In his paper “A theory of motivation”, Abraham Maslow outlined the famous “Hierarchy of Needs” model. He explained that individuals are driven to pursue various things in life. However, only when basic needs are met can one begin to focus on higher pursuits. The climax of one’s journey is “Self Actualisation” – the most satisfying and fulfilling state of human existence. At that stage one recognizes their purpose, their meaning, their inner-calling and their true identity.
The “Hierarchy of Needs” starts with the most basic necessities of human existence. We require food, clothing and shelter for our survival, and until we have them it’s difficult to contemplate anything else. Once we have acquired those items, the next stage is to strive for security and safety in that position. Thereafter, the individual pursues emotional fulfilment through relationships, family, community and a meaningful bond with other people. They seek to share their life experiences with others. Beyond that, one focuses on boosting their esteem through achievements, distinction and recognition in their social circle. After someone realises these four objectives, Maslow posited the final goal to be “self actualization.” At this stage, the individual aims to discover the true meaning of life. They dig a little deeper, and search out the more profound meaning behind their existence. According to Maslow only 2% of the world’s population get anywhere near this stage.
In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna explains that “out of many thousands of people, one may endeavour for spiritual perfection, and out of those who have attained such perfection, only a rare few actually reawaken their personal connection with the Supreme Truth.” We look for happiness on many levels; through our bodily faculties, through emotional comfort and through intelligence and ego. Maslow’s first four levels deal with these external coverings. However, all such attempts at happiness do not touch the essence of our being. Beyond the body, the mind, and the intelligence, is the spirit soul. Thus, only spiritual food can really satisfy us. To understand this and realign our daily priorities accordingly is real self-actualisation.