The Art of Perfection
One of the more magnificent challenges my teacher presented me with was the following: When you wake up in the morning, you have one job, one aim: Know that everything is perfect. This everything includes all thoughts, feelings, and physical occurrences of any and every kind. All is perfect.
"That is perfect. This is perfect. Perfect comes from perfect. Take perfect from perfect. The remainder is perfect. May peace and peace and peace be everywhere.”1.
I am fully aware that this is a tremendous endeavour, a revolutionary concept. All is perfect? Every ﬁbre of my being proclaims that this is impossible. I have known perfection as the ultimate objective, the highest aspiration, an elusive fantasy that permeates our eternal song. It is not the prosaic, worldly reality of our apparent existence.
How are we to perceive all the calamities and even horrors that beset humanity as perfect?
How am I to embrace the joys and pains that I experience as perfection?
To further comprehend, absorb and lovingly establish this teaching, it is essential to enquire further into the meaning of perfection.
The origin of the word perfect is from the Latin verb perﬁcere, to complete. The Oxford deﬁnition of perfection is to make something completely free of faults or defects or as good as possible. Thus perfection alludes to a state that is whole, complete and fulﬁlled.
Is it possible that this completion, this realization, is our intrinsic nature?
In the Hindu tradition perfection, is translated as Siddha, which can also mean a supreme spiritual power, and Nirvana, the state of Self-realization.
Every morning I sing this beautiful prayer, which introduces both the Eesh and Brihadaranyaka Upanishads:
"Everything is the ﬁeld of one unstruck sound, which is the Whole. All that we perceive, which includes struck sound, is also the Whole. If we take from the Whole, the Whole remains complete; whatever is taken from the Whole is also complete; and whatever remains is also the Whole. It is all Poorn Brahm. Om, peace, peace, peace.”2.
The singular thread of utter undivided peace, the Whole, complete, is the reverberating harmonic accompaniment to my waking moments.
It is an inspiration that the perfection, or completion, referred to in the Western tradition, beautifully correlates with the Upanishadic prayer of perfection. The Whole is eternally perfect and complete. The knowledge of this perfection is immediate, exigent in the here and now. It is the continued practice of recollection of this knowledge that unfolds this revelation of peace.
According to Yoga Vashishtha, a quintessential Advaita Vedanta text, there are two recommended paths to practice the attainment of perfection, the ﬁnal siddhi. The one is to contemplate and deem the world as separate from us, accompanied by the knowledge that we are not the mind intellect and body. This path has been abundantly practiced with meagre success.
Alternatively, we can absorb ourselves in the awareness of oneness, knowing everything—world, mind, body and intellect—are one reality, one inﬁnite I. How are we to absorb ourselves in this inﬁnite reality? Through the delightful practice that enables a direct experience of this inﬁnity—the Anubhav, or an intuitive, immediate, unveiled experience of consciousness. This absorption into the non-dualistic sphere of experienced and perceived reality is a sheer delight.
Let me be clear. This is not a primarily an intellectual pursuit, but rather, an ineﬀable intuitive experience.
In order to be free of the subjective-objective experience of “I” and “you,” of any mental unease and agitation, from the diverse perception of “mine” and "thine,” the sage Vashishtha delineates seven stages of the journey to perfection, wisdom, realization.
These steps are: intent, aspiration; enquiry; mental detachment and subtleness of mind; physical detachment and immersion in awareness of truth; conviction to the nature of truth and awareness as unchanging; the perception and intuitive experience of unity; culmination in the definitive liberated state of transcendence. The final state is perfection.
If I am to expound my fundamental understanding that all is perfect, I propose to examine each stage of this journey with this continuous, perfect, cohesive thread of knowledge reverberating throughout this imaginary linear journey.
I avow, with the encompassing endorsement and aﬃrmation of my teacher's guidance, that perfection is the quintessential reality of each one of these stages.
Intent and aspiration: Many of us aspire with a profound intensity, in a myriad of individual narratives, to a state of inner peace, joy and tranquility. This aspiration is a primal motivation, an intent to attain. Without the compelling motivation of a desire for peace and inner freedom, the initial steps of this journey could not take place.
I submit that perfection is embodied in the aspiration and the intent, and these are embodied in perfection.
" The thought “I want to be free” is itself free.
This thought will take you to freedom. ” Swami Shyam
Enquiry: Who am I? How can I be free? What is real and what is unreal? What aﬀects the tantalizing experience of joy and of pain? A pulsating, reverberating fear of death, a fear of change, and a seemingly unbreakable thread of a fundamental dividing consciousness pervading our whole existence.
These questions, beginning with a young child’s eternal query, “Why?” are part of a relentless pursuit of a deeper understanding and a prerequisite to a spiritual path. In order to transcend a questioning state, one needs to initiate the enquiry, and pass through it. Unfortunately, there is no possibility of eluding this evolutionary, revolutionary process.
I submit that perfection is immersed in enquiry, and enquiry is immersed in perfection.
Mental detachment: This impassive, dispassionate state emerges as a direct result of observation. As we cultivate our powers of reﬂection and understanding, we can establish a level of detachment that increases with our knowledge.
As we observe the ever-changing status of the intellect, body and mind, we may allow ourselves to ascribe less mental and emotional value to each appearing phenomenon.
I submit that perfection is absorbed in mental detachment, and mental detachment is absorbed in perfection.
Physical detachment and immersion in awareness of truth: How are we to unfold a state of physical detachment? Let us brieﬂy examine what is physical detachment, what is awareness of truth and what is their inexorable relationship. A fundamental premise of the Advaita Vedanta is that the mind and body are a changing reality, and that truth is that which is unchanging. Physical detachment can only unfold as a result of awareness—awareness of the invariable unchanging nature of truth. That unchanging truth is our essential nature, Self, the “I,” God, Brahman.
The constant practice and immersion in the unchanging nature as an ultimate reality, an awareness of truth, unfolds a sublime physical detachment.
We do not reject a physical existence, but we may infuse our physical understanding with an intuitive absorption of the source of both the ephemeral and unchanging realities.
I submit that perfection is immersed in truth and physical detachment, and these are absorbed in the wholeness of perfection.
Conviction to the nature of truth and awareness as unchanging: Let us observe our awareness in the moment, as an intuitive experience of an immutable reality. This is done during the precious moments upon awakening, where there is no “I,” no “you,” no “other.”
What does this mean? Can we allow ourselves to trust in our own awareness? Quietly, in stillness, let us check. Do these moments of wholeness exist? Have we experienced the peace of an unchanging reality? Check. If we have grasped even a moment of stillness or had a glimpse of an unchanging reality, let us raise this knowledge into a conviction.
I submit that conviction to the nature of truth and awareness as unchanging is immersed in perfection, and perfection is immersed in the nature of truth.
The perception and intuitive experience of unity: Let us allow the ocean of stillness in meditation to ﬂower into the direct experience of unity. Despite the unavoidable palled nature of the descriptive medium, we can immediately observe our own experience of unity. However, we choose to deﬁne it as a religious or spiritual experience, a moment of intense all-absorbing emotional connection that wipes away any illusory appearance of two, a national collective unity, All these can be and are transcended, even for a fragile, ﬂeeting moment, when we utter, vocally or inwardly, “Yes, there is no other.”
I submit that this intuitive experience of unity is saturated in perfection, and perfection is bathed in unity.
A liberated state of transcendence: The sublime destination of the journey is when the aspirant, the traveler, is the embodiment of transcendence. I submit that this ﬁnal stage of transcendence is immersed in perfection, and perfection is immersed in transcendence.
A spiritually intuitive reality is perfection as the leitmotif of the longing, the aspiration, the journey and the goal. One needs to constantly and consistently remember that one’s true nature is ever perfect.
The linear process of practice and remembrance and the knowledge of our complete inherent essence in the eternal now is the unity of these two states.
Thus attainment of perfection and absorbed intuitive awareness of perfection are one. The unchanging, unbroken awareness and the reminder that each of these stages is a perfection allow us to vivify this attainment, moment to moment, breath by breath.
Examine each stage with the thread of perfection as a synchronous breath in each mode, each practice.
To illustrate this point, let us take the fundamental role of the tanpura, a musical instrument played in Indian classical music. The drone of the tanpura provides an invaluable tethering to the absolute source of sound, a blanket of continuous thrumming sound, a profound basis of all melodic exploration. Individual experiences are the melodic threads that tell the story of the journey, the personal path, in perfection. The backdrop of sound highlights the unique story we call life.
“The Self is ever eternally perfect—forever Siddh. So what siddhi, perfection or power does anyone have to attain?” 3
I elect to refrain from using the word attainment to describe this mode of a spiritual practice, as it denotes an underlying absence, a state of cause and eﬀect. I posit that the state of perfection is a constant. The attainment is a process, or journey, of unlocking and revealing the memory of perfection. This liberation as perfection is realized.
It is imperative to go beyond the intellect in order to intuitively experience the state of perfection,to contemplate this perfection as the whole.
The quintessential nature of the intellect is to continually dictate the fundamental principals of linear thinking, of cause and eﬀect, and of the incessant wheel of birth and death.
The consciousness that perceives diﬀerence is called the knower. Meditation empowers us to go beyond the intellect and experience an eternal state of perfection in the continuous here and now. In this light, it is imperative to contemplate perfection as the whole, undivided. Thus perfection transcends attainment and defeat, joy and sorrow, birth and death. Indeed all pairs of opposites are absorbed, united and transformed into the sublime intuitive experience of the absolute. The state of liberation, the Self-realized state, may also be described as perfection.
"When the Self is undivided,
Inherent, unwavering perfection,
Why would I gaze within?
Why would I look without?
The Self is eternal.”4
I am convinced that the consistent implementation of this awareness of completion unfolds the Siddha, the power of perfection to know the perfection in each eternal moment. This is the teaching. This is the gift. This is complete.
1. The Ten Principal Upanishads, Eesh Upanishad, rendered into English by Shree Purohit Swami and W.B. Yeats
2. Wake Up and Roar, Volume 1. By Papaji
3. Excerpt from Yog Vashishth, Book 6: "Nirvan” by Swami Shyam
4. The Avadhoot Gita of Daddatraya: Song of the Unborn, chapter 1 verse 60, Seegla Brecher
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