The Ideal of Perfection of the Human Being

The ideal of human perfection has taken different forms across the centuries and in different cultures. Most of the time, there is little consideration for the idea of “perfection”. Most people have considered it sufficient to live a relatively healthy life, participate in the family and community and live up to the standards of the society within which they lived. Yet some cultures have explored the idea of human perfection and developed ideals around them. The ancient Greeks developed the ideal of a “sound mind in a sound body”. Physical culture, along with mental culture, were considered to be important aspects of individual development. During the Renaissance period the idea of a highly cultured individual included development of an aesthetic sense, scientific understand and broad-reaching intellectual development. In ancient India, at various times, perfection was focused on one or another capacity of human life, whether physical, mental, emotional, aesthetic or spiritual, and methodologies were developed to help the individual achieve the needed perfection. Along the way, each culture set forth its own vision of what represented the summit of human capacity and development. In today’s world, we tend to favor specialization of talent, so that we honor those who have achieved perfection or near perfection in a specific field of endeavor, whether it is a type of athletic discipline or a field of science, technology or art. Those of a religious or spiritual bent have even taken the approach that the “perfection” to be sought is to abandon the outer life of the body, emotions and mind, and focus on a spiritual perfection that achieves results on the plane of the spirit.

Sri Aurobindo looks upon human evolution as an expression of the divine manifestation, and he views the various capacities and talents as having a value in terms of the completeness and sense of that divine manifestation. Therefore, every aspect, every capacity and every ability eventually should be integrated into a “divine perfection”. As he observes: “A divine perfection of the human being is our aim.” “That man as a being is capable of self-development and of some approach at least to an ideal standard of perfection which his mind is able to conceive, fix before it and pursue, is common ground to all thinking humanity, thought it may be only the minority who concern themselves with this possibility as providing the one most important aim of life. But by some the ideal is conceived as a mundane change, by others as a religious conversion.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 2, The Integral Perfection, pg. 590