There is a well-known phrase, “Beauty comes from within.” It’s a phrase that reminds us of the charismatic warmth of a sincere smile, a kind gesture, a sweet word – all flowing from a beauty within and animating the physical. We are beautiful when we are natural, sincere and loving.
The present Master encourages us to be genuine in this way, to be close to nature, and to be in touch with the natural divine energy flowing within us.
The trouble is that our modern society encourages us to turn away from nature. Ideals of youth and physical perfection are glamourized, and this leads us to feel dissatisfied with nature’s gifts. Nature must be enhanced! So we start to use unnatural methods and products; we may start to paint our body with costly chemical concoctions or even skin-whitening creams, hoping to improve our appearance and, at the extreme, we may even resort to cosmetic surgery. All this to achieve worldly attention and praise.
The Master is not here to impose any particular lifestyle on us. All he really wants is our meditation and our adherence to the principles of Sant Mat. However, he clearly tells us that artificial products may damage our health and will not lead to increased happiness.
There are many reasons today why more and more people are becoming alienated and depressed. Although the catalysts for such feelings are varied, we can name a few as being the social pressure to look a certain way; the supposed need to possess certain status symbols; and the feeling that we need to act in certain ways to impress others. We may envy the whitened toothy smile of a famous film star and this may provoke us to copy their look. We may see someone looking important in the latest model of a big, flashy car and desperately want one too. But let’s check that we are not becoming obsessed with our appearance and the things we possess, because if they take over our life we run the risk of losing sight of who we really are.
The urgency to amass wealth or to change our looks often comes from the desire to gain popularity. This, in its turn, can stem from something much deeper – a cry from the heart, a desperate wish to somehow connect with others and obtain their acceptance. However, by looking for approval in this way, we become even further entangled in worldly illusion. Maharaj Sawan Singh explains in Spiritual Gems:
You say you feel lonely. The whole creation and the Creator are within you. If you take your attention inside of you and attach it to the sound current, you will be at peace with yourself and the world. The lasting peace lies inside of us. It is not to be had outside, in worldly objects and worldly companions.
From this we understand that however popular we are, or however many objects we own, it will not bring us lasting peace. Spending large amounts of time on gathering possessions and obsessing over our appearance is simply time lost. This precious time could have been spent in meditation, in reaching toward the spirit within, spending time in satsang or in doing seva.
The Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible begins with the words, “Vanity of vanities: all is vanity”, emphasizing how very meaningless so many of our activities are. It is a lucid reminder that most of our work and our activities here in this world revolve around those things that will all pass away.
Kabir Sahib reminds us: “This body, once cosseted with creams and perfumes, will one day burn on the pyre.” In another of his verses, he reminds us that those on the spiritual path need not seek the world’s approval – they have a ‘beloved’ in their Master. It is their Master whose approval they will seek, and their ‘make-up’ will be inner qualities such as love, patience, chastity and faithfulness:
Put on the sandal of
love, Apply the collyrium
Of patience to your eyes;
Let chastity and faithfulness
Be the adornment on your face
Then you will enjoy the bliss
Of the Beloved’s embrace.
All the Master really wants is our meditation and our adherence to the principles of Sant Mat. By following his instructions fastidiously, we naturally progress and mature, and learn a certain obedience and understanding, wishing to please him in every way. It is then that we will automatically forget ourselves, our vanity, and our desires. Even if the whole world were to think we were mad, we would no longer care, understanding that whatever the Master approves of is the truth.
If it is best to gracefully accept the natural changes that come as we get older – those wrinkles, those grey hairs – then let’s do so. Taking a more relaxed and accepting approach can not only benefit our health and wellbeing, but ultimately bring some contentment. After all, we don’t have to abandon all sense of glamour and romance but simply transmute these to our spiritual efforts. Isn’t it romantic to “apply the collyrium of patience” to the eyes as we faithfully rise in the early morning to await our beloved Master in meditation?
Meditation connects us to the Shabd, the true beauty within – beauty without compare. We realize this body is a mere shell housing the Lord’s ultimate beauty. To keep polishing, painting and manipulating this shell, whilst we surround it with more and more possessions in the hope that we will achieve love from others, is a useless task. On the contrary, if we put all our efforts and attention into devotion to the Shabd Master within, automatically we will see beauty everywhere, and the whole world will shine with divine radiance. That is why the Masters all advise us to attach ourselves to the Shabd, and automatically we will detach from all else.