Relativity of Perfection
Articles By Lama Anagarika Govinda
From Creative Meditation and Multi-Dimensional Consciousness
LIGHT INCESSANTLY MOVES through the universe, but it becomes visible only when it meets resistance. In the same way consciousness becomes aware of itself only when there is resistance. If this resistance is impenetrable or insurmountable, it is felt as suffering; if it can be mastered it is felt as joy. Joy means the overcoming of resistance. This is why people climb mountains, endure self-imposed hardships, and engage in all kinds of adventure and sports. Life becomes worthless and unbearable if there is no resistance or if the obstacles we meet cannot be mastered.
But what about aesthetic pleasure the happiness of solitude or that of samadhi in which there is apparently no resistance? However, these states cannot be attained without overcoming hindrances or without mastering our instruments of perception and knowledge.
This is why we cannot dwell indefinitely in the bliss of samadhi or in the enjoyment of beauty. As soon as effort ceases and we get accustomed to a certain condition, joy also ceases.
It is only in the moment towards perfection that perfection can be experienced. Only in the movement toward the infinite is infinity experienced. Infinity attained is no more infinity. In order to enjoy the blissful state of samadhi, we have to develop it again and again. In order. In order to enjoy beauty we have to create it within ourselves.
Thus there cannot even be aesthetic pleasure without creative effort; and as there is more creative in the artistic than in the person who beholds a work of art, the joy of the former is more intense.
The way to samadhi is a continuous process of spiritual renunciation, a continuous giving up. To give up a thing means to be free from it, to be master of oneself and of one's decisions. Freedom exists in the act of renunciation. In other words, it is the faculty of renunciation that gives us power over ourselves and the things of the world around us. Not the things that we renounce but the act of renounciation is what matters. Therefore even samadhi has temporarily to be renounced if we do not want to lose that faculty, because a faculty which is not constantly reacquired loses its power.
If renunciation is genuine, then things can no more enslave us, but we have become their masters and can use them without danger. Then we can fearlessly go from the unity of samadhi into the diversity of the world. After we have convinced ourselves that we can do without things, we have now to prove that we have no more reason to fear them that we can accept and even create them without losing our independence, our inner liberty.
It is the way of the Buddha: starting with the renunciation of the world, culminating in the realization of enlightenment, and leading back into the world through compassion. It is like the threefold process of breathing: the inward movement of inhalation, the moment of stopping or motionless, and the outward movement of exhalation.
Both sides of this process are repeated in Tantric meditation as practiced in Tibet; only here the objects are first produced from the state of "perfect emptiness," and afterwards they are reduced again to "emptiness." Here the state of Buddhahood or Enlightenment which lies between the two movements has been chosen as the starting point.
But how can such a starting point be chosen if the state of Buddhahood has not yet been actually attained? The answer is: because it is only in the movement towards perfection (which, after an intricate process of spiritual purification, is here produced temporarily as a mental image or symbol) that perfection can be experienced.
Perfection is not an absolute value or a static condition, but the harmony of forces that can be established in every moment in which their movement is coordinated by the direction towards a common aim. In such a moment these forces form a "universal" group (the word "universal" taken in its literal sense: directed toward one point), a universe in miniature.
But the ideal point toward which these forces move must lie in the infinite and can never be reached by them; otherwise they would clash and merge into each other, i.e. their ideal differentiation which is balanced by the common direction would be destroyed, and their movement, without which life is impossible, would be stopped. Harmony needs differentiation as much as it needs unity. One tone alone cannot make music.
Thus we can say that perfection is possible at each stage of development, in each form of life. A human being who has properly developed all his human qualities can be called perfect, though there may be other beings who surpass humans in many respects. And in the same way we can say that an animal which possesses all the qualities of its kind is perfect; and similarly a plant or a crystal which expresses harmoniously the characteristics of its nature.
Thus perfection exists neither as an end at the top of a scale, nor as an absolute or fixed measurement, but as an infinitesimal moment of harmony in movement.
In self-conscious beings this harmony is generally disturbed by exaggerated egocentricity and a destructive type of intellectualism. Only one who has completely overcome the illusion of ego hood and its concomitant evils, i.e., one who has attained enlightenment, is able to dwell permanently in a state of harmony, which ordinarily we are able to experience only for short moments.
Harmony establishes itself more or less permanently by an organic or unconscious process of continuous readjustment in forms of life in which the balance has not yet been upset by the hypertrophic growth of ego consciousness. A similar continuous readjustment takes place in those individuals who have conquered the ego and regained their spiritual balance.
The difference between the perfection of a flower or of an animal and the perfection of an Enlightened One is that the former is unconscious, while the latter is conscious of the harmony which he has established by creative effort, and in which he continues to dwell by virtue of his wisdom, which makes a relapse into the unbalanced state impossible.