People tend to assume that great beings such as Buddha or Christ are exempt from the issues that the “rest of us” have to face in the world, and in the practice of spiritual sadhana. They simply assume that these great souls somehow fly above the ground-level obstacles that plague us. In fact, the opposite is quite likely to be true. These great souls, who seek out paths for liberation and human advancement, and evolutionary progress, take on tasks that we many times cannot even imagine, and suffer all the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ as Hamlet phrased it! Careful study of the life of Buddha, Christ and others such as Milarepa, St. Francis, Sri Rama, the Pandavas illustrates the tremendous suffering they had to bear, the obstacles they had to face, to help humanity grow and develop to the next level of the evolutionary cycle.
When any soul enters the earth-life and takes on the effort at spiritual development, he has to face all the factors embedded in the nature of the mind-life-body complex. The primary difference we see in these great souls is that they do not allow themselves to be overwhelmed or defeated by the obstacles. They treat them as part of the transformation they need to achieve and they take on the role of the “son of man” so that their achievement can be available more generally. Some people believe that these ‘special’ beings are far beyond the human level, and thus, their attainments are beyond what can be expected of anyone else. We worship them, but do not try to emulate them in our lives. Their consistent message, however, has been that they represent humanity, and that they are pathfinders or guides or beacons, but that each individual must eventually tread the path and achieve the objectives to bring about the needed changes.
It is helpful to understand that these obstacles, difficulties, pressures are the general conditions of Nature as per the level of development it has currently achieved, and not specifically ‘owned’ by the individual seeker as his own unique failing or weakness. This helps to mitigate the personal and internal suffering caused by the belief that it is the individual himself who is to blame, and thereby also avoids the idea of self-punishment as a solution for these weaknesses!
Sri Aurobindo writes: “Suggestions come to all, even to the greatest sadhaks or to the Avatars — as they came to Buddha or Christ. Obstacles are there — they are part of Nature and they have to be overcome. What has to be attained is not to accept the suggestions, not to admit them as the truth or as one’s own thoughts, to see them for what they are and keep oneself separate. Obstacles have to be looked at as something wrong in the machinery of human nature which has to be changed — they should not be regarded as sins or wrong-doings which make one despair of oneself and of the sadhana.”
Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Detachment from Difficulties, pp. 277-278