In an atmosphere of love, perfection can be seen, not as something outward to be grasped for, but as a reality intrinsic to our very being.
I offer these words at the feet of Śrī Nṛsiṁhadeva who, by His ferocious glance, can simultaneously burn our attachment to an illusory sense of independence and, despite our imperfection, declare his affection and allow us to experience perfect protection from misconceptions of anything other than His love.
Is it possible that we can actually achieve perfection?
I think we can. Hear me out.
The timeless Sanskrit text Śrī Īśopaniṣad, embedded as the final chapter of the Śhukla (White) Yajur Veda, begins its poetic, yet deeply thought-provoking, presentation with this invocation:
ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात् पूर्णमुदच्यते
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते
oṁ pūrṇam adaḥ pūrṇam idaṁ pūrṇāt pūrṇam udacyate
pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya pūrṇam evāvaśiṣyate
God is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes. Whatever is produced of the Complete Whole is also complete in itself. Because He is the Complete Whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance.
At first glance, this may read like lofty philosophical pontification; but, as is not too uncommon with Vedic verse, the sound conveys multiple layers of meaning for those willing to tune in to the vibration.
Here's the gist of one of those meanings that I find pertinent to our situation:
God is complete and perfect.
We come from God and are, therefore, a complete and perfect eternal unit of existence.
Despite that everything emanates from God, God remains complete and is not depleted.
To understand the relevance of this, we need to consider all of this “perfection” and “emanation” in its context. To put it simply, it's something we all have the capacity for: love. It is in this environment of love that perfection can be seen, not as something outward to be grasped for, but as a reality intrinsic to our very being.
Our perfection, therefore, is not something our solo endeavours could ever achieve in any real capacity. As described in the verse, our perfection is dependent upon our connection to our origin, our relationship with divinity in the most personal sense.
My spiritual 'grandfather', A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, wraps up his explanation of this invocation: “When everything is dovetailed with the Complete Whole, the attached parts and parcels also become complete in themselves.”
From this, we can understand that there is a condition placed on our completeness, and that is by perfect design. Having a condition implies a sense of independence, which is absolutely necessary for love to manifest. Our children, depending on how we treat them, can grow into adults and choose to stay connected to us ... or not! Similarly, we can choose a loving orientation to God ... or not! If we HAVE to love God, how can we really call that love? How can God enjoy so-called love that is forced by design?
Outside the context of loving relationship with God, it is hard for the psyche to deeply accept that God even exists. Who would ever acquiesce to a concept of God as a vengeful punisher with the capacity to throw us into an eternity of torment? "God is love" ……. “or else”!? How could such a deity even remotely be construed as a loving God? It's no wonder that such a notion is rejected by contemporary thinkers. I wouldn't throw my worst enemy into a pit of ETERNAL torment; maybe just for a little while. 😈
Fortunately, texts such as Śrī Īśopaniṣad, that predate Abrahamic religions, can give us a broader and more relatable picture of God. Īśopaniṣad illustrates such a relatable picture that it posits us as actually being part OF God, having emanated from God. In this sense, our oneness with God exists simultaneously with our distinction from Him. How's that for a mind-bending conundrum? It's pretty much impossible to conceive of by our own endeavour, yet, in the context of ever-deepening love, our perfection in this dynamic becomes more apparent.
We become one with God in loving relationship, and that is our perfection. Real relationships are never one-sided. It's not just about us huffing and puffing all our lives, trying to show dedication to our creator, not being too much of a selfish jerk, with the hope for a reward in the afterlife. If we desire a loving relationship with God, then God will give Himself to us now, dedicate Himself to us and work for us. This is the essence of the yoga system of divine connection: bhakti-yoga. The kingdom of God is within.
This intimate understanding of God comes at a cost. We have to be willing to continually acknowledge our imperfect ability to love, and that is our perfection. Such is the nature of love in that it renders our hearts dynamically wanting improvement for the pleasure of the beloved. Even in a mundane romantic sense, when we love someone, we just can't seem to love them enough, right? We allow ourselves to become irrational so that we can be swept up in the dance with our beloved. Friedrich Nietzsche once opined, “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” Love just doesn’t make a lot of sense until you experience it.
Acknowledgement, at the feet of God, of our need to grow in love places us in grace, and that is our perfection. In this vulnerable state, we are receptive and yearn for descending grace. This completes our identity, allows our personhood to be an illustration of such grace, and gradually transforms us into a conduit of grace for the benefit of others. This cannot be faked by any external means, such as achieving a position of status in spiritual community or by leveraging social position. This realm is governed by Love alone and, if we want to participate, we have to play by Her rules. In Her world, the most unsuspecting being, from our perspective, can be elevated and exalted beyond measure. We must be careful how we tread!
According to the Vedic texts, God, in His most intimate thus attractive form, is Kṛṣṇa. In Bhagavad-gītā, Kṛṣṇa assures his friend Arjuna that, for those who are dedicated in love to Him, “I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have.” Kṛṣṇa expresses his dedication to us. Love is never one-sided. We can take confidence that Kṛṣṇa has no impediments in his ability to love us. Accepting this reality redefines perfection from something beyond us, to something within us. We can acknowledge that we are in good hands and, accepting Kṛṣṇa's love for us, be relieved from anxiety that drives us to act out under so many false ideas. Our vulnerability is already there, despite all effort to avoid seeing it and all attempts to convince ourselves otherwise. Accepting it just gives our hearts' impetus to surrender to God's love.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in
- Leonard Norman Cohen (1934 – 2016)
Within this acknowledgement of vulnerability, we become perfect in love.
Suburban Mysticism is free, but if you feel inspired and want to share some love, consider buying Ekendra a broccoli.
No part of this text was generated with artificial intelligence; just “flawsome” human thoughts here … with, of course, homage to The Algorithm that abides over us all.
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