krishnamurti: Do you mean the feeling of love?
P: The word “love’’ is a loaded term. If you are still, there is a strange feeling; a movement takes place from this region of the heart. What is this? Is this necessary or is it a hindrance?
Krishnamurti: This is the most essential part of it. There is no perception without that. Mere intellectual perception is no perception. Mere action of intellectual perception is fragmentary, whereas intelligence implies affection, the heart. Otherwise you are not sensitive. You cannot possibly perceive. Perceiving is acting.
Perceiving, acting without time is beauty.
P: Do the eyes, heart, do they operate at the same time in the act of perception?
Krishnamurti: Perception implies complete attention – the nerves, the ears, the brain, the heart, everything, is at the highest quality. Otherwise there is no perceiving.
P: The quality, the fragmentary nature of sensory action is that the whole organism does not operate at the same time.
Krishnamurti: The whole thing – the brain, the heart, nerves, eyes, ears, are never completely in attention. If they are not, you cannot perceive.
So what is beauty? Does it lie in expression, in fragmentary action? I may be an artist, an engineer, a poet. The poet, engineer, artist, scientist, are fragmentary human beings. One fragment becomes extraordinarily perceptive, sensitive and its action may express something marvellous, but it is still a fragmentary action.
P: When the organism perceives violence, terror or ugliness, what is that state?
Krishnamurti: Let us take violence in its multifarious forms, but why are you asking that question?
P: It is necessary to investigate this.
Krishnamurti: Is violence part of beauty, is that what you are asking?
P: I will not put it that way.
Krishnamurti: You see violence. What is the response of a perceptive mind in the sense in which we are using the word “perceptive” to every form of destruction, which is part of violence? (Pause).
I got it. Is violence an act which is totally perceptive, or is it a fragmentary action?
P: It is not clear; it is not that.
Krishnamurti: You brought in violence. I want to investigate violence. Is violence the act of a totally harmonious perception?
Krishnamurti: So you are saying it is a fragmentary action, and fragmentary action must deny beauty.
P: You have inverted the situation.
Krishnamurti: What is the response of a perceptive mind when it sees violence? It looks at it, investigates it and sees it as a fragmentary action, and therefore it is not an act of beauty. What happens to a perceptive mind when it sees a violent act? It sees “what is”.
P: As such, to you the nature of the mind does not change?
Krishnamurti: Why should it change? It sees “what is”. Go a step further.
P: The seeing of “what is”, does it change the nature of “what is”? There is perceiving. There is violence which is fragmentary. The perceiving of that, does it change the nature of violence?
Krishnamurti: Wait a minute. You are asking what is the effect of the perceiving mind when it observes violence?
P: You said it sees “what is”. Does it alter “what is”? The perceiving mind, observing violence and seeing “what is”, the very act of seeing, does it act on violence, changing its nature?
Krishnamurti: Are you asking whether the perceiving mind seeing the act of violence, of “what is” asks what shall I do? Is that it?
P: Such a mind does not do, but there must be action from the perceiving mind changing the nature of the act of the other.
Krishnamurti: The perceiving mind sees a violent act. Such an act is fragmentary. What action can there be by the perceiving mind?
P: The perceiving mind sees violence on the part of X. Seeing is acting.
Krishnamurti: But what can it do?
P: I would say if the perceiving mind acts, it must change the violence in X.
Krishnamurti: Let us get this clear. The perceiving mind sees another acting violently. To the perceiving mind, the very seeing is the doing. That is one fact. Perception is doing. This perceiving mind sees X in violence. What is the action involved in that seeing – stop violence?
P: All those are peripheral actions. I am saying that when a perceiving mind is confronted with an act of violence, the very act of perceiving will alter the action of violence.
Krishnamurti: There are several things involved. The perceiving mind as it walks along sees an act of violence. The man who is acting violently may respond non-violently, because the perceiving mind is near him, close to him, and suddenly this happens,
P: One comes to you with a problem – jealousy. What happens in an interview with you when a person comes to you who is confused? In the very act of perceiving, the confusion is not.
Krishnamurti: Obviously it happens because of contact. You have taken the trouble to discuss violence and something happens because of direct sharing together of the problem. There is communication, sharing. That is simple. You see a man far away acting with violence. What is the action of the perceiving mind there?
P: There must be tremendous energy from a perceiving mind. That must have some action.
Krishnamurti: It may act. You cannot be certain of that as you can be close- ness. The other may wake up in the middle of the night, he may be aware of the strange response coming later, depending upon his sensitivity. It may be due to the perceiving mind and its impact, whereas this close communication is different. It does change.
Let us come back. You were asking what beauty is. I think we can say the mind which is not fragmentary in itself, which is not broken up, has this beauty.
P: Has it any relationship to sensory perception if you close your eyes, your ears......
Krishnamurti: It is independent of that. When you close your ears, eyes, there is no fragmentation and so it has this quality of beauty, of sensitivity. It is not dependent on external beauty. Put the instrument of such a mind in the middle of the noisiest city. What takes place? Physically it gets affected but not the quality of the mind, which is not fragmented. It is independent of the surroundings, therefore does not concern itself with expression.
P: That is the aloneness of it.
Krishnamurti: Therefore beauty is aloneness. Why is there this craving for self-expression? Is that craving part of beauty, whether it is the craving of a woman for a baby, a husband for sexuality in that moment of tenderness, or the artist craving for expression?
Does the perceptive mind demand any form of expression? It does not, because perceiving is expressing, is doing. The artist, the painter, the builder finds self-expression. It is fragmentary and therefore its expression is not beauty.
A mind that is conditioned, which is fragmentary, expresses that feeling of beauty, but it is conditioned. Is that beauty? Therefore, the self which is the conditioned mind, can never see beauty, and whatever it expresses must be of its quality.
P: You have still not answered one aspect of the question. There is such a thing as creative talent; the ability to put together things in a manner which gives joy.
Krishnamurti: The housewife baking bread, but “not in order to”. The moment you do that you are lost.
P: Creating joy.
Krishnamurti: Not because of something else. The speaker does not sit on the platform and speak because he gets joy.
The source of water is never empty. It is always bubbling, whether there is pollution or the worship of water; it is bubbling, it is there.
Most people who are concerned with self-expression have self-interest. It is the self which makes for fragmentation. In the absence of self, there is perception. Perception is doing and that is beauty.
I am sure the sculptor who carved the Mahesha Murti at Elephanta created it out of his meditation. Before you put your hand to a stone or a poem, the state must be of meditation. The inspiration must not be from the self.
P: The tradition of the Indian sculptor was that.
Krishnamurti: And the petty, the little, the big painter are all of that category - of self-expression.
Beauty is total self-abandonment and with total absence of the self there is “that”. We are trying to catch “that” without the absence of the self and creation then becomes a tawdry affair.