Going West To East Is like From Self Actualization To Self Realization


By Dr. Sawraj Singh

In the western approach to life the end point is self actualization, which means reaching one’s potential. However, the potential is two dimensional, physical and mental. Do body and mind form a complete human being? The western capitalist concept of human life is limited to body and mind. For all practical purposes, it has abandoned the spiritual aspect of life. For western capitalism, man’s existence is primarily as a consumer. The purpose of life is to acquire consumer goods and comforts provided by western capitalism. To fulfill this purpose one has to generate money. Money can be generated by becoming productive yourself or by managing production of the others. In both cases, for capitalism, productive aspect of man is the main aspect. Self actualization means to reach your maximum productive potential.

Contrary to this, the eastern concept of the essence of human existence is neither physical nor mental, it is spiritual. Therefore, a man who does not realize the essence of his existence is incomplete. In other words, the body and the mind do not make a person complete human being. It is his soul or spirit which makes him a complete man. As opposed to the productive man in western capitalism who is only two dimensional, physical and mental, the eastern man is three dimensional, physical, mental and spiritual. To become complete, a man has to realize his true self that is his spirit, to do that you have to be creative.  Creativity is a higher human value than productivity. The productive man of the west has limited potential because the body and mind have limits. As opposed to this, the creative man of the east has unlimited or infinite potential because the spirit has no limits.

Some may argue that mind has unlimited power of imagination. However, we have to understand the difference between the worldly mind and the awakened mind. The limits of our worldly mind are set by our own experience. However, an awakened mind has unlimited potential. According to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the total reality is revealed to an awakened mind. To awaken your mind you have to realize that the essence of your existence is spiritual. Without awakening the mind, it cannot realize its complete potential. In other words, the understanding of reality of an unawakened or a worldly mind is limited to one’s own exposure and experience of reality.

Self actualization of the west is actually based upon a worldly or unawakened mind. Therefore, the realization of potential based upon the understanding of this mind will always be limited. On the other hand, self realization is based upon realizing your true self or awakening your mind. Potential of this awakened mind is unlimited. Therefore, potential of the productive western man will always be limited and of a lower level than the creative man who has completely realized his true self.

Just like individuals these concepts also apply on the groups of people or even to the countries. In the capitalism, countries can also achieve their productive potential. However, after they have achieved their full potential then their decline starts because there is no more growth possible within the system. The present Chinese crisis proves that point. In general, the western capitalist countries have already achieved their full productive potential and generally they are in a phase of decline. However, they have gone beyond their boundaries and have become dependent on the other countries for their growth.

China is a good example of this phenomenon. The western capitalist countries have shifted their manufacturing to China which has become the manufacturing hub of the world. Now China has also reached the limits of productivity. China does not want to become the center of the polluting manufacturing industries which the western countries can no longer afford to have on their lands. The Chinese have started to do some introspection and soul searching. They are also using some of their traditional eastern wisdom and creativity. Instead of becoming the hub of the polluting industries of the world, they want to concentrate in improving the quality of life of their people. Instead of becoming exclusively export oriented economy, they went to concentrate on the internal market.

It is interesting to note that while there is panic in the western capitalist countries over the current situation in China, the Chinese are concentrating on the upcoming 70th anniversary of victory over Japan in the Second World War. They want to use this occasion to send a strong message to the world that China is not only an economic power but also a very big military power. Putin will be the most prominent guest in the victory parade. China and Russia want to give this message to the west that as long as Russia and China are together, the west should not even consider a military option in meeting their challenge. Together, they are an unbeatable team .If the west wants to start a third world war then its defeat is a certainty.

Whether it is philosophy or it is economics or military power, the balance is tilting to the east. The western concept of self actualization weakens the human spirit while the eastern concept of self realization strengthens the human spirit. The unbalanced material progress in the west has weakened its spirit. On the other hand, relatively speaking, human spirit is still alive in the east. The human spirit helps the individuals and the countries to get back on their feet. The Soviet Union collapsed yet Putin was able to revive the spirit of nationalism in Russia and Russia is again becoming a significant player in the world affairs.  Similarly, the Chinese have been able to revive the national spirit and China is bound to make significant progress as long as that spirit is alive. The west will have no such luck. Once the western capitalist system collapses (which is likely to happen before 2050), the western countries will be unable to bounce back. The west should give up arrogance and try to learn from the essence of the eastern philosophy that self realization is the ultimate goal because the spirit is stronger than the body and the mind.

Dr. Sawraj Singh, MD F.I.C.S. is the Chairman of the Washington State Network for Human Rights and Chairman of the Central Washington Coalition for Social Justice. He can be reached at [email protected].