Self-transcendence is the concept of making personal progress in different fields – physical, mental spiritual. Self-transcendence means we seek to exceed our previous achievements and extend our capacities.
Different aspects of self-transcendence include:
Going beyond previous limits.
Within each individual, there is a desire for going one better and improving our situation. It is the driving force behind evolution; it is what encourages people to train and develop their physical capacities. This inner aspiration for self-transcendence is an important feature of human nature.
“What do we long for? We long for self-transcendence. ..We all need self-transcendence and, at the same time, we fervently long for it.”
– Sri Chinmoy (1)
Self-Transcendence can most easily be measured through improvements in physical achievements. In running, it involves trying to break new records in both time and speed. The beauty of self-transcendence is that it can be practised by anyone; we need not compete with others, we can just compete with ourselves. From this perspective, we can get great joy by surpassing our previous personal bests.
“Self-transcendence gives us joy in boundless measure. When we transcend ourselves, we do not compete with others. We do not compete with the rest of the world, but at every moment we compete with ourselves.”
– Sri Chinmoy (2)
Self-transcendence is a concept that is incorporated into different spiritual traditions. In this regard, we are seeking to go beyond our limited state of ego to expand our own consciousness. When we identify only with the body and ego, it is a limited perspective. Spiritual traditions suggest we are more than just a frail body. Through practising yoga and spiritual traditions, we learn to expand our consciousness and feel our connection with the universal Self.
Physical and Spiritual Self-Transcendence.
There is no need to separate the physical self-transcendence with spiritual development; they can harmoniously work together and complement each other. One notable example of this is the 3100 mile Self Transcendence race founded by Sri Chinmoy. The 3100 mile is an epic race which can take competitors between 45 – 60 days to complete. To run such a mind-boggling distance requires the co-operation of both body and soul. By completing this act of physical transcendence, we are going beyond the limits of what the mind may think possible. By stretching our physical capacities, we also delve into a different understanding of ourself.
A sense of oneness with others.
Usually, as humans, we identify with first ourselves and then perhaps our country. But through the practice of self-transcendence, we gain a sense of belonging not just to one country or one culture – but becoming identified with the whole world. As Socrates said:
“I am neither an Athenian or Greek, but a citizen of the world”
It is this sense of universality that is a practical and spiritual manifestation of self-transcendence.