The Role of Beauty (Free Association Question)

Very broad question, I’d love to hear your thoughts (personal, philosophical, &c.): what is the role of beauty (or “the beautiful”) in the Dhamma?

Sutta reference:

"in the presence of what is loathsome & what is not — cutting himself off from both, he remains equanimous, alert, & mindful. Or he may enter & remain in the beautiful liberation. I tell you, monks, awareness-release through good will has the beautiful as its excellence — in the case of one who has penetrated to no higher release. "—SN 46.54

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The Dhamma itself is beautiful in the beginning, beautiful in the middle and beautiful in the end.

Just as we need the perception of the ugly to overcome our attachment to bodies, so too we can use our love of beauty to encourage our cultivation of graceful, virtuous, mindful, kind actions.

Beautiful or (ugly) as I understand is how we describe the features, traits and signs associated with the sense bases. DN15
With Metta

The beauty of the Dhamma is to show me the way out of suffering. To be my companion, to answer my questions and to guide me on my path. Something I can really rely on and trust that it brings out “the good” :smiley:

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Beauty is often described as the aspect that is provocative of lust for a mind that is not free. Yet, it is an element, so there is nothing to be gained from denial of its presence and significance. There are beautiful things in the world, but until the mind is free, the unattractive should take greater precedence - that is how the danger and the escape can be found.

I see no reason not to describe liberation as the most beautiful thing there can be, but too much reverence of that type of beauty is not always useful to those who are striving, especially if it contributes to the unwholesome appreciation of beauty elsewhere in experience.

Beauty and ugliness is also seen as a result of kamma.


"Here, student, some man or woman is of an angry and irritable character; even when criticised a little, he is offended, becomes angry, hostile, and resentful, and displays anger, hate, and bitterness. Because of performing and undertaking such action…he reappears in a state of deprivation…But if instead he comes back to the human state, then wherever he is reborn he is ugly. This is the way, student, that leads to ugliness, namely, one is of an angry and irritable character…and displays anger, hate, and bitterness.

“But here, student, some man or woman is not of an angry and irritable character; even when criticised a lot, he is not offended, does not become angry, hostile, and resentful, and does not display anger, hate, and bitterness. Because of performing and undertaking such action…he reappears in a happy destination…But if instead he comes back to the human state, then wherever he is reborn he is beautiful. This is the way, student, that leads to being beautiful, namely, one is not of an angry and irritable character…and does not display anger, hate, and bitterness".

The idea seems to be that the energy, the nature of anger, is that it deforms.

Beauty or attractiveness vs unattractiveness/repulsiveness of an object, they are to me just a duality such as pleasantness and unpleasantness. Though subjective and what is considered as beauty and pleasantness sits in a range of spectrum for one person may likely be on a different range of the spectrum for another.

2 dualities of the same aspect. Just like lightness and darkness are 2 dualities of the brightness of sight.

Ultimately, these are “man-made” subjective judgements for the convenience of having a social reference and benchmark. That is why we can observe that the standard of beauty in art, of women and men vary across different times in history and even in the same time but across cultures.

As all forms ultimately reduce to energetic frequencies and particles and waves in their behaviour, and at the atomic level , made up of energetic space.

As for our reactions or interaction, it is ineffective to reject/deny the beauty in beautiful objects just as it is ineffective to force ourselves to be drawn to the unattractiveness of unattractive objects. (Even though I must say that when our baseline of internal peace and happiness increase, we will find many things which we found unattractive to be “perfect” in their own natural way, such as insects or even our waste that we used to be repulsed by. However note that , it is more a equanimous feeling through transcending attractiveness/unattractiveness that replaces the previously naturally instinctive repulsive reaction rather than an attraction feeling)

That is merely going against the instincts of natural human reaction, and for what purpose? That does not transcend us , by forcibly brainwashing ourselves to reverse our natural instincts and reactions which are not “wrong” . We are neurologically wired with natural reactions for the continuation of biological survival. Going against this doesn’t do anything in terms of us becoming any closer to be free from duality, we will still be stuck in duality perceptions.

What transcends us is acknowledging the dualities that exist (and the spectrum between them) , and understanding the function that dualities play, by this we transcend.

What is the role of duality , we might wonder, to me it is merely serving a functional role for us living the human life by providing a common benchmark and for our survival purposes. Duality is merely a hallmark of our existence and we live and work within duality as long as we are in this physical realm.

I am not of the belief that people who are born more beautiful than others had somehow aced some past life test. To certain extent, beauty is caused by physical genes. there is also the energetic influence from states of mind of the being that influences the physical form. ( An attractive couple does not necessarily produce an attractive looking and healthy child. ) And there is also an influence from the decision we made before we are born to select the conditions we will be using in the incarnation. We might choose to be born as unattractive to better hone and utilise other skills. Such as Bhikkuni Khema (if I recall right?) the hunchback Bhikkuni who was outstanding in her dhamma teaching to other ladies in the palace. I have always felt she chose to be born with her particular hunchback condition, so that she could attend to the talks by the Buddha as she served in the palace that she lived in. If she was born beautiful , she would not be allowed to go freely outside of the palace , and be unable to fulfill her spiritual destiny.

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