Beauty---only skin deep?
Beauty has been written about since the beginning of writing, and thought about since the beginning of time. It is one of the six opulences of Krishna which make him all-attractive and irresistible. In fact Krishna's beauty is so powerfully charming and gorgeous, that it distinguishes him from even his form of Vishnu, who is inconceivably beautiful compared to our worldly standards.
I began thinking of this topic yesterday when I appreciated the beauty of a devotee. Beauty is a shakti or energy of Krishna that attracts us, even in minute quantities. The covers of magazines are full of beautiful people, which sells more copies. Physical beauty or the lack of it is often the first thing people notice when meeting someone or seeing them in a group. A person can be wealthy, strong, or famous, and they will get people's attention, yet if they are beautiful as well, this makes them even more attractive. A model requires mainly physical beauty or attractiveness, and certainly this helps a movie star---though being a good actor helps!
Is beauty only "skin deep" as the saying goes? What is beauty anyway? If you look in the mirror and push your nose up or down or squish it in, you will appear either more or less attractive on the surface. I would say that looking beautiful on the outside is one thing, and inner beauty may be totally different.
Have you ever met a person who appeared very attractive at first, who after you got to know them was actually ugly? Their conceit, envy, or poor character just made them unattractive. You didn't want anything to do with them, unless you just wanted to show them off, as they say, like a trophy, or eye candy.
Then there is a person who may even have a physical deformity or who could be repulsive to some people, who has the sweetest, kindest nature, that makes them appear so beautiful and desirable to be with. I have a dear devotee friend who was burned on 80% of her body, who is one of the most beautiful women I ever met. I don't even notice the burns on her face, because her inner beauty just radiates out.
Sometimes it is said that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. That is true to an extent. We will be influenced by the modes of material nature, the beauty of our family member and ourself--one will think certain people beautiful or attractive---though others will not agree. My theory is that people generally pick a partner with a similar standard of beauty to themselves, which is in part of the reason why married people sometimes look very similar.
Never the less, even though appreciation of beauty is materially relative, there is an absolute standard of beauty, which can be better appreciated in the mode of goodness, and more so in purified spiritual states. As a young brahmacari I went out to distribute the newly published Reservoir of Pleasure, which had what I considered a beautiful picture of Krishna on the cover. I thought that if I just showed the picture, people would buy it on the strength of the beauty of Krishna. Wrong! I was disappointed for sure. Granted I was a bald Hare Krishna in bedsheets, and if truth be told it wasn't the best picture, yet the point is that not everyone will be attracted to Krishna or a devotee. I think Prabhupada is a incredibly attractive person----but my mother-in-law doesn't agree.
So who is right? Is there a beauty court or attractiveness court to decide? Materially--"NADA", yet from the spiritual perspective attractiveness or beauty comes from the soul and according to one's degree of spirituality and love for God, one will be attractive.
Then some people feel that those born with beauty, good family, intelligence or wealth seem to have unfair advantages. However, there are no accidents in a justice based universe. When we look at our own or another's body, family or living circumstances we are looking at the consequences of past lives. The body we take in this life has to do with our karma and previous life's desires and pious or impious activities. Whereas the materially beautiful, wealthy or smart person has some earned advantages they may not be able to capitalize on them and remain unfulfilled. And spiritually these same material opulences which are so coveted, may be disadvantages. That depends on our spiritual development.
There is a saying that if God likes you he may fulfill your desires, and if he loves you he may take everything away. The Shrimad Bhagavatam states that Krishna may take away an attached devotees material shelter to facilitate his spiritual advancement. If you have no money, relatives may forsake you. Actually Prabhupada quotes this verse to humbly describe how in his view, Krishna prepared him for sannyas. (SB 10.88.8 "The Personality of Godhead said: 'If I especially favor someone, I gradually deprive him of his wealth. Then the relatives and friends of such a poverty-stricken man abandon him. In this way he suffers one distress after another'".) Then after struggling alone for so many years, Krishna gave him every material opulence to facilitate his preaching, and he remained unchanged and undisturbed.
The test whether material facilities or opulences like beauty will be helpful to you or not depends on your stage of life, spiritual advancement, and your mission or service. One person's food is another's poison.