In Sant Mat "sat" gets used a lot. Sant itself means "one who knows the truth," such as a saint. Then there's satguru (true and perfect guide), satsang (true company or association), sat nam (true name), and other sat-based terms.
Sat, sat, sat. The sound of the word has a pleasing emphatic ring to it. It reminds me of the movie "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring." My bloggish review of it included:
When the world would become too much with him, the young monk would sit before a stone Buddha and rapidly strike a piece of wood with a stick. Clap, clap, clap, clap. A percussive mantra. Listen to the sound of one stick clapping and all else fades away.
But this assumes that when the world is too much with us – for the monk, that included having a lustful thought when an attractive girl visited his island retreat – something is wrong. There's been a departure from some ideal perfect truthful state: sat.
I'm now becoming a lot more comfortable with reality as it is.
When I was in my sat-obsessed phase, that longing for a transcendent unchanging Truth, unmixed with any hint of earthly imperfection, would carry over into my everyday life. It'd bother me when I failed to be as perfect as I felt I should be.
Religions are big on "should be's." Radha Soami Satsang Beas was no exception. There was a right way to give satsang (basically, a sermon or talk). There was a right way to show devotion to the satguru. There was a right way to behave as a satsangi (initiate).
All this emphasis on right ways and wrong ways tended to make devotees rigid, uptight, and overly self-critical. I didn't go as far in this direction as some, but I still had some excessively perfectionist tendencies.
It's a relief now to get real. "Perfect" is a concept, as is "Truth" with a capital "T." You never see either thought creature in the wild. They don't appear in this world, where everything and everyone changes daily, hourly, minutely, moment to moment'ly.
The satguru would make a mistake. True believers would rationalize, "The guru doesn't manifest his perfection on the worldly plane, only in his spiritual radiant form." OK. But I'm here in my physical form, observing the guru's physical form.
The notion of a transcendent realm of immutable perfection has a long history and is still very much with us in the guise of the world's religions.
However, many ideas don't reflect reality. Just because we can think "perfect" doesn't mean it exists outside of our own mind (I can think "cake" without having a real one in front of me).
Yesterday I engaged in my normal habit of fumbling my way through the day.
After chatting with an acquaintance in my athletic club's locker room, I realized that I'd probably told him the same witty observation the last time we talked. Trying to phone in a prescription refill, I reached a woman who responded to my "Is this the pharmacy?" with a "Good god, no!" While taking the dog for a walk, I talked for 10 minutes with a neighbor and his sister, then got home, glanced down, and saw that my fly was open.
In short, a typical day in the life of Brian Hines. Perfectly imperfect. The older I get, the less it bothers me when I screw up.
I'm sure there are psychological reasons for this. But philosophically, I don't compare myself with an ideal of perfection, "sat," nearly as much as I used to. By and large, the goals I set for myself come from me – not an outside institution or authority figure.
And one of those goals is to accept reality as it is, however it is. Witty observations get repeated. Wrong numbers get dialed. Zippers get left down in public.
Have you ever seen a perfect anything, or anyone? I haven't. Not in the sense of a perfection that is flawless, unchanging, and completely consonant with a transcendent ideal.
What makes life "perfect" is its imperfections. So I guess I have seen perfection – when I've looked at reality as it is, and not as how I'd like it to be.