What Makes It Beautiful?

As I make ready to leave Hyderabad, I have to reflect on the beauty of the city. For it is not cleanliness or skillfulness of craftsmanship that makes a thing truly beautiful. It is devotion, it is love, it is dedication. That makes something or someone truly beautiful. Eyes do not always see beauty: it is felt in the heart, it pierces the soul.

Today I went to Birla Mandir here in Hyderabad. The asphalt burned my bare feet – I have a blister – but those things will heal and I will still have the beautiful memory of the place. And why? Because of the devotion that I felt there.

Although I do not share an identical faith with the people who worshiped there, I do share a yearning for contact with a power greater than me. Finding that connection is not only done in prayer and fasting, but acts of devotion that extend and reach out to other people. When we touch lives for good, we have a chance to make the world more beautiful.

In the Bhagavad-Gita, it is taught that there are three ways to live life: with inertia, with passion, or with true disciplined devotion. Inertia is the basest of those ways: one does nothing, live passes over and flows around. The inert person is useless to others, for he takes no action.

Passion is better than inertia, but it lacks discipline. One may crusade to do what is right, with great stridency, but one’s laws are not perfect laws. Passion can lead to excess, which can lead to pain for others. Passions can lead to harm.

But disciplined devotion – dharma – means that one lives actively, but within bounds set by one who is wiser and more knowledgeable than one’s self. The bounds require at times to restrain one’s passions. The bounds require at times action when one would rather not take action. The bounds require that one be not as one is naturally, but to be a person that lives above that level and who strives to bring peace, joy, and love into the world through compassionate service.

As I walked through the Birla Mandir with my friends, I thought of these things. And though I may not approach God in the same manner as they do, I do cherish that teaching of the Gita, as it is something that is true. It is something that, if I apply to my life, will make me a more perfect person.

For if we all approach God with sincere intent, we will one day all arrive at the same place. If we all live our lives with devotion, compassion, and love, all bound up in the discipline of a higher rule, we will make the earth a place where more people will have sincere intent. We will make the earth a place where it will be easier to find God.

And that world, I assure you, will be a beautiful place.

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