THE DESIRE FOR PERFECTION
There is a continual desire working in every soul to see things perfect according to our own conception of perfection, and as we go on with this desire, observing, analysing and examining things and beings, we become disappointed and disheartened; and besides we become impressed with the lack we see in conditions, in persons, in beings. No doubt there is one thing that keeps one alive and that is hope: "If it is not right to-day, to-morrow it will become right. If it is not perfect just now, after some time it will be perfect". So on this hope a person lives, and once he gives up this hope, then life ends. If one is disappointed in one person, one thinks that in another person one can find everything one expects; if under one condition one is disappointed, one hopes for another condition which will bring about the fruitfulness of one's expectations.
The teachers and the prophets have pointed upward. That symbolically teaches us that it is in looking forward to something more hopeful to happen that one lives; and that is the secret of happiness and peace. But once a person develops the idea that there is nothing to look forward to in life, he has finished living.
You will see around you that those who live and those who help others to live are the ones who look forward to life with hope and courage. It is they whom we can call living beings, and there are others who do not live, for they do not look forward to life, they have lost hope. In order to be saved they will cling to the hopeful, but if the hopeful also were to have a limited hope then they would sink with them. Such souls are as dead. But it is in the outlook of the hopeful that we can find the secret of the idea of paradise, the paradise, which has been spoken of by the elevated souls of all times. In all scriptures you will find a reference to paradise; it is a hope in the hereafter, hope in the future.
When one finds that there is no justice to be found in life, or beauty is lacking, or wisdom is not to be found anywhere, goodness is rare, then one begins to think that justice must exist somewhere, all beauty, wisdom, goodness are to be found somewhere - and that is in paradise. One thinks, "It exists somewhere, I shall find it one day; if not here in this life, I shall find it in the hereafter. There is a day when there will come the fulfilment of my hope, my desire". This person lives and this person lives to see his desire fulfilled, for in reality, the lack that one finds in a person, in a thing, in an affair, in a condition, these lacks will not always remain. For all will be perfected, all must be perfected; it is a matter of time. It is towards that perfection that we are all striving, and the whole of nature and creation is working towards the same end. It is in that perfection that the thinkers and the great ones of all times have seen their paradise because through man it is God who desires. Therefore, it is not the desire of man, it is the desire of God and it has its fulfilment.
Life on the physical plane is limited, but the power of desire is unlimited. If desire finds a difficulty in being fulfilled on the physical plane, yet it retains its power just the same, and the desire is powerful enough to accomplish its work rising above, or when freed from, this physical plane of limitations. It is therefore that a hope in paradise has been given by the great ones. There is another place in the Bible where it is said in the prayer "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven", which means that there is a difficulty even for the will of God to be done on earth because of limitations. Therefore, there is a difficulty for every person's wish, because in the wish of every person there is the wish of God. Though there is a difficulty in the physical world because this is the world of limitations, yet the desire knows no limitations. Only, desire becomes beaten up, enfeebled, worn out by continually facing the limitations of this physical plane. If by chance hope sustained it and faith cherished it, there is no desire, either small or great, which will not be fulfilled one day - if not on earth, in heaven. It is that fulfilment of the desire which may be called paradise. Omar Khayyam has said,
Heaven is the vision of fulfilled desire, and hell the shadow of a soul on fire.
It is told that someone went to 'Ali and asked him, "You tell us about the hereafter and the granting of desire there. What if it be not true ? Then all our efforts on this earth will be wasted". "Nothing will be wasted", said 'Ali, "If it were not fulfilled then you and I would have the same experience, but if it be true that there is a paradise, then you will be the loser and I shall gain, for I have prepared for it and you have sneered at the idea".
But those who wait for a paradise in the hereafter, or for all things to come true in the hereafter, may look at it differently: that the power of desire is so great that one must not allow it to wait for the hereafter. If there is something that can be accomplished to-day, we need not wait for it to be accomplished to-morrow, for life is an opportunity, and desire has the greatest power, and perfection is the promise of the soul. We seek perfection because perfection is the ultimate aim and the goal of creation. If it were not so we would not find in the Bible, "Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect".
Question : Is not this limited physical world capable of improvement in accordance with our desires ?
Answer : As I have said, the source of all things is perfect, our source is perfect, our goal is perfect. Therefore, every atom of the universe is working towards perfection, and sooner or later it must arrive at perfection. The blessing is in arriving at perfection consciously.
And we can try in all things we do in life, in everything, whether small or great, to have in mind the idea of perfection.
Question : How can one waken the hopeless to the beauty of this idea ?
Answer : Those who lack hope and courage in life lack a sort of energy of spirit. The standard of health, as the physician understands it to-day, is an energetic robust body, but the standard of real health is the health of the spirit. Not only is the body living, but the spirit is living. The one who is open to appreciate all things, to feel encouraged to do all things that come his way, who feels joyful, hopeful, ready to accomplish his duty, ready to suffer pain that comes upon him, ready to take up responsibility, ready to answer every demand of life as a soldier on the battlefield - the condition of that spirit is perfect health. He shows the spirit hidden under the body. If that condition is lacking, then the spirit is lacking that energy which is perfect health, and the person must be helped to gain that energy.
Question : How to turn helplessness into hopefulness ?
Answer : By faith. And you may ask, "Faith in what ?" In the first place by faith in God, at the same time knowing that the soul draws its power, its inspiration from the divine Source. That is why every thought, every impulse, every wish, every desire is from there, and in its accomplishment there is the law of perfection. In that way a person feels hopeful. But when one thinks, "What shall I do ? What am I to do ? How am I do it ? I have not the means, I have not the resource, I have not the inspiration to do it" - when one is pessimistic about things one destroys the roots of one's desires, because by denying one casts away that which otherwise could have been attained. For in recognizing the divine Father in God one becomes conscious of one's divine heritage, and that there is no lack in the divine Spirit, and therefore there is no lack in life. It is only a matter of time. If one builds one's hope in God, there is an assured fulfilment of it.
It is very interesting to study the lives of the great persons in the world. We find that some great people have almost arrived at the fulfilment of their undertakings and, just before they had reached an end, they have lost it. And there have been some great persons who have attained the ultimate success in whatever they have undertaken. You will always find that the souls of the former kind are the ones who were gifted with that great power and yet lacked faith, and the others were gifted with that power and that power was supported by faith. A person may have all the power there is, all the wisdom and inspiration, but if there is one thing lacking, and that is faith, he may attain to ninety-nine degrees of success and yet may miss one. And the loss in the end takes away all the gain that was gained previously. There is a saying in English "all's well that ends well", and the Eastern people pray in their prayer, "make our end good", for if there be a difficulty just now, we do not mind, because the success, the real success, is in the finishing of it.