(The principal of a large school in Bombay gave us a list of frequently asked questions by 13 year old children in her school and asked us whether we can prepare answers in the light of a spiritual perspective. When we looked at the question we found that they are not mere “kid-stuff.” Most of them are either fundamental and existential questions related to world and God or psychological problems faced by most of us. This series is an attempt to answer these questions from the children’s perspective in the light of a spiritual vision of life. We don’t know how far we have succeeded in communicating to the children. Nevertheless, we hope these answer may be of some help to teachers and parents who have to deal with children. There are around thirty questions with answers given in the light of a spiritual vision of life. We will post these questions at regular intervals.)
What is Perfection?
To be perfect means what? Does it mean to be pure, flawless, without defect, harmonious beautiful? For example Diamond is a perfect gem, something pure, harmonious in shape, flawless, transparent. Diamond is a good image or symbol of perfection. But a growing young child like you needs a concept of perfection which is useful for your growth, or in other words which can be a guiding idea for your future growth. In this perspective, we may view the concept of perfection as made of four aspects or facets: The first one is the attainment of our Highest and Total Potential; second is Harmonious Integration; third is Progress; fourth is Excellence. Let us briefly examine what do they mean.
The first face of perfection is the attainment of our highest and total potential. But what do we mean by “potential.” It means qualities or capabilities which are hidden within us, but not yet fully expressed or manifest. Diamond, which we have mentioned earlier, is a good example to illustrate the concept of potential. I don’t know whether you are aware that Diamond, that beautiful, dazzling and harmonious gem, is nothing but carbon. This carbon, in its primitive and gross form is a black, opaque and ugly piece of matter. But when it is polished and refined, which is a highly-skilled job, becomes the glorious diamond. We can say Diamond is a hidden potential in Carbon. Similarly, in every one of us however weak, gross and deformed we are (like carbon) in our present condition, the potentiality of a diamond-like perfection exists within us.
We have within us various qualities and faculties, in our body, mind, heart and soul, with immense potentialities. Our bodies which are at present rigid, unconscious, lazy, is capable of much greater consciousness, flexibility, plasticity and bearing a flood of energy. Similarly our life-force is capable of receiving and expressing a large amount of energy and become an instrument of universal life-energy. Our dynamic faculties of action are capable of mighty works and highly productive or efficient action. Our faculties of knowledge are capable of knowing or seeing deeper truths of life and world which are at present invisible to our senses. Our faculties of feelings are capable of pure, selfless and universal love. There are aesthetic faculties in us which can perceive, express and create great beauty. And finally there are spiritual faculties in our soul which can unite us with the very source of divine perfection within us. If all these potentialities are fully expressed and realized we would be like gods in heaven, powerful, all-knowing, luminous, beautiful, merciful, all-loving beings of perfection. But at present most of us possess only a small fraction of these potentialities. We are like black carbons with their diamond potential unrealized. One of the main aim of life is progressively realize all these potentialities within us and express them in the outer life of the world so that the world around also grows towards perfection. We must note here that the aim of individual perfection should not be pursued in a selfish manner, for our personal glorification or to become a god. The individual perfection is only a means for bringing the same perfection to the world around us.
The second aspect of perfection is Harmony and Integration. Each faculty and power within us has to be integrated with other faculties in a mutually supportive harmony. There should be no conflict between the various powers and potentialities of our consciousness. And also any one faculty or power should not be developed excessively at the expense of or suppressing other faculties or powers. For example faculties of feelings and faculties of knowledge should not be in conflict with each. We must not concentrate exclusively on developing anyone of these faculties and become too heavily intellectual or emotional. The faculties of knowledge must illumine the faculties of feeling and the faculties of feeling must sweeten and enrich the faculties of knowledge. Knowledge should bring light and clarity to feelings and feeling should bring love, joy, intensity and concreteness to the ideas and activities of knowledge. The faculties of power and action must be guided and illumined by the faculties of knowledge and values of the ethical and aesthetic being. All the faculties and powers of our being must work together as a harmonious whole.
The third aspect of perfection is Progress. We cannot achieve our highest potential or the highest harmony in a single leap from our present condition of imperfection. We have to grow towards it through various stages and a progressive effort. Progress means a clear understanding of what we are in our present condition; an equally clear understanding of what we want to be in the future, the ideal of perfection we want to realize in the future; and taking conscious, systematic and progressive steps to bridge the gap between the present facts and the future ideal. This requires a firm will of progressive perfection, which means the will to know what we do not know; to acquire or develop the faculties, qualities or virtues which we do not have or underdeveloped at present; and finally to do whatever we are doing better and better.
The fourth aspect of perfection is Excellence which mean in every activity of our life we must strive for the highest and the best and should not be satisfied with the average or mediocre. In all activities we must set high standards of truth, beauty, goodness and harmony and constantly strive for them.
And finally, we must keep in mind, these ideals of perfection we are discussing are easy to think, dream, imagine, preach or write but very difficult to put it into practice. When we begin to make an effort to put these ideals into practice, we will find hundreds of obstacles, resistances, difficulties, errors, stumbling, and backslidings. Our imperfect lower nature will resist every effort toward perfection with its customary laziness, inertia and revolt against it if we insist. So the path to perfection requires a firm and persistent will which is not frustrated, disappointed or defeated by repeated difficulties or failures but pushes on without yielding until the ideal is realized.