An overview of the various ideals and goals set by those who seek to develop and improve human life may encompass what Sri Aurobindo terms the “mundane”, essentially “secular” goals, or the religious goals.
The secular goals may be those relating to the improvement of society and human relationships, or those relating to the development of the powers of body, life and mind of the individuals who make up that society, or a combination that seeks to enhance the individual capabilities while developing the society at the same time.
Those who seek to improve human life and society focus on development of peace, harmony, equitable use of resources, etc, as Sri Aurobindo summarizes: “…a better and more efficient citizenship and discharge of duties, a better, richer, kindlier and happier way of living, with a more just and more harmonious associated enjoyment of the opportunities of existence.”
Then again there are those who believe that individual development and achievement represents the true goal of human life. Sri Aurobindo observes: “…a clarifying and raising of the intelligence, will and reason, a heightening and ordering of power and capacity in the nature, a nobler ethical, a richer aesthetic, a finer emotional, a much healthier and better-governed vital and physical being.”
The means adopted to achieve these various goals generally involve “A change of education and social institutions is the outward means adopted or an inner self-training and development is preferred as the true instrumentation. Or the two aims may be clearly united, the perfection of the inner individual, the perfection of the outer living.”
This secular approach to perfection focuses on the field of human life and society and views progress in terms of external measurements and markers either on the societal or the individual level.
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 2, The Integral Perfection, pg. 590