Is hardship in life necessary for inner growth?
The sea level is the reference for measuring the height of mountains and the rise in altitude as we climb them. For all practical purposes, the sea level is the same everywhere in the world as the oceans are interconnected bodies of water. Just as the reference level of the sea, there is a point of reference which every human being has, which is birth. In a sense, everything that is added after birth is a net positive. Except for a bare naked body, we come with nothing. No mind and no memories. Just as the undulating terrain on earth, no two individuals have the same trajectory of life. Some are fortunate to hit the high peaks of success, while others toil away hidden in the low valleys, and there are the rest in between.
A question may be asked, who is better positioned for inner growth, those whose lives are cushioned by wealth and success or those who continually face hardships in life?
Those in a relatively lower position in life may compare themselves to those higher up the ladder of success as defined by wealth, power, and fame. When a mountain climber goes up a mountain, climbing boots go along as well. It is the climbing boot which first touches the summit of any mountain. Similarly, as we ascend into the air of success, the ego will come along, and it is the first aspect of our being that touches the summit of success.
The same climbing boots that aid a climber up the mountain also help with the descent. People don't leave their shoes on the summit and come down barefoot. No one can stay successful forever. There will be downturns which may force us off the perch of success. However, when we are forced to descend to a lower position in life, we tend to leave the ego behind at the highest point of success. That becomes our reference point even though external circumstances may not reflect that.
In contrast, those who may not have had much success in life and may be faced with hardships that come one after another may not have touched a high point in life where their ego is pinned. Consequently, it may be easier for such people to remain humble.
Humility can take us to life's highest point, while ego may take us to its lowest point.
Success measured by the yardstick of wealth, power, and fame lends itself more to the dangers of the ego rather than the benefits of humility. Success and humility are eminently compatible, but not many choose to taste that combination.
Both ego and humility make attachments grow, the former towards the individual self and the latter expands towards the rest of humanity.
The ego seeks 'vertical growth' which is growing from a personal perspective. Humility offers the chance for 'horizontal growth' which fans out across to other people for more inclusive growth. Ego may lift an individual, but humility can raise an entire generation. When we have been through hardships, we become more empathetic towards those who may be in a similar situation. Humility opens our eyes towards what others may be going through, while ego blinds.
Ego may add flavor to life. Just as food with the right amount of flavor becomes tasty, a small amount of ego is necessary to give us that perspective of individuality from which we can enjoy life. In a plate of food, if one flavor is overpowering, we may not be able to enjoy that food; similarly, we cannot enjoy life when there is an overwhelming presence of ego.
Humility nourishes our inner being just as nutritious food is nourishing for the body. However, too much food, even if healthy may be harmful to the body in the long run, similarly, excessive humility can also be dangerous. When we become aware that we are humble, it creates an opening for the ego. Before we know it, humility may morph into ego. The world may not see it as such. There may be an outward projection of humility while inwardly ego builds. This is a tricky situation and one that requires astute observation on our part to identify and remove.
Going through hardships in life makes it easier to move towards being humble, while success in the form of wealth, fame, and power make us lean towards the ego.
However, neither hardship nor success in life may be a prerequisite for inner growth. Birth and life are first; everything else gets added on later. Just as we enter a new space, the world, when we are born, entering our inner being is also a form of a new birth. We come into the world with bare hands; similarly, we enter our inner being with an empty mind.
An empty mind is one in which nothing is preconceived, without any notion of success, failure, ego or humility.
It is a blank slate. We come to the world with the mind that is naked and bare. However, at birth, we are not aware of the mind. As awareness grows so does the mind, and soon the mind overshadows awareness. But when the mind is laid bare through the process of witnessing without identification, awareness will expand and becomes the sea which supports everything else including inner growth.