Aesthetic Philosophy in Buddhism

Everyone would love beauty. The beauty is very close to the human senses. The beauty experienced by the senses are simply a process in which one is aware of by directing experience of the beauty of the outside world. The physical beauty that pleases the senses from the outside is only actual, and who can understand and realize its true nature is one’s own (yathabhutanana) in a wonderful spiritual experience and beauty in the reality of the knowledge of this world.

Etymologically Aesthetics comes from the word aesthetic (English) which means “beauty”. In big Indonesian Dictionary (KBBI, 2008: 401), “Aesthetics is a science (doctrine or philosophy) of art and beauty and human response to it; sensitivity to art and beauty “. While the beauty / beauty comes from the basic word ‘beautiful / beautiful’ which means ‘nice / beautiful’. In other words, beauty is beauty; beautiful properties (circumstances, etc.) (KBBI, 2008: 582). So Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy that studies the art and beauty and human response to it.

In Buddhism there are two types of beauty seen from a general point of view, namely physical beauty (external) and moral (spiritual) beauty. Buddhism describes the physical beauty in a story about of Khema (Queen Bimbisara) meeting with the Buddha. Khema is a woman who is very proud of her physical beauty, she refuses to meet the Buddha who claims that Buddha has a habit of speaking disparaging physical beauty, after listening to a poem that tells of the beauty of Veluvanarama where the Buddha is located makes Khema go visit Buddha. When Khema sat near the Buddha, the Buddha created a woman like a sky fairy who stood nearby, fanning it with palm leaves. It left a deep impression in Khema’s mind as she observed that the woman near the Buddha was prettier than her. As he continues to see the woman and continue to observe how to enter middle age and then to old age and finally fell like an old woman. Khema realizes that physical beauty will change according to his true nature (Anicca), then he not only becomes an arahant but also becomes a bhikkhuni who has wisdom, then the Thera and Theri in the books of Thera and Theri-gatha (Kuddaka Nikaya) reveal the supreme beauty of moral or spiritual beauty. The inner beauty that has been revealed is about the expression of the joys of the Thera and Theri after practicing the Buddha’s teachings.

The story does not mean the Buddha has been prejudiced against physical beauty, but attachment to physical beauty is folly. Physical beauty is only temporary and when the object of beauty loses its appeal, there is sadness and disappointment. The Buddha realizes that if man wants to be truly happy he is not attached to the beauty of matter. The method used to reduce attachment to physical beauty is to contemplate the form of defilement (asubha-bhavana).

Thus the beauty in Buddhism is the physical beauty (external) and the moral (spiritual) beauty. The Buddha did not reject the physical beauty, but taught not to cling to the ever-changing beauty. When a person attaches to the ever-changing beauty, there will be sadness and disappointment, but the moral (spiritual) beauty will encourage one to obtain the true beauty or beauty of Nibbana.

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