Introduction to the Concept of Spiritual Self-Perfection

Just as there are various philosophical views of the nature of existence, there are also a variety of views regarding the meaning of self-perfection. Sri Aurobindo observes: “A spiritual self-perfection can only mean a growing into oneness with the nature of divine being, and therefore according to our conception of divine being will be the aim, effort and method of our seeking after this perfection.” The Taittiriya Upanishad also addresses this question: “One becometh as the unexisting, if he know the Eternal as negation; but if one knoweth of the Eternal that He is, then men know him for the saint and the one reality.” (Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Taittiriya Upanishad, Brahmanandavalli, Ch. 6, pg. 270) Each philosophical or religious tradition has its own view, based on an understanding or experience of some aspect of the Divine. For those focused on the immutable, silent Absolute, perfection represents a complete cessation of all action in the world. For the devotee, perfection is “…the growing into the likeness of the Divine by love.”

Sri Aurobindo describes the aim of the integral Yoga: “…perfection will mean a divine spirit and a divine nature which will admit of a divine relation and action in the world; it will mean also in its entirety a divinising of the whole nature, a rejection of all its wrong knots of being and action, but no rejection of any part of our being or of any field of our action.”

The perfection of our being and nature, from this viewpoint, involves many elements and a complex action, as it is not sufficient to focus on any one aspect of our being and work toward its separate fulfillment. Sri Aurobindo therefore proposes to review the process: “We must fix in order to find a clue and method on certain essential and fundamental elements and requisites of perfection, siddhi; for if these are secured, all the rest will be found to be only their natural development or particular working. We may cast these elements into six divisions, interdependent on each other to a great extent but still in a certain way naturally successive in their order of attainment.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 10, The Elements of Perfection, pp. 664-665