Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Indian Culture (SAFIC)

Talk on Aesthetics in Design at the Machine Design department of IIT Madras.

Dates: September 20, 2019
Venue: Design department of IIT Madras

Aesthetics in Design

On 20th September 2019 Dr. Sampadananda Mishra, Director, SAFIC, was invited to give a talk on Aesthetics in Design at the Machine Design department of IIT Madras. Through this talk Dr. Mishra wanted to convey the message – how design becomes a vehicle for self-realization; and how aesthetic culture can be a means to attain refinement of consciousness and life through beauty and harmony.

Here is a summary of the whole talk drafted by Prof. Prabhu Rajagpal of Machine Design department IIT Madras:

” It was wonderful to host Sampadananda Mishra ji, Director, Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Indian Culture and hear his exposition of ‘Aesthetics in Design’ at our Lab, Centre for NDE, IIT Madras last evening – his presentation was deeply moving! He started by describing how in the shastras it is said that upon the creation of the human form, the divine uttered that it was ‘sukritam’, well-ctreated – for it was ideal to express the divine bliss or Ananda upon earth. Thus human beings also have the potentiality of the creator. Design is the process of bringing something of the infinite into finite forms, – and then of the finite seeking out the infinite! Touching upon the ancient Indic wisdom, he emphasized how ‘Satyam, Ritam and Brihat’ must be the 3 markers of a timeless design.While Brihat calls out to our inner sense for the ineffable infinite, Satyam is the static essence, while Ritam the order brings out the dynamism. For example the Gopuram or temple tower conveys the Brihat. However, it is not a mechanical application of these principles – rather, it is the artist/designer going within, experiencing the silence at the heart of existence, and bring it out in form. When that happens, the Design becomes ‘Sukritam’, well created, and can attain ‘sushama’ – the ideal of beauty in Sanksritic literature ‘of even prortion, harmonious, superbly equal’. Dr Sampadananda Mishra touched upon the perfection in nature – which is why ‘bio-inspiration’ works. However what surprised us all was when he referred to the surgical instruments described by the ancient Physician Sushruta – of the 120 instruments described, many have bio-inspired features, some named after birds with particular shapes of beaks etc. An interesting instrument is called #vyaghramukha or ‘tiger-mouth’ which has a special feature like how a tiger mouth can tear apart flesh, but also carry cubs firmly without hurting them. The Devas are all beings who can bring about this ‘well-creation’ and an epithet of Indra in Rig Veda, is ‘Surupa-Kritnu’ . Indra represents the pure mind, that can pierce through and be one with the Silence at the heart of being. Without purity and silence, we cannot create such a good form, which cannot be the creation of a chaotic mind. Thus any creation – art or Design – is a form of Sadhana, and thus artists are called ‘sadhakam, drashta’. The best creations are those that the artist/designer beholds and gains joy/delight/ananda – and can say ‘sukritam’ at his own work! Thus if the artist manages to align the outer space chid-akasha with the inner space hridakasha, or the pinda (microcosm) and brahmanda (macrocosm), then a sustainable product that can lead to Ananda and hence amrita (timelessness) arises. The artist-designer’s role is to bring to her creations, this ‘newness, freshness’ that is the mark of the divine within, such that even ages later when someone beholds their creation, they have the same sense of ananda in a fresh and new light. If they can infuse that infinite element into form or create something that invokes/evokes that, then the creation is ‘sukritam’. He also quoted a verse:
क्षणे क्षणे यन्नवतामुपैति तदेव रूपं रमणीयतायाः।।

Report by SAFIC

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