Sunday, May 29, 2016

Buddhism on "beauty" (beauty tips)

Ashley Wells (ed.), Wisdom Quarterly (UPDATE); Dr. Esta Kronberg (, etc.
The beautiful Maitreya Buddha in the Himalayas of Ladakh, India (Atishayphotography)
The Western scientific study of beauty has resulted in parameters such as facial symmetry, signs of health, youthfulness (newly nubile), and markers of "genetic fitness" or signs of an ability to bear healthy children ( What did the Buddha have to offer?

It is often said that, "Beauty is only skin deep." Fine. How does one get that kind of beauty?

There would seem to be five routes to it:
  1. Develop your personality so much that it overshadows any deficit in the looks department
  2. plastic surgery
  3. wash, scrub, and smile a lot
  4. or do what the Buddha suggested
"What is the cause of beauty?" the Buddha was asked. He answered. While Wisdom Quarterly does not advocate surgery, the other methods are powerful and available to all. Here's a look at Numbers 4 and 5:
Krishna the "all attractive" and Radha, Hindu deva-avatars

12 Most Embarrassing Beauty Questions — Answered
WebMD Feature from Redbook Magazine by Amy M. Keller
When the normal bacteria on your feet interact with moisture trapped in your socks and shoes, they emit stinky sulfurous byproducts, says Dr. Doris J. Day, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at New York University.

1. What causes foot odor?
The fix: Since dry feet equals odor-free feet, wear absorbent cotton socks with shoes made from breathable materials, like canvas and leather, and sprinkle Zeasorb — an over-the-counter drying powder — into your shoes every morning. Three nights a week, pour a pot of tea made with several regular (not herbal) tea bags into a basin, then soak your feet for five to 10 minutes. The tannic acid in tea temporarily inhibits sweat production. See your doctor if your feet are also red, swollen or scaly to make sure a bacterial or fungal infection isn't causing the smell.

2. Why does my breath smell despite constant brushing?
Although brushing will help prevent cavities (so don't stop scrubbing), it can only mask bad breath, since the problem really lies within your throat and tongue, not your teeth. When the bacteria in your mouth lose access to oxygen (which can happen when you use alcohol-based mouthwashes, take certain prescription medications for depression or high blood pressure or simply sit with your mouth shut for a long time), they emit smelly sulfur compounds, says Harold Katz, D.D.S., founder of The California Breath Clinic in Los Angeles; this is the same principle at work with foot odor. Eating garlic and onion also makes your breath stink because they contain — surprise — those same sulfur compounds.

The fix: Contrary to popular belief, a tongue scraper won't banish bad breath — sulfur compounds cannot be removed manually. Instead, keep your mouth oxygenated by drinking water throughout the day and using an over-the-counter oral rinse with chlorine dioxide in both the AM and the PM to neutralize sulfur compounds. Chewing on oxygen-rich vegetables, like parsley and celery, or eating chlorophyll caps, and an alkaline (as opposed to acid-forming) diet can also diminish odors. If these tricks don't work, see your dentist.

3. I've started to sweat through my blouses. Should I be worried?
Most likely there's nothing to fear, says Dr. Joseph L. Jorizzo, MD, chairperson of dermatology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC. You probably just have a benign, hereditary tendency toward excessive sweating that can crop up at any age. But see your doctor to rule out an overactive thyroid, a low blood-sugar level, and a number of other problems that can cause continual heavy sweating.

The fix: Before bed, towel-dry your armpits and apply a small amount of common baking soda. Wash the solution off in the A.M. and apply safe antiperspirant. Repeat nightly. Still not satisfied? Ask your doctor about Botox injections - one treatment ($800 to $1,500) can paralyze sweat glands for six months to a year.

4. Every time I shave, I get a bumpy rash along my bikini line — what's causing it?
A too-close shave or waxing can make hairs split and loop around just under the surface of the skin. As these off-kilter hairs grow, they push up against your skin, causing inflammation and redness, says Dr. Lawrence Moy, MD, chief of dermatology at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

The fix: Put down your loofah; dermatologists now agree that rubbing the bumps to free trapped hairs will only make the problem worse. Instead, apply an OTC acetylsalicylic acid (a.k.a. aspirin) solution twice a day for two to seven days to gently exfoliate the top layer of your skin. (Try Soft Cell.) Once you shed this layer, the looped hairs will be able to poke through. A cortisone injection, administered by your dermatologist, will decrease inflammation in bigger bumps. If ingrown hairs are a persistent problem, you may want to consider laser treatment, which damages the hair follicles and prevents hair growth. You'll need about three treatments (each around $350) followed by a touch-up every six months to a year.

5. I've heard that spider veins are hereditary. My mom doesn't have them, so why do I?
Genetics isn't the only cause of these unsightly blue veins. Pregnancy and trauma to the leg (like bumping into something) can bring them on, says Dr. Esta Kronberg, MD (, a Houston, TX, dermatologist.

The fix: Though vitamin K cream has been touted by some as the next big thing in spider-vein treatment (possibly because of its ability to constrict blood vessels, which supposedly makes veins less visible), there's no way the molecules in the cream can penetrate the skin on your legs and be absorbed into your veins, says Jorizzo. The best option — with 95% of patients seeing improvement after one to three treatments (up to $300 per treatment, per leg) — is still sclerotherapy, tiny injections of saline solution, which irritates veins and causes them to swell shut.

6. Are the bumps on my butt and on the backs of my arms pimples?
No. They're actually called keratosis pilaris — the cause is unknown, but some claim that it's a hereditary condition.

The fix: You can soften and help slough off bumps by rubbing them with a mixture of equal parts petroleum jelly and either water or cold cream. If that doesn't work, prescription Retin-A probably will, but it can irritate the surrounding skin. A better alternative: prescription LactiCare-HC Lotion 2 1/2%, which contains lactic acid to dissolve dead skin cells and hydrocortisone to soothe any acid-induced irritation. Rub lotion onto bumps twice a day until they clear up.
Ancient Egyptian beauty was very well developed (

7. What's causing my toenail fungus?
Toenail fungus is actually athlete's foot (often picked up from shared showers or borrowed shoes) that has spread into your toenails.

The fix: The most effective treatment is a prescription antifungal pill like Lamisil or Sporanox, but be warned: These treatments are only 70 to 80 percent effective at best, and even when they work it takes nearly a year and a half for the toenail to fully grow out, says Day. Prevent a recurrence by wearing shower slippers every time you rinse off at the gym and by not borrowing shoes.

8. Why do my teeth look so dingy?
Smoking and excessive consumption of dark beverages (like coffee, tea, soda and red wine) are the main causes of stained teeth, says Lana Rozenberg, D.D.S., founder of the Rozenberg Dental Day Spa in New York City.

The fix: As with clothing stains, the longer discolorations remain on your teeth, the harder they are to remove — so keep up those twice-a-year dental visits. You can lighten your teeth several shades with a whitening toothpaste that contains carbamide peroxide, but use it only once a day to avoid drying out gum tissue. (Try peroxide toothpaste.) Floss treated with the whitening agent silica has also been proven to polish away stains, which often form between teeth.

For more dramatic results, your dentist can bleach your teeth up to eight shades brighter with a highly concentrated peroxide gel administered via laser ($800 to $1,500) or in a custom-fitted mouthpiece ($600 to $1,000) that you wear an hour a day for about 10 days, says Rozenberg. (Though drugstore bleaching kits are much less expensive, they aren't quite as effective — the gel isn't as strong, and since the mouthpieces aren't created specifically for you, the gel can drip out of them and inflame your gums.)

9. Why do I have stretch marks?
You may suspect that the marks on your tummy, thighs or hips were caused by pregnancy or significant weight fluctuations. What you may not know, though, is that hormonal changes that occur during normal growth spurts can also cause your skin to stretch and scar, says Dr. Lawrence Moy, MD Red marks appear when your skin stretches and thins so much that you can see your blood flowing through the skin's thinned outer layers, says Dr. Joseph L. Jorizzo, MD. When your skin stretches minimally or the stretched skin is thick, white marks result.

The fix: No treatment is guaranteed to remove stretch marks, but you can make them less noticeable. Try twice-daily applications of OTC Striae Stretch Mark Creme — several studies have confirmed that it can reduce red or white marks in about four weeks. Or ask your doctor about laser therapy ($450 to $700 per treatment), which can tone down the brightness of recently acquired red marks, or microdermabrasion ($50 to $150 per session), which can diminish the appearance of white marks.

10. Could there be a serious underlying cause for excess facial hair?
If you fight your follicles on a daily basis or sprout lots of hairs on your chin, see your doctor. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (a disorder characterized by high levels of male hormones) or an adrenal gland problem could be to blame. If you're moderately hairy (you tidy up your brows or upper-lip area once a month), you've probably just got your genes to thank.

The fix: Vaniqa — a new, odorless prescription cream — has recently been approved by the FDA to decrease light to heavy hair growth anywhere on the face ($50 for a two-month supply). Though it doesn't yield immediate results (you'll need to keep using your regular hair-removal methods at first), the cream blocks one of the enzymes responsible for hair growth, gradually slowing it down as long as you continue to use it, says Dr. Ken Washenik, MD, director of dermatopharmacology at New York University School of Medicine. For those who don't respond to Vaniqa, six laser hair treatments ($150 each) can significantly decrease hair growth for months. A monthly electrolysis session for up to a year ($60 to $100 each) can remove hair permanently.
11. Why is my face so shiny?
If you are also losing hair and have stopped getting your period, a hormonal imbalance could be the culprit, and you should see your doctor. If not, your skin is just oversensitive to your male hormones (we all have them) — and this is triggering the production of excess oil. Another possibility: a too-harsh cleansing routine (some of you have written to us saying you use rubbing alcohol to nix shine!). Many derms believe that alcohol-based toners and gritty scrubs can overdry and irritate your skin and make it produce extra oil to compensate, says Dr. Doris J. Day, MD.

The fix: Your best bet is to regulate oil without overdrying your skin. So in the morning, wash your face with an oil-free lotion cleanser, then rub on an alcohol-free toner. (Try Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser for Normal to Oily Skin and Bath & Body Works Bio Face Oil-Control Facial Toner.) Top with the OTC oil-absorbing gel Clinac OC. Sop up shiny spots throughout the day with blotting papers. (Try Hard Candy Shiny Sheets.) Repeat your A.M. routine — minus the gel — before bed. If you continue to shine, ask your dermatologist about Retin-A Micro. Less irritating than regular Retin-A, this prescription cream was created to treat acne but has also been proven effective against oiliness.

12. What causes hand warts?
The human papilloma virus (HPV) is responsible for warts — but to get them you have to be both genetically predisposed and in close contact with an infected person, says Dr. Doris J. Day, MD.

The fix: With a clean nail file, gently slough off the top layers of your warts daily to remove dead skin, says Day. (Do not use this nail file for anything but wart removal.) Then rub on over-the-counter Occlusal HP — its highly concentrated salicylic acid dissolves warts. If warts remain after several months, consult your dermatologist about other remedies, including laser therapy and liquid nitrogen treatments. Despite treatment, however, warts can come back. A warning: Be careful when engaging in sexual activity — though it's unlikely, hand warts can spread to your (or your partner's) genitals.
The Buddha on Beauty
The Buddha was regarded by all as extraordinarily attractive and regal — golden skin, blue eyes, curly black hair, straight white teeth, a flawless complexion, and very comely features. He explained these as the karmic result of countless virtuous lives spent fulfilling the perfections (paramitas) as a bodhisattva (a "being bent on enlightenment").
Pleasant things to be gained by skillful karma
Wisdom Quarterly edit (AN 5.43) "Five things are desirable, agreeable, welcome, pleasant, yet hard to obtain in the world. What are those five?
  1. Long life...
  2. beauty...
  3. pleasure...
  4. status...
  5. rebirth in heaven.
"However, I tell you, these five things are not to be obtained by prayer or vows [bargaining with a God or other supernatural entity]. If they were to be obtained in this way, who would not have them?
"It is not fitting for a follower of the noble ones [who followed this Teaching], who desires beauty to pray or attempt to bargain for it, or to delight in doing so. Instead, a disciple of the noble ones who desires beauty should follow a path of practice leading to beauty. In so doing, one will attain it, either human or divine [in this world or in a world to come]..."
(The same advice is is given for long life, pleasure, status, and rebirth in heaven).
The European concept of a pantheon of gods stems directly from the influence of Indian cosmologies, particularly Buddhist, which spoke frequently of devas (earthbound and celestial beauties) sporting about with many of the characteristics of humans — beauty, jealousy, envy, lust, megalomania, and so on. Whether they saw devas or only imagined how beautiful they were from the reports of rishis ("seers"), it greatly influenced their art. Here in "The Birth of Venus" a deva is "spontaneously-born" (born without the mediation of parents).

The Cause of Beauty
A Greek king (King Menander, known as Milinda) asked a Buddhist scholar-monk (Ven. Nagasena) expert in the Buddha's Teaching:

"Why is it, revered Nagasena, that all people are not alike, but some are short-lived and some long-lived, some sickly and some healthy, some ugly and some beautiful, some without influence and some of great power, some poor and some wealthy, some low born and some high born, some stupid and some wise?"
Ven. Nagasena replied: "Why is it that all vegetables are not alike, but some sour, and some salty, some pungent, some acid, and some astringent, some sweet?"
"I fancy, reverend sir, that it is because they come from different kinds of seeds."
"Just so, great king, are the differences you have mentioned among humans to be explained. For it has been said by the Buddha that 'Beings, O Brahmin, have each their own karma, are inheritors of karma, belong to the tribe of their karma, are relatives of karma, have each their karma as their protecting overlord. It is karma that divides them up into low and high and the like divisions" (edited from Rhys Davis, 1969 translation of the "Questions of King Menander," Milindapanha 1:100).
The secret, then, is that karma separates the beautiful from the ugly. What karma in particular? Patience and kindness having been willed and performed, frequently practiced, made a habit, and anger and harshness abandoned. The Buddha elsewhere went into greater detail.

The Cause of Inequality
Perplexed by the seemingly inexplicable and apparent disparity that exists among humans, a young truth-seeker named Subha approached the Buddha and questioned him regarding it:
"Venerable sir, what is the reason, what is the cause that we find among humans the short-lived and the long-lived, the diseased and the healthy, the ugly (dubbannā) and the beautiful (vannavantā), the powerless and the powerful, the poor and the rich, the low-born and the high-born, the ignorant and the wise?
The Buddha explained: "All living beings have actions (karma) as their own, their inheritance, their congenital cause, their kinsman, their refuge. It is karma that differentiates beings into low and high states" (
Then he explained the causes of such differences in accordance with the law of karma, that certain causes bring about certain causes separated by time:

"...If one is wrathful and irritable, is agitated by trivial words, gives vent to anger, ill-will, and resentment, that person, as a result of irritability, when reborn among humans, will become ugly.
"If one is not wrathful nor irritable, is not agitated even by a torrent of abuse, does not give vent to anger, ill-will, and resentment, that person, as a result of amiability, when reborn among humans, will become beautiful.
  • [And so on, with each quality rooted in karma, our present and former actions, that have the power to ripen at some time in the future when the opportunity presents itself.]
Certainly we are born with hereditary characteristics. At the same time we possess certain innate abilities that science cannot adequately account for. To our parents we are indebted for the gross sperm and ovum that form the nucleus of the cell...

There are genetic potential remains dormant until it is vitalized by the [environment, i.e., by] karmic energy needed for the production of the fetus. Karma, now and in the future, is therefore the indispensable cause...

The End of Craving for Beauty
The Pali canon delineates a chain of events: From one's craving (taṇhā) arises attachment, then possessiveness, then defensiveness from which can arise lies, arguments, and conflicts (An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History and Practices, Peter Harvey, 2013, Cambridge Univ. Press).

The Buddhist solution to the problem of craving and wishing is the third noble truth, the cessation of suffering. That cessation comes from the quenching of craving, which is the destruction of craving ("thirst"). The problem is that what we usually desire is unsatisfactory without us realizing it, namely, sensual pleasures, eternal existence when we are pleased or fearful, and non-existence (annihilation) when things don't go our way.
When we have right effort, when we have zest for the one thing that yields satisfaction (nirvana, the "unconditioned element"), then desire is not an obstacle to enlightenment but something that can hasten its elimination.
In the Pali canon, Craving (Taṇhā) is at times personified as one of Death's three daughters (Māra-dhītā), alongside Aversion (Arati) and Passion (Rāga) (Monier-Williams, Monier (1899, 1964), A Sanskrit-English Dictionary, London: Oxford Univ. Press).

Thus, for instance, in the Samyutta Nikaya's Māra-saṃyutta, the Buddha's victory over Death is symbolically complete after Death's "three daughters" fail to entice him:
They had come to him glittering with beauty —
Taṇhā, Arati, and Rāga —
But the Teacher swept them away right there
As the wind, a fallen cotton tuft.
If karma, which is free, does not suit readers, here are some more costly beauty tips:

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