Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur on Spiritualized Art


Jan 3, USA (SUN) — In the mood of the various recent Sun series we have featured on transcendental art, we offer our readers the following passage, which was written by His Divine Grace, Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura. In this brief presentation, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s brilliant and highly logical explanation of spiritual form provides us with the essential definition of the creative act - art in the purest form.

“There is one more argument of the rationalist which we shall take time to consider. He naturally questions the possibility of the manifestation in nature of that Super-natural form. We have read in the Hindu scriptures and in the lives of holy men such as Prahlad and Dhruva, that God made His appearance in nature in His form of spirit and acted with men as one of their friends. We are not prepared, in consideration of our short time and space, to prove that the statements made in the sastras were all historically true, but we must show that the principle taught in these statements is philosophically safe.

God is spiritually Almighty and has the power to overcome all conditions of matter, space and time. It is certainly His power and privilege to be aloof from matter in the position of His Sri Vigraha [the deities], and at the same time to exist in the universe as its soul. In the exercise of His liberty and sovereignty over matter and space, it is not hard to believe that He may now and then, or at all times, be pleased to make a manifestation in nature, sometimes accepting her rules and sometimes rejecting them at His pleasure. The conclusion is that the universe in general and man in particular can never by a rule enjoy a sight of the All Beautiful in the scene of matter, but God of His own freedom can exhibit Himself in supercession of all rules and prove His dominion over all He created. Man sees Him when he regains his pure spiritual nature, but God shows Himself out of kindness to man whenever He is pleased to do so.

Holy men to whom God has been pleased to show His spiritual form have often attempted to picture it to their fellow brethren. The picture, whether it be by pencil, chisel, or pen, is always made through the medium of matter, and hence a degree of grossness has all along attended the representations. This emblematic exhibition of spiritual impressions is far from being open to [the] charge of idolatry. Those who rationally conceive the idea of God, and by the assistance of the imagination create an image, are certainly open to the charge.

There is one absolute truth at the bottom of this important question. It is this: Nature has indeed a relation to the spirit. What is that relation? As far as we have been instructed by the inner Tutor, we may safely say, that spirit is the perfect model and nature is the copy which is full of imperfections. Draw inferences from the side of nature and press them upon the Deity, they will ever remain gross and imperfect. Draw from the spirit inside and push your impressions at first to the mind and then to the body, you simply spiritualize them both. Here is [the] advent of God on the scene of nature. It is then that the model is to be found represented by the corresponding copy in nature. God's transcendental form also finds its corresponding reflection in nature, and when we worship the Deity, in pure love, in the reflected scenes of Vrindavan [the spiritual world]. Here the imagination has no play. It is the soul which sees and makes a description in the corresponding phenomena in nature. The spiritual form thus conveyed to us is none but the eternal form of God. The grossness is simply apparent, but all the actions and consequences are fully spiritual.”


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