By Daisaku Ikeda
I find a woman's face weathered from numerous storms in life to be beautiful. No matter what her age, just like the beauty of grains on wood that deepens with passage of time, beauty that has endured hardships shines with a distinctive splendor.
When one sees a woman for what she really is, free of decoration or cosmetics, I believe her life in all its naturalness, and her true, indestructible beauty emerges. But what is this elusive quality called beauty?
In ancient Chinese literature the so-called beautiful woman looks thin and fragile. Her feet are tiny, because they have been bound, and she looks frail, almost sickly. That seems to have been the preference at a certain time. But later, in the T'ang dynasty, an ideal woman was someone voluptuous and healthy-looking. Even today, many cultures consider plump women to be beautiful and young women are strongly encouraged to eat well. This may sound incredible to women who live in societies where tall and thin models set the trend for what is considered beautiful.
In my country, Japan, too, the definition of beauty seems to vary according to the times. Beautiful women who were portrayed in wood-block prints during the Edo period had long faces, thin eyes and large, protruding chins. But, after the Second World War, women who were quite buxom were suddenly considered attractive. This makes me question how there can be such different standards in society concerning women's beauty.
Women tend to find themselves caught in a trap that makes them eager to fit themselves in the mold of "the beautiful woman"—a standard set by the social trends of the time.
The purpose of this endless pursuit, and who it is for, are often forgotten. Perhaps, in the end, the pursuit of beauty is actually for yourself, so that you can feel good when you look at yourself in the mirror. If the purpose of beauty is to be attractive to others, then, I would honestly recommend that this time and energy be spent on polishing and cultivating your inner self; your character, as I think that would be much more effective in serving your purpose.
Whether it be your boyfriend, husband, or friends...why are they attracted to you? I am sure it's not only because of your looks but because of who you are, what they find in you, the beauty of your mind and your personality. No matter how pretty a woman is, if her attraction is only in her physical looks, I don't think the appeal will last, but rather fade away with time. True, lasting attraction to another human being comes from an inner beauty and confidence that shine from within.
I once heard a story from a woman who had gone to her twentieth high school reunion. She made an astonishing discovery. Most of the women who had been beauties in their youth looked rather dull, while many of those who had been plain now shone with an inner beauty. As she talked to these friends from many years back, she realized that some of those who had been beautiful had not had to make much effort to attract attention, and this rather self-satisfied attitude had stayed with them through the years, while the more plain-looking women had clearly been working to develop themselves and had become truly attractive as human beings.
For me a woman's true beauty lies not in her appearance, but deep within her heart. A woman who makes all-out efforts and who exerts herself wholeheartedly in her field is beautiful; she really shines. She looks sharp and focused and full of confidence. This kind of radiance will always outshine for me any external beauty related to what a woman is wearing. In fact those who are aware of their inner beauty don't need to seek borrowed beauty from outside. And, sadly, those who care only for their physical appearance are often spiritually impoverished and trying to conceal that lack with exterior trappings.
We all long for things of beauty-beauty of nature, of appearance, of life, a beautiful family and so on. But these cannot be gained if we are withdrawn and isolated, just looking at ourselves. We must create better relationships with other people and interact with our community and society with an open heart. We must be kind to nature. It is only through this process that we really grow and cultivate our own beauty.
A woman who can praise, appreciate and wholeheartedly respect those around her is more beautiful than another who is constantly criticizing others. In the same way, someone who can find joy and excitement of her own in her daily life, or even in nature and the changes of the seasons, has the warmth and brightness that can give a sense of peace and comfort to others. Being an expert in discovering beauty makes one beautiful.
The famous sculptor Rodin once said that beauty is not found in one woman but in every woman. And he identified the source that lights up this beauty as the "flame in one's inner life." The flame of a pure heart, the flame of compassion, the flame of hope, and the flame of courage. These flames are the source of light which enable women to shine with beauty.
It is said that "A woman's beauty shines with age." I find so much wisdom in these words. People normally connect beauty and youth, and cannot link the word "beautiful woman" with "older woman." A young woman in her teens is indeed beautiful, but there is a different kind of beauty that is found in women in their 30s, 50s, even 70s. When we seek beauty inside a person, we will realize that a truly beautiful woman is a person whose inner beauty continues to deepen and be cultivated with time.
Buddhism teaches that your physical appearance is a reflection of your inner self. Hence, a truly beautiful woman knows who she is and what her strengths are and is happy and confident to be true to herself.
Today we live in an age where commercialism determines what is "beautiful," but please remember that you cannot find true beauty in these fashionable trends. Beauty cannot be bought with money either. Many insecure young women tend to become confused by such messages sent out by the mass producers of today's society, but I feel that appreciating and realizing your own beauty means establishing a secure and robust inner self that will not be swayed by outer circumstances.
Every woman can be beautiful. It all begins by believing in your own beauty.
Let's all be beautiful ladies! =)