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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.

Combined comments from old site

Tue, 11/11/2008 - 00:38 — traffic101
Real beauty is from

Real beauty is from within.Being real beautiful is the confident of each individual and absolutely clean living.

Sun, 09/14/2008 - 22:29 — nacram
I totally agree that beauty

I totally agree that beauty is not skin deep. Although it may appear so because of maya. the real beauty is the beauty of the spirit.

Sun, 09/14/2008 - 22:16 — Karnamrita.das
A few more thoughts

This is a huge topic. Some other thoughts about beauty:

Although so many would like to possess more, those who have it in excess are often troubled. A devotee friend who does massage in L.A. once told me that he worked with a very beautiful movie star, who told him that when she goes out to the store, she tries to make herself look less attractive, since sometimes men will follow her out of the store being so captivated by her beauty. In addition those with great beauty sometimes complain that they are not appreciated for who they are inside because people mainly see their outer beauty.

The story of the material world is that whatever we may possess or achieve will fall short of satisfying the hankering of our soul. So if we have the blessings of material opulences use them in Krishna's service to purify them. Anything can be used or abused, or we may used by what we possess. The first class method for experiencing the futility of material life is by hearing about it from scripture or sadhus. Yet for most of us we have to in addition to hearing about it, experience it. So we dovetail our desires in the service of Krishna. The main thing is to learn.

Your friend in Krishna,


Sat, 09/13/2008 - 16:55 — Dhama Rupini
Liquid Beauty

Hare Krsna Prabhu,
Thanks ever so much for this interesting blog. It reminds me of the Chapter: Truth and Beauty in, "The Science of Self Realization" where the young man was mesmerized by the saintly girl's beauty and subsequently was taught a lesson. Physical beauty is indeed skin deep, however it is human nature to admire the so-called physically beautiful. Also, like you have said beauty may be based on one's notion or perception of beauty. For me, a person's beauty lies within and it's one's Krsna Consciousness which is their relationship with God.
Krsna is indeed truly beautiful and the all attractive one. So many of his beautiful qualities are explicitly explained in, "Nectar of Devotion" and so many other Kc books.
I'll share a salient verse from that chapter of "Truth and Beauty" which emphasises Krsna as being beautiful and the living entities being part and parcel of Krsna are also beautiful:
"Mundaners do not know that the whole spiritual entity is the beautiful person who attracts everything. They are unaware that He is the prime substance, the prime source and fountainhead of everything that be. The infinitesmal spiritual sparks, being part and parcels of the whole spirit are qualitatively the same in beauty and eternity. The only difference is that the whole is eternally the whole and the parts are eternally the parts. Both of them, however are the ultimate truth, ultimate beauty, ultimate knowledge, ultimate energy, ultimate renunciation and ultimate opulence."
When thinking of physical beauty what comes to mind is that, "We are not these bodies." We are pure spirit soul and our real mission is serving and loving Krsna.


Sun, 09/14/2008 - 03:23 — Karnamrita.das
The Naked Truth

Yes the story of "Liquid Beauty" is a great one. It used to be a favorite play in Temples as well. Of course it is easy to speak the theory of the ugly form of material nature especially after a life of material frustration, yet to really truly realize it, and experience the higher taste of spiritual pleasure is more difficult and takes time. In the beginning days of the movement when most of us were quite young we would primarily emphasize how bad the material world was. We loved to bash the world. Yet in time many of us saw that we hadn't really understood this fully. In order to be truly renounced we have to be on the positive platform of tasting the nectar of the holy name and devotional service. Otherwise we may fall victim to the very things we condemn.
We have to be in the world to serve, learn and preach, yet be convinced that we are not of it.

Your friend in Krishna,



Sun, 09/14/2008 - 04:47 — Karnamrita.das
Purport to SB 10.88.8

Devotees of the Supreme Lord experience both happiness and distress -- not as consequences of material work but as incidental effects of their loving reciprocation with the Lord. Srila Rupa Gosvami, in Sri Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, his definitive treatise on the process of devotional service, explains how a Vaisnava is relieved of all karmic reactions, including those that have not yet begun to manifest (aprarabdha), those that are just about to manifest (kuta), those that are barely manifesting (bija) and those that have manifested fully (prarabdha). As a lotus gradually loses its many petals, so a person who takes shelter of devotional service has all his karmic reactions destroyed.

That devotional service to Lord Krsna eradicates all karmic reactions is confirmed in this passage of the Gopala-tapani sruti (Purva 15): bhaktir asya bhajanam tad ihamutropadhi-nairasyenamusmin manah-kalpanam etad eva naiskarmyam. "Devotional service is the process of worshiping the Supreme Lord. It consists of fixing the mind upon Him by becoming disinterested in all material designations, both in this life and the next. It results in the dissolution of all karma."

While it is certainly true that those who practice devotional service remain in material bodies and apparently material situations for some time, this is simply an expression of the inconceivable mercy of the Lord, who bestows the fruits of devotion only when it has become pure. In every stage of devotion, however, the Lord watches over His devotee and sees to the gradual elimination of his karma. Thus despite the fact that the happiness and distress devotees experience resemble ordinary karmic reactions, they are in fact given by the Lord Himself.

As the Bhagavatam (10.87.40) states, bhavad-uttha-subhasubhayoh: A mature devotee recognizes the superficially good and bad conditions he encounters as signs of the direct guidance of his ever well-wishing Lord.
But if the Lord is so compassionate to His devotees, why does He expose them to special suffering?

This is answered by an analogy: A very affectionate father takes the responsibility of restricting his children's play and making them go to school. He knows that this is a genuine expression of his love for them, even if the children fail to understand. Similarly, the Supreme Lord Visnu is mercifully strict with all His dependents, not only with immature devotees struggling to become qualified. Even perfect saints like Prahlada, Dhruva and Yudhisthira were subjected to great tribulations, all for their glorification. After the Battle of Kuruksetra, Sri Bhismadeva described to King Yudhisthira his wonder at this:

yatra dharma-suto raja
gada-panir vrkodarah
krsno 'stri gandivam capam
suhrt krsnas tato vipat
na hy asya karhicid rajan
puman vetti vidhitsitam
yad-vijijnasaya yukta
muhyanti kavayo 'pi hi

"Oh, how wonderful is the influence of inevitable time! It is irreversible -- otherwise, how can there be reverses in the presence of King Yudhisthira, the son of the demigod controlling religion; Bhima, the great fighter with a club; the great bowman Arjuna with his mighty weapon Gandiva; and above all, the Lord, the direct well-wisher of the Pandavas? O King, no one can know the plan of the Lord [Sri Krsna]. Even though great philosophers inquire exhaustively, they are bewildered." (SB 1.9.15-16)

Although a Vaisnava's happiness and distress are felt as pleasure and pain, just like ordinary karmic reactions, they are different in a significant sense. Material happiness and distress, arising from karma, leave a subtle residue -- the seed of future entanglement. Such enjoyment and suffering tend toward degradation and increase the danger of falling into hellish oblivion. Happiness and distress generated from the Supreme Lord's desires, however, leave no trace after their immediate purpose has been served. Moreover, the Vaisnava who enjoys such reciprocation with the Lord is in no danger of falling down into nescience. As Yamaraja, the lord of death and the judge of all departed souls, declares,

jihva na vakti bhagavad-guna-namadheyam
cetas ca na smarati tac-caranaravindam
krsnaya no namati yac-chira ekadapi
tan anayadhvam asato 'krta-visnu-krtyan

"My dear servants, please bring to me only those sinful persons who do not use their tongues to chant the holy name and qualities of Krsna, whose hearts do not remember the lotus feet of Krsna even once, and whose heads do not bow down even once before Lord Krsna. Send me those who do not perform their duties toward Visnu, which are the only duties in human life. Please bring me all such fools and rascals." (SB 6.3.29)

The beloved devotees of the Lord do not regard as very troublesome the suffering He imposes on them. Indeed, they find that in the end it gives rise to unlimited pleasure, just as a stinging ointment applied by a physician cures his patient's infected eye. In addition, suffering helps protect the confidentiality of devotional service by discouraging intrusions by the faithless, and it also increases the eagerness with which the devotees call upon the Lord to appear. If the devotees of Lord Visnu were complacently happy all the time, He would never have a reason to appear in this world as Krsna, Ramacandra, Nrsimha and so on. As Krsna Himself says in Bhagavad-gita (4.8),

paritranaya sadhunam
vinasaya ca duskrtam
sambhavami yuge yuge

"To deliver the pious and annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium."

And without the Lord's showing Himself on earth in His original form of Krsna and in the forms of various incarnations, His faithful servants in this world would have no opportunity to enjoy His rasa-lila and other pastimes.

Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti here counters a possible objection: "What fault would there be in God's incarnating for some other reason than to deliver saintly persons from suffering?" The learned acarya responds, "Yes, my dear brother, this makes good sense, but you are not expert in understanding spiritual moods. Please listen: It is at night that the sunrise becomes attractive, during the hot summer that cold water gives comfort, and during the cold winter months that warm water is pleasing. Lamplight appears attractive in darkness, not in the glaring light of day, and when one is distressed by hunger, food tastes especially good." In other words, to strengthen his devotees' mood of dependence on Him and longing for Him, the Lord arranges for His devotees to go through some suffering, and when He appears in order to deliver them, their gratitude and transcendental pleasure are boundless.


Sun, 09/14/2008 - 18:05 — jivatattva
Above Reason


These are all good reminders, soul amnesia being what it is.

With all of the corporeal amplitude, we need to maintain a point in the heart that is above reason!

Hare Krishna