The Theosophical Forum – October 1938

SMILING THROUGH — H. Percy Leonard

"It is all a contest of smiles if we know our business." — W. Q. Judge

Smiles are as varied and peculiar as the people who make them, and it is one of the wonders of life that "the lord of the body" is able to express so much of himself by the movement of a few simple muscles and the parting of the lips. You may have heard the most minute description of a man from his friends, but the smile with which he greets you at first meeting will be more revealing than all the reports put together.

With what an eager, searching gaze does a little child examine the face of a stranger! Can it be that faint and shadowy recollections of the smiles of lives of long ago are being used as standards by which to estimate the inner meaning of the new face now under inspection? A face that has no pretension to correct proportion, or fineness of complexion, may be transformed in the twinkling of an eye into a thing of beauty by the magical enchantment of a self-revealing smile. It reminds one of the limb of some rugged oak when it breaks into a mist of green under the fairy touch of returning spring.

It is quite impossible to produce a convincing smile unless the heart goes with it, but one may contrive a plausible substitute that will pass muster in a purely business interview with an unknown stranger, and it is often attempted with a reasonable degree of success; but at the best it is only a poor imitation, and at its worst it amounts to a facial contortion and a palpable fraud. True smiles are a social currency accepted all over the world, and will win a kind reception in the kraal of a Zulu or the palace of a king. Wherever men are found a smile will make its way. It is one of the outward signs of the tragic fate of the anthropoid apes that though they may part their lips and show their teeth, they are incapable of a human smile. It is difficult to set down in so many words what a smile stands for. Goodwill, perhaps, and trust and sympathy and love. It implies an offer of help, and the pleasant assurance that one is not alone in the world — all these are fragments of a wealth of meaning that defies verbal expression, and yet it is broadcast to the world by every free, spontaneous smile, and finds its way to the heart of even a child.

Of two travelers setting out, the one with a well-filled purse and the other with a friendly smile, it is, to say the least, an open question whether the one with the smile would not travel more successfully.

It is related that after preaching the Wheel of the Good Law and the way of escape from rebirth, the Buddha rested by the bank of a lotus pool. But the crowd which had been listening to his words still lingered for more. Weary, but full of compassion for the multitude, he leaned over and, picking a lotus bloom, held it up before them. The vast sea of faces remained blank and unresponsive, but that of a young man was lit up by a radiant smile of understanding. A nod from the Teacher sealed the wordless compact and afterwards he joined "the mighty order of the Yellow Robe" —

That noble order of the Yellow Robe
Which to this day standeth to help the World.

The great Hebrew prophet looked forward to a final consummation when God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes, and may we not anticipate that on that happy day the grief-contorted faces of those who have survived "the great tribulation" will break into a universal smile? And thus the wheel will come full circle to the Dawn when it began and "the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy."

Theosophical University Press Online Edition