By Hari Prasad Shastri

We all love perfection in virtue, truth and beauty, some in themselves and some in others—mostly in those who are dead. The ordinary view of perfection is an abundance of some great power, talent, wealth and so forth. But what is the yogic view of perfection?

In a relative sense, we are perfect if we have established harmony in our mind, if we are devoted to the cultivation of Dharma, and we give our soul to God in perfect devotion to serve living beings to the best of our capacity. In the absolute sense there is no perfection in Maya, the realm of relativity. As long as one is subject to change, not self-imposed, one is not perfect. We do not like to criticise a saint of God, but the fact is that no saints call themselves perfect. Neither St Augustine nor St Francis attributed perfection to himself. In the absolute there is perfection and not in the realm of relativity. Atman is perfection and not Maya.

In order to negate the domain of relativity in us, we try to cultivate sattva—goodness, devotion, peace, equanimity and inner light. We try to subdue rajas—ambition, earthly desire, agitation, love of power and pleasure and wealth, unless to serve others with it. When we have established the rule of sattva and equanimity in our mind, when we hate none, when we do not give blind love to any person or object, and treat all living beings as our own Self, pursuing God within as well as in the world, then we are on the way to God-realisation.

No individual can ever be perfect; God is infinitude and universality. Since he is one with our soul, we can be perfect when we are liberated. We all have two great duties which we must accomplish: to know God as our real Self, and help others on the path of dharma and liberation from maya.

Moral excellence is far superior to the abundance of power and pleasure. Let us excel in peace, shanti, in love of humanity, learning, wisdom, renunciation and a devotion to the ultimate reality.

When you have realised the identity of your soul with God, you have served the highest purpose. Then the world will appear to you as a dream, consciously extended; you will laugh at the state of relativity which you have overcome.

The spirit of man is pure cognition, in which the knower, knowing and known have a phenomenal existence due to superimposition. We will be happy when we learn to look upon each being as God in disguise. The poet-saint Bullashah of the Punjab says:

My love appears in many guises.
He is the rich, the poor, the saint and the sinner.
I have known Him and can no longer be cheated.

The human mind is composed of the three modes known as the gunas: tamas, rajas and sattva. As long as our mind exists, the three gunas will manifest themselves in it at one time or other. It cannot be pure virtue, truth and love. It must have in it an element of agitation, desire, and so forth; also at times rest, equipoise and lethargy. Our duty is to have a predominance of sattva in us, and to make a wise use of the rajas and tamas, with the aim of rising above them through equanimity. Your rajas will express itself in desires, but not the urges to pleasure and power. You will have drives to serve God and man, to cultivate art and virtue, to promote peace within and without. The yogis devote their energy of rajas to the study of the Vedanta philosophy, to service, and to cultivate love of all living beings. Another corollary of this dictum is that no one is wholly lost or utterly in vice. In the deepest moral darkness there is a ray of divinity. Every sinner is a polluted saint. Nobody is beyond the range of the compassion of the Lord.

The friendliness of the Emperor Napoleon in his exile to the little girl Betsy, who used to tease the Emperor and call him ‘Boney’, shows there were rays of tenderness in the heart of the conqueror of Europe.

No worldly or moral success is absolute. It is subject to loss. Perfection is in the spiritual realm, which transcends time-space-causation and leads to the elimination of all ignorance through cognition of the illumination of the spirit. This is beyond doubt a full and real perfection.

Perfection implies immortality. It is possible only in the realm of the spirit, which is absolute, not in the world of relativity. Anything which is limited is mortal. It is wisdom to see things as they are, not as they appear to be, or as we wish them to be. The waves and bubbles on the surface of water are not permanent. Similarly our body, which is born, grows and changes, sometimes into a better and sometimes into a worse state, is perishable and imperfect. Nobody, no doctor, has so far seen a person in perfect health. It is therefore a grievous error to think that the body can be made to last forever or be spiritualised. This life is a school in which we can learn moral and spiritual lessons to solve the great problem of being and becoming. No student can be called wise who wants to live forever in this school; nor is the person who expects to enjoy for long the passing pleasures of the world.

Human beings love to excel in virtue, power, learning, wealth, art and possessions. One who cannot excel in this way has recourse to pretence, and satisfies his sense of excellence by condemning or criticising others. Often if we are frustrated in our attempts at perfection in something good, we turn against society.

I am convinced that the only way to the right sort of perfection is search after spiritual truth within as well as without. By following the yogic discipline, negating all personal self-interest and desire for ease, comfort, pleasure and fame, the real lover of perfection devotes himself wholly and entirely to shanti and active benevolence. We apply our mind to the study of philosophy, science, literature and art, with a view to know God within and serve God in our fellow human beings. We reduce our physical and emotional wants to essentials, and our egoism to a minimum. The yogi is not a politician or a diplomat, nor a narrow nationalist. The world is our home, humanity our family, and the service of God and mankind our religion.

You discover the spiritual perfection within your own being by making serious attempts at moral perfection on the lines laid down in the Bhagavad Gita, and by meditating on the holy texts, such as:

That is perfection, this is perfection.
Out of perfection comes forth perfection.
When perfection is removed from perfection
Perfection alone remains.
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

Then all becomes perfection to you.

Some people indulge in asking such questions as: ‘Is such and such a person God-realised?’ It is a waste of time and leads to no good. The best way is to see God within as your Self and also in others. Your eyes are to blame and not the man concerned, if you do not see God in him.

Do you want to abolish fear, tyranny, misrule, war and hatred from the human heart? Practise the dictum of Jesus: ‘Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.’ It is ignorance which sets people and nations against each other. The spiritual light reveals the unity underlying the diversity.

Shri Dada lived a simple life, and the rich people who knew the saint envied the peace and bliss which his personality radiated. We must love truth not appearances. The poem by Sir Henry Wotton, ‘The Character of a Happy Life’, contains great truth:

How happy is he born or taught,
That serveth not another’s will;
Whose armour is his honest thought,
And simple truth his highest skill.

Whose passions not his masters are;
Whose soul is still prepared for death
Untied unto the world with care
Of princes’ grace or vulgar breath.

How to enjoy life? In truth, in simple living, in love of high art and literature, and the philosophy of Shankara, Plato and Spinoza. The poem continues:

Who God doth late and early pray,
More of his grace than goods to send,
And entertains the harmless day
With a well-chosen book or friend.

This man is freed from servile bands
Of hope to rise or fear to fall;
Lord of himself, though not of lands;
And having nothing, yet hath all.

They used to speak of a sadhu who had a large following of wealthy people. He was unlettered, but it did not matter, because unless we learn how to read the book of the soul and of nature, all learning is vain. Once it was reported that the sadhu was fond of strong drink. ‘Alas’, said Shri Dada, ‘he has not tasted the wine of spiritual meditation.’ The outer intoxication can give a tiny bit of self-intoxication.

Perfection is within. Each atom is eloquent with adoration of truth. There is sweet music in every blade of grass, if you have the right sense of appreciation.
In a Punjabi song Swami Rama Tirtha sings:

Open the eyes of the heart
And see Allah, Allah, Allah

We have had enough of the external adventure. Columbus was buried with his chains and Walter Raleigh died in ignominy. Now let us have adventures in the inner realm of the spirit and discover the land of perpetual light and shanti in our soul through the study and practice of the Adhyatma Yoga. This is the way to real perfection.


This article is from the Winter 2018 issue of Self-Knowledge Journal.