Death is easy. It is life that is taxing.
Many schools of thought have claimed that death is the ultimate truth of life. Vedanta holds a different view – ultimate truth is self actualization, not death.
Death is just a station in a soul’s journey. You take the bus, you travel for a while and then you leave the bus, so you can board another one. However, the principal thing is not the bus, neither the journey. The principal thing is the realization of the traveler.
So when does one reach that state of self actualization? What is the whole goal behind self understanding? Is this liberation? Is this Moksha?
What is self actualization?
Self actualization is a state when the individual achieves complete understanding of his own identity and continues to live incessantly, without getting muddled by the reactions of the world. Self actualization is simply the abnegation of worldly reactions.
Two years ago, you were a different individual. Five years ago you were a different individual. Today you are different and five years later, you will become someone else. This is because your actions have changed, your situational truth has changed, your objectives have changed, your point of view has changed and your thoughts have changed.
This continuous change is caused through the perpetual “effort” of an individual to achieve his goals or objectives. But the bigger question is –
“Achieve goals for what?
At the end of the day, you are achieving or trying to achieve worldly goals. The world is moving at a huge speed and to keep up with worldly goals, you are also continuously changing. This unrelieved chase is never ending and hence, the subject is always going through a transformation.
Mankind wonders –
If the subject is always changing and transforming to something else, how will the subject ever know what it is? What it really is? Life is short and death is imminent, if I am always changing and becoming someone else, when do I reach self actualization and understand who I really am?
Sadly, nobody has an answer for this.
Neither the prophets, nor the sages and even the Rig vedic hymns cannot teach anyone how to reach self actualization. There is no prescription and a full proof way to reach that state. Also, people who have already reached that state may not be aware that they have reached it.
Samveda refers to this questions as follows –
yasyaamatam tasya matam matam vasya na veda sah
avijnaatam vijaanataam vijnaatam avijaanataam
Tho who think they know, do not know and those who think they do not know, perhaps do know. It is not understood by those who think they understand it, it is perhaps understood by those who think they do not understand it.
One can take few examples to understand what this really is.
An ascetic is roaming in streets and begging for food. He believes he has achieved “Moksha” or that he is trying to achieve “Moksha” (liberation). Give him a lottery ticket or entice him to become a religious leader/preacher and see what happens. His actions will suddenly change because now he has smelled an objective and his mind has strayed. His pursuit of “Moksha” becomes secondary and his embryonic plan becomes primary.
You can then ask the ascetic what happened to his pursuit of Moksha to which he may reply
I have spent 20 years trying to attain liberation and have failed. Let me return to the material world and enjoy what it has to offer.
The ascetic is not wrong. He tried but could not reach that state and hence he returns to the material world and takes a detour. It is after all, his choice. However, he has failed to attain self actualization.
There is a mechanic who has spent 20 years in the same garage working for the same employer, in the same designation. He hasn’t taken any promotion, because he wants to repair cars and not become a manager. He doesn’t really care what happens around him and continues to do his work, as if the whole world does not even exist.
When you ask this mechanic why he hasn’t moved on in life, you may get this answer
My only objective in life is to repair cars. I don’t want to start a business to earn more money and neither I want liberation. I only want damaged cars and I am happy.
This person is very close to reaching the state of self actualization. He may not be aware that he has reached that state and he really doesn’t care whether he has reached it or not.
Example # 3
This is a real story which was featured in a local daily. There was a man who is a die hard fan of a Football club in my native, he personally attends every single match and cheers for the team. One day he was seen missing but he enters the Arena after half time. When questioned about his later arrival he replied
My son died today and I have just performed his funereal ceremony couple of hours ago. What is the score?
People may call this man a selfish father or a fanatic but to him, it hardly matters. He has achieved his truth and living with it, the reaction of the world is secondary to him.
Self actualization is hence the understanding of one’s own identity.
It can be anything.
It can be a worldly pursuit but so long the subject is not perplexed by the reactions of the world around the pursuit, the realization is met. One can be a bathroom singer but so long as the subject knows that he/she is a bathroom singer and enjoys the pleasure of singing incessantly in the bathroom every other day, he/she is said to have achieved that state and bliss follows as a consequence which the subject neither enjoys nor dislikes. The subject is not muddled by the reaction or consequences after all.
Self actualization can come at any age, at any situation or may never come at all.
One cannot achieve it through its pursuit alone, since self actualization is that butterfly which sits on your shoulders when you are not observing the butterfly, neither chasing it and in complete peace with yourself. This state is often referred to as the state of “Bhakti” when the subject is devoted to a cause (whatever it might be) and lives for the cause itself, not for the consequences or reactions of the world which observes your cause. This is the ultimate truth which can be achieved living in a material world, before death or beyond death.