Where Beauty Lives
Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors
Where Beauty LivesDo your eyes deceive you?
At first it was barely noticeable. Standing with our group in an open plaza of Kathmandu’s historic district, I had grown accustomed to the bumps and nudges that accompany touring with others in close quarters. To help accustom our bodies to the higher elevations of Tibet, we had scheduled a 48-hour layover in the country of Nepal, which is situated at about 4,000 feet above sea level. In addition to preparing us for the Tibetan plateau, this would give us time to immerse ourselves in the traditions surrounding Hindu’s oldest temples. I could have easily ignored the tug that I felt from the cloth pleat in my cotton hiking pants. Because it was so deliberate, though, I did not.
Instinctively, I glanced downward to the source of the distraction. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. My eyes were met by the intense gaze of a man whose sparsely bearded face rose barely above the height of my knees. He appeared both timeless and ancient, as the hot wind rippled through the long, tangled strands of hair that mingled with the silvery wisps of his beard. The white ash that traditionally covers the body of a Hindu holy man clung to the humid dampness of his skin in patches. Underneath was a black, scarred, and deformed body, made only darker from years of exposure to the harsh high-altitude sun.
It took a moment for me to make sense of what my eyes were seeing. As I searched below his waist to the place where the man’s legs should have been, all that I saw was the limp fold of a soiled loincloth cascading onto the ground below. In place of his legs, there was a short piece of board with rollers attached to the underside. Stained through years of use, the roller board appeared to be his only means of getting around.
Startled, I stepped back. Without breaking his gaze from my eyes, the man slowly placed both of his palms on the ground, maintained his balance on the board, and skillfully pushed himself in my direction. I glanced up to see if anyone else had noticed what I was seeing. Those around me appeared absolutely oblivious of what was happening on the ground beneath their feet!
The sight of overwhelming poverty had become common through the course of our journey, and my immediate assumption was that the man was a “beggar” asking me for a handout. The act of begging is an acceptable profession in many religious traditions for those people who have freed themselves from the encumbrances of homes, professions, and families to devote themselves to prayer. As I reached into my pocket for something to hand him, the man turned and pointed to the roofline of an ancient temple across the square.
Following his gesture, I found myself staring at the most beautiful wooden façade of an ancient Hindu temple. It was partially hidden behind other buildings, and was completely covered with the intricately detailed figurines of the thousands of gods and goddesses of Hindu tradition. If the ashen man had not pointed it out, I would have missed it completely. As I later learned, it also held an important key to understanding the Hindu faith.
When I handed the bills to him, he casually waved his hands as if he were shooing a fly away, gesturing for me to put the money back into my pocket—he wasn’t interested in money! I turned away briefly, in time to catch our translator leading the group in another direction. When I looked back, the man on the roller board had disappeared. Searching the crowd in front of me, I caught a quick glimpse of him just as he made his way across the hot cobblestones and into the masses of tourists. I never saw him again.
I share this story to illustrate a point. Because the man looked so very different to me, I had a judgment about him and who he was. From his gnarled and weathered body, it was the beauty of his spirit that came through that day. Rather than wanting a handout, he simply wanted to share something with me. He showed me a part of his world that I would not have seen otherwise, and in doing so he taught me about my judgment. He also demonstrated that beauty can come through only when we allow it.