Does spirituality kill our individuality?
Question: In spiritual life, everybody is told to do the same activities like chanting the same mantra. Doesn’t this standardization suppress and destroy our individuality?
Answer: Not at all. In fact, this standardization destroys the coverings that block our actual individuality.
Firstly, let’s try to understand: what is the essence of our individuality? Is it our hair-style, our looks, our wardrobe? If yes, then it is materialism that actually standardizes and suppresses our individuality. Because materialistic lifestyle makes us dance to the tune of the latest fashions; where’s the individuality in a tawdry dress that is a commonplace copy of a jazzy billboard? Even if we adopt fashions that are extravagant and therefore uncommon, how can they be expressions of our individuality when we are just reflecting the upwardly mobile social mirror?
At a deeper level, we can say our individuality comprises our desires. All of us are individually distinct because we have different desires. But again materialism standardizes our desires too; impressing the opposite sex is often the common desire that drives most materialists. There may be variety in the ways of impressing: a skimpy dress, a flashy car or whatever else. But there is often total monotony in the underlying desire. Where, then, is the individuality?
Gita wisdom helps us understand that our actual individuality is spiritual, not material. What we call as our material individuality is mostly a product of past internal impressions and present external compulsions. This material individuality obscures the real me, the soul. As souls, we are all individuals with our own unique forms and our unique relationships with the supremely unique Lord, Sri Krishna.
Our present material existence is a diseased condition, and our material individuality is largely the specter of symptoms of our underlying disease of materialism. Seen from this perspective, people parading their material individualities are little better than sick people parading their symptoms.
Just as people suffering from a common malady are often prescribed a common treatment, Gita wisdom prescribes for all of us who are suffering from a lethal overdose of materialism the standard spiritual treatment of chanting the holy names. Just as recovery of health enables sick people to naturally express their individuality, recovery of our spiritual health enables us to naturally express our actual spiritual individuality in our relationship with Krishna.
During this recovery, Gita wisdom accommodates our material individuality by facilitating us to serve Krishna according to our individual natures. But it urges us to use this temporary material individuality as a springboard for expressing our lasting spiritual individuality – and not to get stuck to or sunk into the springboard. This means that instead of perpetuating our material individuality, we use it as best as is possible while focusing on regaining our spiritual health and thereby reclaiming our spiritual individuality.