Self-actualisation, self-realisation

While both are ‘Self’ oriented, there is a big difference in approach to self-actualisation and self-realisation.

One could erroneously mistake one for the other and they may have diametrically opposite conclusions. Self-actualisation is a result-orienting process. One can try to achieve a higher known potential, to an expected goal. Motivation,
self-development, ambition and the ‘desire to be’ play a vital role. It is like planting a seed that can grow to its expectations and beyond.

Self-actualisation is derived from a Western philosophical concept, starting from organismic theorist Kurt Goldstein (1939), and later by Carl Rogers. The full, final essence was given by Abraham Maslow (1950). He brought out fully the need of hierarchy to a level where a person is actualised to his full potential. In his article, ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’, Maslow explicitly defines self-actualisation to be “the desire for self-fulfillment.” Motivational and self-development methods help the individual.

The levels go through basic physiological needs, safety factors, social and esteem needs, before becoming self-actualised. One may be wedged at any point, but the desire to go to the next level is always there. Individuals want more security, esteem needs, personal identification, need for prestige, etc.

There is a constant need to grow bigger, better and bolder, which seems to be quite endless. Wherever the goal is set, one must actualise it. ‘Sankalpa Siddi’, ambition and hard work are necessary. Actualisation stops where your mind stops. You will be able to achieve your end where the goal of your mind is set. The highest dimensions of your dreams of what you perceive stop at that point.

Self-realisation is an Indian concept and comes from the Vedic times (3500 BC), and the gist of it is important, relevant and precise matters mentioned are in the Upanishads. The plethora of rishis; men and women who could separate the physical self, look deeply at their soul as Atman; then unifying it with the ultimate reality – Brahman – IS referred to as Atma Jnana. This expression goes BEYOND the ‘MIND’ and thoughts. It is to understand the mind itself. Self-realised people are not dream-oriented; they are humble, unconditional and looking beyond ‘life and death’; getting to the answer of ‘Who am I?’; and are fully self-aware.

Essentially, the duality is supposed to go and one sees the truth in the reality of Mahavakyas ‘Aham Brahma Asmi’ (I am Brahman) – Yajur Veda-Brahadarankya Upanishad. ‘Tat tvam asi’ - Sama Veda Chandogya Upanishad and similar ones.

It is very important to note that there is a great difference between the terms self-actualisation and self-realisation, with the former having to do with higher levels of fulfilment at the personality level, while still in relation to worldliness. Self-realisation has to do with that knowing of pure consciousness. Atma Jnana is a door for Liberation. Jnana is very closely related to the knowledge of Brahman.

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