Perfection

Beauty in Perfection and Vice-Versa: The Japanese Take

Book Review

Seeing through a lens that sees things as it is, in its truest form, looking at a broken feather as a feather, not denying its reality, not giving it a quality, experiencing the moment quietly the Mother wrote about Japan. She wrote about its perfection/ beauty-loving people, the value given to nurturing kids, the dedicated women, the Japanese restrained-balanced-subtle art and the transient life.

The people, she observed, not via reactions, but by silent selfless actions showed how much they cared for someone; happy to persevere they worked to fulfil the task at hand, devoted harmoniously and absolutely in the present moment, aware about nothing else.

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Taking long walks to a garden in spring or autumns and spending time there or climbing the steep stairs to reach the monastery at the top of the hilltop, the people (of every and any class), she noticed, believed in beauty and peace.

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“…very simple people, men of working class or even peasants go for rest or enjoyment to a place where they can see a beautiful landscape. This gives them a much greater joy than going to play cards or indulging in all sorts of distractions as they do in the countries of Europe. They are seen in groups at times, going on the roads or sometimes taking a train or a tram up to a certain point, then walking to a place from where one gets a beautiful view.”

“For instance, in autumn leaves become red; they have large numbers of maple-trees (the leaves of the maple turn into all the shades of the most vivid red in autumn, it is absolutely marvellous), so they arrange a place near temple, for instance, on the top of a hill, and the entire hill is covered with maples.”

“Well, an artist who goes there will experience an emotion of absolutely exceptional, marvellous beauty. But one sees very small children, families even, with a baby on the shoulder, going there in groups. In autumn they will go there. In springtime they will go elsewhere.”

The Mother (Questions and Answers, The Mother on Japan 12 April 1951) 

Image of the Buddha, painting by the Mother.
(The Mother, Paintings and Drawings, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1992) [Photo by – Jagriti Rumi]

While reading about the 1919 flu and how the Mother fought back the negative, dark energy, one thinks about the present pandemic and hopes to win like the Mother in the end.

The glorious cherry-blossom trees in bloom – pink, white, vivid joyous pink – and the narrow paths that take one to wonderful places, with old Japanese houses on both sides, presented the Mother with a paradise puzzle…

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“Then you go wandering around – always one wanders at random in that country – you go wandering and all of a sudden you turn the corner of a street and come to a kind of paradise: there are magnificent trees, a temple as beautiful as everything else, you see nothing of the city (Tokyo) any longer, no more traffic, no tramways; a corner, a corner of trees with magnificent colours, and it is beautiful, beautiful like everything else. You do not know how you have reached there, you seem to have come by luck. And then you turn, you seek your way, you wander off again and go elsewhere. And some days later you want to come back to this very place, but it is impossible, it is as though it had disappeared. And this is so frequent, this is so true that such stories are often told in Japan. Their literature is full of fairy-lore. They tell you a story in which the hero comes suddenly to an enchanted place: he sees fairies, he sees marvellous beings, he spends exquisite hours among flowers, music; all is splendid. The next day he is obliged to leave; it is the law of the place, he goes away. He tries to come back, but never does. He can no longer find the place: it was there, it has disappeared!… And everything in this city, in this country, from beginning to end, gives you the impression of impermanence, of the unexpected, the exceptional. You always come to things you did not expect; you want to find them again and they are lost – they have made something else which is equally charming. From the artistic point of view, the point of view of beauty, I don’t think there is a country as beautiful as that.”

 

The Mother (Questions and Answers, The Mother on Japan 12 April 1951) 

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Complement this short spiritual post with similar posts – The Journey and Sri Aurobindo.

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Bach’s Seagull meets Shelley’s Skylark

Jonathan Livingston Seagull and his students.
Image from Pixabay.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull wanted to master the art of flying. Soaring up in the sky, above the white ocean of clouds, he felt truly free.

Though very unlikely of a seagull, Jonathan flew high ever so high, he practised and failed umpteenth times, but he never gave up.

An outcast, he lived alone and happily spent his time in his quest to achieve perfection.

On reaching a higher level of existence, he meets gulls like him who wanted to enhance their flying skills. It was not heaven for everyone there were learners.

Chiang, the guru of them all, teaches Jonathan how to let go of the concept of time and space so as to travel freely in the Universe.

“Begin by knowing that you have already arrived”, said Chiang.

Wondering if someone else, one who dares to question and take risks, needs guidance on Earth, he returns.

“Devil” for some and “angel” for others, Jonathan teaches a few eager ones. Practising, failing, practising again, Jonathan’s students rise above the Flock, the mundane.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull then continues his journey to guide other gulls who must have been waiting for him somewhere else in the Universe.

The fable. [Source – Wikipedia]

Richard Bach’s fable is soothingly clear, and thus, appears too simplistic to many. Just like flying looks simple only until we give it a try.

He equates perfection with freedom, emphasising on practising and a thirst for knowledge as the golden path to it; a path where you walk ahead passionately and not cumbersomely.

Every little bud in nature rises high, soaking in sun rays, moving towards it. Rising high, shedding the old self, stepping forward to explore the unknown, dwindling before making a firm stand is what life’s journey is all about.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, “a one-in-a-million bird”, if appears to be too perfect and his ideas if sound too far-fetching then you should look at your on-going journey and answer these questions – what are you looking for in life – perfection in some form or maybe a balance?

And what is balance if not a proportion of perfect this and perfect that?

Even better, you should meet Shelley’s Skylark.

Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!

Bird thou never wert,

That from Heaven, or near it,

Pourest thy full heart

In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

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Higher still and higher

From the earth thou springest

Like a cloud of fire;

The blue deep thou wingest,

And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

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The invisible bird.
Image from Unsplash.

‘Blithe Spirit’ calls Percy Bysshe Shelley a Skylark that is soaring up in the sky (or Heaven, or near it), singing beautifully and gloriously that to him it is nothing but unprecedented ‘unpremeditated art’.

The Skylark, invisible to his eyes, has such power in its voice that the poet likens it to ‘a cloud of fire’.

Shelley beseeches the Skylark to teach him what it knows; a divine secret it must be for nothing on earth could outshine it. Joy so true, Shelley calls it ‘a star of Heaven’.

Nature’s bounty, the golden glow worms, the rainbows, the playful wind, a young maiden’s love and a poet’s grand verses, Shelley says the Skylark’s song, that flows in a ‘crystal stream’, is above them all.

What thou art we know not;

What is most like thee?

From rainbow clouds there flow not

Drops so bright to see

As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.

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Like a Poet hidden

In the light of thought,

Singing hymns unbidden,

Till the world is wrought

To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:

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Like a high-born maiden

In a palace-tower,

Soothing her love-laden

Soul in secret hour

With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:

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Like a glow-worm golden

In a dell of dew,

Scattering unbeholden

Its aëreal hue

Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view:

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Like a rose embower’d

In its own green leaves,

By warm winds deflower’d,

Till the scent it gives

Makes faint with too much sweet those heavy-winged thieves:

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Sound of vernal showers

On the twinkling grass,

Rain-awaken’d flowers,

All that ever was

Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass.

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Rain-awaken’d flowers.
Image from Pixabay.

The Skylark, above these mortal dilemmas, sings with pure love and delight. And in contrast we, humans, are locked in the past or the future.

We look before and after,

And pine for what is not:

Our sincerest laughter

With some pain is fraught;

Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

Shelley urges the Skylark to teach him just half of what it knows, this ‘harmonious madness’ so that he could capture it within and share it with the world.

The Skylark if not a gleaming reflection of perfection, then what is it? If its song is not a song of freedom, then why is the melody ‘a flood of rapture so divine’?

It must be that just like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the Skylark returned to Earth, to guide and share its knowledge, to remind the poet that ‘freedom is the very nature of his being’.

Unlike a miracle, both took time to convey what little they knew of the truth. The Seagull stays to make his students practice and the Skylark sings till the chosen one – the poet in this case – hears its joyous voice.  

Showing what doors can perseverance open and how patience leads to strength, the Seagull and the Skylark leave it up to the individual to unfold the story further.

Birth and death are timed then and a fully lived life, with all its imperfections, aims for a balance, for perfection that guides it to fly high and well.

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Fly high and well.
Image from Pixabay.

Read P. B Shelley’s full poem To a Skylark here.

Listen to the Jonathan Livingston Seagull’s audio book version here.


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Night Jasmine

Night Jasmine or Parijat

Six petals in sync
With orange centre as link

Adorned with white peace
Singing with the trees


Fragrant, pure and polite
Holding the divine light

For it begins at dusk
And greets us at dawn

Resting on the leaves              
Or on the path, it weaves

A true reflection
Of perfection

Photo courtesy – Google