It is much easier to see and criticise others for their ideas, behaviour or habits, than to see in oneself potentially those same issues. Jesus raised this issue in his Sermon on the Mount: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” Jesus is admonishing his followers about not judging others when one does not see one’s own faults.

The Mother takes this to a deeper level by helping us see that the natural affinity by which we can see and understand the actions and motives of others is part of the synchronicity of the universal creation that implies that what we see has its own roots within ourselves, and in many cases, the actions which we find the most abhorrent are those which we carry within ourselves, active or latent, as the case may be.

The Mother writes: “It is rather remarkable that when we have a weakness — for example a ridiculous habit, a defect or an imperfection — since it is more or less part of our nature, we consider it to be very natural, it does not shock us. But as soon as we see this same weakness, this same imperfection, this same ridiculous habit in someone else, it seems quite shocking to us and we say, ‘What! He’s like that?’ — without noticing that we ourselves are ‘like that’. And so to the weakness and imperfection we add the absurdity of not even noticing them.”

“There is a lesson to be drawn from this. When something in a person seems to you complete unacceptable or ridiculous — ‘What! He is like that, he behaves like that, he says things like that, he does things like that’ — you should say to yourself, ‘Well, well, but perhaps I do the same thing without being aware of it. I would do better to look into myself first before criticising him, so as to make sure that I am not doing the very same thing in a slightly different way.’ If you have the good sense and intelligence to do this each time you are shocked by another person’s behaviour, you will realise that in life your relations with others are like a mirror which is presented to you so that you can see more easily and clearly the weaknesses you carry within you.”

“In a general and almost absolute way anything that shocks you in other people is the very thing you carry in yourself in a more or less veiled, more or less hidden form, though perhaps in a slightly different guise which allows you to delude yourself. And what in yourself seems inoffensive enough, becomes monstrous as soon as you see it 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

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 16 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.