One of my pen-friends once introduced me to the ‘peak experience’ concept of Maslow. According to Maslow’s theory, every individual has the potential to reach self-actualization, that is, utilizing one’s potential to the optimal level, and experience a blissful feeling unparalleled to all known emotions. Those were days when I was developing a keen interest in Hindu philosophy. My friend and I were corresponding on our understanding of the ideal that a self can achieve for itself. Back then, to me, the Hindu philosophy of ‘self-realization’, sounded similar to Maslow’s understanding of self-actualization, but is it really? Can we say that Michel Foucault had realized his self, since he definitely was able to self-actualize? How else can we define his success otherwise? He lived a life of practical and intellectual activity, which was perhaps envied by many during his time. No, Foucault’s journey was not towards one that of self-realization, maybe one towards self-actualization. While self-actualization entails excitement, self-realization is characterized by lack of the same. So, is self-realization dull, stoic, prosaic? Maybe. Maybe not; only one, who has realized one’s self and is living a conscious life, will know the true feeling. Dull, stoic, prosaic or not, self-realization definitely entails peace: a blissful peace.
Peace is something we all strive for, is it not? Both the hermit and the drug addict prefer their life to be so, because they are searching for peace. If someone tells me otherwise, I will be inclined to think, one is deceiving one’s self.
A person willing to realize his/her self-need not be a famous personality, he/she could be just as ordinary or unknown as the milkman who delivered milk on your doorstep today, or a supervisor in a small scale industry. The greatness doesn’t lie as much in acquiring wealth or fame, as in acquiring the peace one is always on a lookout for. The extraordinariness lies in the ability to direct and control the mind; become conscious. If such a person also acquires wealth and fame, all the more good for one’s self and the society, for the personality of such a person will always exude hope and humility, and direct society towards stability midst the apparent chaos this world is entangled in.
I believe that the journey to self-realization and thereby towards a perennial blissful peace (prasanti) resembles a spiral staircase, where reaching the telos requires us to take cyclical pathways, of repetitive movements, of overlaps of moments which appear familiar, and sometimes of an illusion of stagnancy, as if we are still where we started. However, for a conscious being, giving a conscious effort towards self-realization, such a feeling of stagnancy should not prevent one’s self from continuing the journey. You must remember you are climbing, maybe in cyclical motion, a spiral staircase, not moving along the circumscribe of a circle on a flat ground.
Every essay in this blog of mine, along with excerpts from the sages and saints of early times and the present age, will continue to unfold my understanding of this journey towards self-realization.