It is a somewhat difficult concept for most people to accept: that each individual has his own spiritual path and realisation before him, and that it is therefore neither appropriate nor fruitful to spend time trying to either criticise or convert others to one’s own path or view, or to attempt to adopt or copy the methods or focus of another individual. Each individual comes into the world with a set of issues and difficulties that represent the challenges that individual is to face in this lifetime. The idea of uniqueness is, at the same time, combined with the complexity of what we call ‘synchronicity’ which brings together each of the unique individuals and circumstances into a web of interaction which help us to understand our own role, and our relation to the wider collectivity by reflecting back to us exactly what it is our energy and direction call for.
A specific set of practices, or a specific mind-set may be helpful to one individual, while at the same time, being counter-productive to another. There may be certain elements that correspond between individuals with similar affinity, and thus, we can learn from others, while maintaining our clear insight internally to the uniqueness of our own path.
What we can learn from observing others may be positive steps we can incorporate into our own spiritual development, or may even represent examples that should not be followed! Understanding which things to adopt, and which things to avoid, requires an inner awareness and awakening to our soul’s aspiration and a recognition of this uniqueness and responsibility to carry out the deepest aspiration within us.
It is much easier, in a certain sense, to simply avoid this type of deep inner review, and follow along with others who seem to have a way or path that we find to be either successful or which seems to engender happiness. Yet, in the end, this may prove to be an illusion and a setback. The deeper questions of how to find and stick to one’s own path and direction, and how to avoid the potential for misdirection that results from taking a unique approach, are of tremendous relevance as we aspire and grow spiritually.
The Mother observes: “You stop short at the perfection that others should realise and you are seldom conscious of the goal you should be pursuing yourself. If you are conscious of it, well then, begin with the work which is given to you, that is to say, realise what you have to do and do not concern yourself with what others do, because, after all, it is not your business. And the best way to the true attitude is simply to say, ‘All those around me, all the circumstances of my life, all the people near me, are a mirror held up to me by the Divine Consciousness to show me the progress I must make. Everything that shocks me in others means a work I have to do in myself.’ … And perhaps if one carried true perfection in oneself, one would discover it more often in others.”
Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Exercises for Growth and Mastery, Using Life as a Mirror, pp. 158-161