The Essential Need for Equality in the Development of Spiritual Perfection

The Bhagavad Gita at one point equates the status of equality of soul with Yoga: “samatvam yoga uchyate”. “Fixed in Yoga do thy actions, having abandoned attachment, having become equal in failure and success; for it is equality that is meant by Yoga.” (Sri Aurobindo, Bhagavad Gita and Its Message, ch. 2, v. 48, pg. 39) Equality is essential because it shifts the seeker from the human standpoint of attraction and repulsion, the promptings of desire and the rising of negative responses or emotions to those things which we do not choose to like or appreciate, to the divine standpoint, and as the sun shines equally on “saint and sinner alike”, so the divine manifestation casts an equal eye on all aspects and stages of the universal manifestation.

Sri Aurobindo takes the opportunity to first clarify what is meant by the term “spiritual perfection”. What is intended here is not a raising up of human potential to its higher capabilities, as is normally understood by the concept of striving for perfection. It is not to become an expert in a science, art or physical activity. Spiritual perfection implies the surpassing of the human functionality and achievement of its divine counterpart. “In terms of knowledge it is a putting on the being of the higher self and a casting away of the darker broken lower self or a transforming of our imperfect state into the rounded luminous fullness of our real and spiritual personality. In terms of devotion and adoration it is a growing into the likeness of the nature or the law of the being of the Divine, to be united with whom we aspire,–for if there is not this likeness, this oneness of the law of the being, unity between that transcending and universal and this individual spirit is not possible.”

This understanding is then the basis for gaining a sense of what is meant by “equality”. “The supreme divine nature is founded on equality. This affirmation is true of it whether we look on the Supreme Being as a pure silent Self and Spirit or as the divine Master of cosmic existence. The pure Self is equal, unmoved, the witness in an impartial peace of all the happenings and relations of cosmic existence.”

This equality: “…a detachment, the calm of an equal regard, a superiority to the reactions which trouble and are the disabling weakness of the soul involved in outward nature, are the very substance of the silent Infinite’s purity and the condition of its impartial assent and support to the many-sided movement of the universe. But in that power too of the Supreme which governs and develops these motions, the same equality is a basic condition.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 11, The Perfection of Equality, pg. 671