Satyam Shivam Sundaram
मैं तसव्वुर भी जुदाई का भला कैसे करूँ
मैंने क़िस्मत की लकीरों से चुराया है तुझे
How can I even imagine being separated from you?
For I have stolen you from the lines of fate.
— Qateel Shifai
I can’t help but wonder what goes on behind the scenes, in the mind of the poet, who composes beautiful lines of verse such as these. In fact, what is it that leads to creation of beauty in general and why does it sometimes seem to elude us?
I believe the phrase Satyam Shivam Sundaram could give us some clues about the origins of beauty.
Satyam means ‘truth.’ The first and foremost criterion for beauty is authenticity. When people are being themselves, even they are being difficult, it is beautiful. But what is truly and authentically us? That bit is hard to unearth.
As we grow up we acquire a lot of thought patterns, rationalisations, ‘values’ and ways of feeling and being that sometimes run against who we truly are deep within. One of the easiest ways to find out if that is happening, and it invariably does with everyone, is to see if our sense of self feels threatened by something. If it does, and we create something in reaction against it, it might not be very beautiful. If, however, in the moment of struggle, we reach down and try to verbalise the inner conflict we experience, that could come close to being authentic and hence more beautiful. It is as if there are degrees of authenticity built in inside us, and the closer we get to the core, the closer we are to the trinity: Satyam Shivam Sundaram: Truth, Auspiciousness, Beauty.
So the starting point of beauty is authenticity, it’s something that has legs to stand on, it’s something that while being finite gives a glimpse of the infinite hidden in everything.
The next stage is Shivam. One of the primary meanings of Shivam is prosperity and bliss. It also means auspiciousness. Shiva, who is often called ‘the destroyer,’ is so much more than that. In the Maha-mrityunjaya mantra, we pray to him for liberation, we say, save us from death, but not from amrita. Thus Shiva is not the angry destroyer of worlds we might imagine him to be. Quite the contrary, he delivers us from one state of consciousness to the other. He breaks the chains of ignorance so that we realise there is no death, in its essence the world is pure bliss. In fact, if he destroys anything at all, it is our fears. Because as long as we are in the grip of our fears, be it failure, heartbreak or death, it is difficult to live and experience life to the fullest.
At the state of being-ness, we search for the authentic core that wants to express itself in the world of forms. However, not every expression of one’s authenticity is beautiful. Beauty is created when what is real is incubated in the positive energy of Shivam which rids it of its fear and negativity. This energy ensures that our creation is in the interest of ourselves and of everyone in the world at large, that it is a harbinger of auspicious beginnings.
Thus when what is Satyam within us comes in contact with the blissful liberating aspect Shivam the result is Sundaram.
Thankfully, the more we look for our truth, the closer we also get to the Shivam within us. Sometimes this process is painful, like being churned–the deeper we go, the closer we come to our complexes and fears that we have to wrestle with, overcome and release. And when we do that, Shiva drinks the poison that comes out of us as we are churned by life and our quest for happiness and he, out of compassion for us, neutralises it. That is when we get closer to amrita, our moksha (release) from the vagaries of life, and finally experience immortality and eternity.
The trinity Satyam Shivam Sundaram is also linked to another: Sat-Chit-Anand.
Sat: That which is real.
This gives us further clues about beauty. It is ultimately full of bliss or anand. How rapturous a beautiful line of poem is! We string together words by the hundreds everyday but certain thoughts, ideas and feelings when strung together in a pithy sentence can lead to an instant feeling of recognition, understanding and joy. Good poetry and prose is blissful and healing and so is beauty in general in other forms of life.
Shivam is related to the conscious principle of the universe. Beauty is our experience as consciousness (chit) of that which is real (sat). But the consciousness knows that all that is real is consciousness itself, and so this experience of knowing oneself as one truly is, is what is beautiful.
In fact, the world of forms is nothing but an extension of the creative process unfolding within the cosmos. We are that which is beautiful and blissful. And while we forget this essential aspect of our being, perhaps this forgetting is part of the process of rediscovering the beauty and bliss within us. It’s as if things become more evident and clear in contrast and that is what life is, a set of contrasts that helps us understand what truly resonates with us and speaks to us and these contrasts ultimately take us closer to who we are and what we truly desire.
When a poet opens his heart and tells us his fears and his pain, he does not speak just for himself, in fact as long as it is just for himself, the poem lacks wings, it cannot go and touch other hearts. And how does it get wings? When it comes from the core of our being with a genuine desire to know how we feel in our most ecstatic and most miserable states and to set it out on paper, each line pregnant with metaphors and themes that speak to other hearts longing for expression.
Beauty is blissful, it is full of consciousness and pure positive energy meant to liberate us from our fears and heal us, and it is ultimately that which is real. Conversely, all that is truly real in this world is full of consciousness and bliss and is beautiful!