In ancient Indian philosophy, the high purpose of life is to seek reintegration with the one. To perceive ourselves as part of the divinity of existence, thereby to lose the pain of a life caught in the web of endless desires.
The aesthetic experience is considered to be of great value. Our experience of beauty, when we respond to a sunrise or to a great work of art, is seen to be a moment in which we perceive the grace which underlies the whole of creation. In that moment, the veils of illusion of the material world (‘maya’ or ‘mithya’) are lifted and we see the grace which underlies all that there is. In that instant, it is not our material preoccupations which fill our consciousness and blind us to the greater reality. Indian philosophy states that the moment of the aesthetic experience is similar to ‘Brahmananda’, or the final ecstasy of salvation itself. Thus, art has played a most important part in the life of the Indian subcontinent.
In fact, the ‘Chitrasutra’ of the ‘Vishnudharmottara Purana’, which was penned by the fifth century CE, out of earlier oral traditions, is the oldest known treatise on art in the world. It states that art is the greatest treasure of mankind, far more valuable than gold or jewels.
Through these troubled times, it may serve us well to take benefit of the grace and inner joy, which art can awaken within us.
Text and photo Benoy K Behl