The origin of aesthetics

June 21, 2007 at 10:54 am 1 comment

There is a remarkable verse in the atharva veda which attributes all that is great in the human world to superfluity. It says:

ritam satyam tapo raashtram sramo dharmasca karmaca
bhutam bhavishyat ucchiste viryam lakshmirbalam bale

(Translation: Righteousness, truth, great endeavours, empire, religion, duties, enterprise, heroism and prosperity, the past and the future dwell in the surpassing strength of the surplus.)

The meaning of it is that man expresses himself through his super-abundance which largely overlaps his absolute need. The renowned vedic commentator Sayanaacarya says:

yajne hutaasishtasya odanasya sarvajagat-
kaaranabhoota brahmabhedena stutih kriyate

(Translation: The food offering which is left after the completion of sacrificial rites is praised because it is symbolical of Brahma, the original source of the universe.)

According to this explanation, Brahma is boundless in his superfluity, which inevitably finds its expression in the finitude of the ephemeral creations in eternal world process. Here we have the doctrine of creation and therefore of the origin of art. Of all creatures, man has his vital and mental energies vastly in excess of his need. Which urges him to work along various lines of creation for his own sake. Like Brahma himself, he indulges in productions that are unnecessary to him, and therefore representing his extravagance and not his hand-to-mouth penury. The voice that is just enough can speak and cry to the extent needed for everyday use. It need not sing, but it does. The joy man derives from his productions is the aesthetic bliss or rasa. Art reveals man’s wealth of life, which seeks its freedom in forms of perfection, which are an end in themselves.

All that is inert and inanimate is limited to the bare fact of existence. Life is perpetually creative because it contains in itself that surplus which overflows the boundaries of the immediate time and space, restlessly pursuing its adventure of expression in the varied forms of self-realization. Our living body has its vital organs that are important in maintaining its efficiency, but this body is not a mere convenient sac for the purpose of holding those organs together. It is an image; its highest value is in the fact that it communicates personality. It has colour, shape and movement, most of which belong to the superfluous, that are needed only for self-expression and not for self-preservation.

At the root of all creation is a paradox, a logical contradiction. Its process is in the perpetual reconciliation of two contrary forces. We have already said that the natural urging of the surplus, the ucchista, is the motive force for all that makes for perfection. But the boundless overflow must yield to finite bounds for its manifestation. We have two contrary utterances in the Upanishads about the origin of all things. On the one hand, it has been said:

aanandadhyeva khalvimani bhootani yayante

(Translation: The universe has come out of joy.)

On the other hand, there is a verse saying:

sa tapo tapyatah sa tapastaptva sarvamaasrijat yadidam kinca

(Translation: God made penance, and with the heat generated therefrom he created all that there is.)

The freedom of joy and the restraint of tapasyaa are both equally true in the creative expression of Brahma, and therefore, in the expression of any artist. Things are distinct not in their essence but in their appearance. In other words, in their relation to one to whom they appear. This is art, the truth of which is not in substance or logic but in expression. Abstract truth may belong to metaphysics, but the world of reality belongs to art.

Entry filed under: art, hinduism, philosophy, religion, theory.

If your death leaves a mark ….. then so did your life Origin as an aesthetic experience: creation as art

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Rajan KSS  |  November 26, 2010 at 5:26 am

    I was looking for the attributes,origin and its expression,of aesthetics,
    Thanks for this interpretation, even though I could not find the practical term Aesthetics,i read some where that the word
    aesthetics was a Greek origin,attributed to the Greek God of Beauty Venus and as indicated in the above interpretation also perhaps Athletics.


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