Man in his innermost is seeking for happiness, for beauty, for harmony; and yet, by not responding to the beauty and harmony which is before him, he wastes his life, which is an opportunity for him to experience and to enjoy. What self-denial is it to deny the divine beauty which is before us? If we deny ourselves the divine beauty which surrounds us, then the beauty which is within will not unfold itself. Because the condition is that the soul is born with its eyes open outwardly; it does not see the life within. The only way of wakening to the life within, which is most beautiful, is first to respond to the beauty outside. This world with all its unlimited beauty, nature with its sublimity, personalities with divine immanence, if we ignore all this then why have we come, and what have we accomplished here? The person who ignores it turns his back on something which he is continually seeking for. He is his own enemy. By this way he cannot be spiritual, he cannot be religious; by denying himself all that is beautiful around him he cannot be exalted. For if beauty within was the only purpose of life, God would not have created man and sent him on earth.
Besides this, it is the vision of the beauty on the earth which awakens the vision of the beauty which is in the spirit. Some say that it is sensuous and that it deprives one of spiritual illumination. It would, if a person were to be wholly absorbed in it and were to live only in it, and did not think that there was something else besides. Because the beauty which is outside no doubt has a transitory character; it is passing and therefore it is not dependable. For the one who depends upon this beauty and has become absorbed in it and by doing so has turned his back on that beauty which is everlasting, for that person this is certainly wrong. But at the same time, no soul has ever arrived at beholding the vision of the spiritual beauty which is to be found within, without being awakened to the beauty which is external.
One might think that a child who dies very young cannot come to that spirituality through the beauty of life. I will say that the child is sometimes more responsive to beauty than a grown-up person, because a grown-up person has developed in himself a pessimistic attitude, a prejudice; and by that prejudice he is incapable of seeing that beauty which a little child can see and appreciate. For instance, when we look at a person we make a barrier of our preconceived idea before we look at him. A child, an angel on earth, looks at him as it would look at its best friend. It has no enmity, no preconceived idea about anyone, and therefore the child is open to beauty. A child does not know that the fire burns; the child only knows that the fire is beautiful. And therefore the child is so blessed that every moment of its life it lives in a complete vision of beauty. And so long as that state lasts a soul is in the Garden of Eden; it is exiled from that day when the soul has touched the earthly human nature. Someone may say, ‘If within the soul there was not the capability of appreciating beauty, how would it be able to perceive the external beauty first?’ The soul has, born in itself, a natural craving for beauty. It is a lack in the person if he does not seek it rightly. Is there any person who is not a lover of beauty, who is not capable of appreciating it? He denies himself that beauty which he could have admired freely.
One may ask, ‘Is the quality of appreciating beauty more spiritual than the craving for knowledge?’ I would say in answer, where does knowledge come from? Knowledge comes by observation; observation comes by love of beauty. The first thing is that the flower attracts one’s attention, and then one begins to find out where the flower comes from, what is its nature and character, what benefit it is, how to rear this plant. The first thing is that one is attracted by its beauty; the next thing is, one wants to fund out its nature. From this comes all knowledge.
There is a kind of artificial learning, not a natural learning, which may be called time-saving. Someone says, ‘Now people have learned in their lives and they have discovered things for us and written about them in books, and I must learn that by reading the book’. But he does not know that he has not learned what that person who has written the book has learned. For instance, someone who has read the books of Luther Burbank, if he has read fifty books on horticulture, has not learned what Luther Burbank had learned. For he had made experiments for himself; he had been in the garden; his joy was such that he could not explain. No doubt another person will benefit by what he has given, but another person cannot enjoy what he has enjoyed, unless he pursues the same course.
In my explanation, spiritual means living. A spiritual person who is awakened to the beauty of poetry, who is quick to admire the subtlety of the poetry, who is appreciative of the beauty of melody, of harmony, who can enjoy art and be exalted by the beauty of nature, who lives as a living being, not as one dead, it is that person who may be called spiritual. And you will always fund the tendency of spiritual personalities is to be interested in every person in their lives. That is the sign that they are living. A person who is shut up in himself closes himself; he has made four walls around himself. That can be his grave; he is buried in it. The person who is living, naturally sees all; and, as he sees all, he sympathizes with all, he responds to all, he appreciates all in everybody; and in this way he wakens in himself the sublime vision of the immanence of God.