Message to Som Gollakota

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Woodinville, WA
July 9, 2008
ver heard of the saying “God works in mysterious ways”? Well, so do saintly beings. They not only work in mysterious ways, they also say things that encourage us (normal human beings) to do some thinking to understand the inner meaning. I heard the term Self-perfection (with a capital S) a few times before. I have also heard self-perfection (with a lower case s) which sort of makes sense, given the fact that no one is perfect!
However, in spiritual realm, the difference between self and Self brings duality and thus contradicts the singularity or ‘God is One’ concept. These two are clearly differentiated in Sanskrit as ‘Dwaita’ (duality) and ‘Adwaita’ – the singular universal truth. Aadi Sankara, the saint walked on earth over 2500 years ago, professed Adwaita – the singular, universal God who has many names and forms. Every creation of God has, in itself, an element of God, and that Godly element is the Self, or the Soul. What then, is Self-perfection? If the Self in each one of us is God, and God is perfect, how do we explain the human endeavor of Self-perfection? How can God not be perfect? What is Self-perfection? Is it same as Self-realization?
Chinmaya Mission is a worldwide spiritual organization dedicated to the teachings of Swami Chinmaya. In their Seattle chapter, I teach young children (ages 7 to 14) the spiritual values, has an adult study group which discusses and tries to understand several larger questions of spirituality. I occasionally participate in the adult spiritual discussions of Chinmaya Mission's Seattle Chapter, taking off from the class I teach for children at the mission. Recently, when I was in the adult class, we were discussing various aspects of Swami Chinmaya’s teachings and the above set of questions came up. None of us were quite clear about what the Swamiji meant by Self-perfection. I volunteered to research and find the most suitable answer. It was my homework. I did a lot of reading on the internet, but could not find a satisfactory answer to my question.
While I could never actually complete my homework, I was talking to a couple last week (around the presence of another saintly being), and it suddenly dawned upon me. Self-perfection is indeed a concept, and the endeavor to perfect the Self is warranted. I gave them the following example.
We go to a store and buy a fine piece of jewelry studded with highest quality diamonds. It’s all shiny and looks beautiful. We take it home, and use it for special occasions. Twice every year, we take it to the jeweler, get it verified for perfection, polished, and bring it back. Many years later, we look at it and find it to be just in the same beautiful and shiny appearance as it was the first day we brought it home.
On the other hand, imagine that we had brought it home, used it on daily basis, and never took it to a jeweler for cleaning, ever again. Many years later, due to regular wear and tear, body heat, dust, weather etc., it does not look new anymore, and looks more like a piece metal studded with pieces of glass. It is only after we take it to a jeweler, get it cleaned and polished, that it would shine and be restored back to perfection.
Similarly, the Self or the Soul, when sent to earth for the first time, is perfect. Many imperfections attach to it thru the life time of the Soul residing in the body, depending on how it is kept. It has to be constantly polished and protected to preserve the perfection. If not, many years and/or lifetimes later, the Soul (or Self) has to go thru a stringent restoration process to restore it back to its original state of perfection.
In summation, I offer the following for your consideration. According to Sanatana Hindu Dharma (the Ancient Hindu Way of Life), a Soul's journey from the Supreme Self (God) to reunite with God, is Life. Every life, in all its forms, is just as sacred as every other life. However, the premise is that the Soul that resides in a life form is somehow tainted and sent to earth to undergo the process of cleansing. Depending on the taint of the Soul, it passes thru various life forms, advancing a step from one form to another, and at a certain stage of the journey, reaches human form. Based on the Karma, the Soul cleanses (or further taints) itself ultimately to reach the Supreme Self. So, the spiritual endeavor of the tainted Self to be restored back to its original state, is Self-perfection.