What is the source of all happiness? Is it money? Or is it power, name, fame and recognition? Nothing appears to be true as most of the wealthiest, famed and powerful people are no happier than the ordinary people. If it is true, why do we all strive to achieve these material goals to achieve happiness?
The answer seems simple. We always crave for what we do not possess in the anticipation that once we get what we want, we should feel happy. This concept seems to have originated from our basic desire to satisfy our hunger. When you are hungry, you desperately seek food. You feel satisfied once your stomach is full, yet the craving returns after a few hours once the food is digested.
No animal except man has understood this simple truth. Hence man did not feel satisfied after satisfying his hunger as he learned that the craving will come back. Hence he anticipated the future by using his thought, and started cultivating and storing food and grains so that he would be free from the necessity of satisfying his basic need. Once he had taken care of his basic needs, he started thinking high about larger things of life like the understanding of the material world and even thoughts of God or the Creator of the universe.
Jesus said that a man will not live for bread alone. It is because man is the most superior creation of the world and he cannot be satisfied by merely living to eat and reproduce. He eats only to live. The goal of his life is to think high, as high as the thoughts of God.
Then, why most human beings are not happy? The answer seems to be that they fail to follow their nature and seek happiness in satisfaction of their basic instincts just like any other animal. In order to feel happy he has to think high, not only for the human being but also for all the creations of the universe. It is only by developing proper understanding of the world that we can feel happy as happiness can come only if we are able to know the minds of the people and understand the reason for their action. Improper understanding of the world causes frustration since we always find that actions of other people to be wrong and unreasonable.
Right knowledge is necessary to understand the world. Yet knowledge is often available in the form of written words which are created in a particular context. Since the world changes with every passing moment and we never deal with the same people and the same situations again, we can never use old knowledge to solve new problems. We have no option but to create new knowledge for ourselves taking help from the old knowledge. The new knowledge must be useful for understanding the present world and solve the present problems. This capability of human beings to create new and useful knowledge is often called “Creativity”.
Creative people not only solve their own problems but they also help other people and societies in solving their problems. The world always seeks people who can create new knowledge for the present realities of the world based on the knowledge of the past. These people are able to create knowledge as they can understand the secret of knowledge and modify it to suit changes in time and values.
Creative people are capable of thinking beyond the obvious, beyond the written words of literature or beyond the senses? What are the necessary conditions for creating such thoughts which are relevant yet eternal? How do people create such thoughts? What motivates them to create new thoughts? How can one become such a high thinking person?
Maslow’s Law of Hierarchy
This theory was best expressed by Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”. The basic concept is that the higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus once all the needs that are lower down in the pyramid are mainly or entirely satisfied.
Maslow believed that the most essential need of man is physiological needs or the deficiency needs. As per this theory, man can think high, viz. the stage of “self- actualization”, only after all his lower level needs like food, water, security, confidence, self-esteem and respect by others are satisfied. These needs are called as the worldly needs since they are material in nature.
After man has satisfied all his worldly needs and he has reached to the top of the world in power and riches, he may still not be satisfied as he seeks to grow further beyond the world, i.e. near to God. Maslow termed it as growth needs associated with psychological needs. It was termed so because it is unique in each individual and this need is non-materialistic in nature. As per the theory, these innate growth forces constantly create upward movement in the hierarchy unless basic needs remain unmet.
The Validity of Needs of Hierarchy
Mysterious are the ways in which the world functions. For every theory, there seems to be a counter-theory. Often, thoughts that sound logical and satisfy our commonsense, turn out to be nothing more than an illusion created by logic and accepted by man without application of his mind.
It appears that most of the creative men made their best creations when even the basic needs were not met. For example, Einstein wrote three best papers on photoelectric effect, Brownian motion and theory of relativity at the young age of 25 when he did not have a decent job, had no recognition, had little wealth and had been facing the worst period of his life financially and emotionally.
All through history, people reached to the self-actualization phase not as the last step of the ladder of their development but often in the first step itself and the rest of the stages followed thereafter.
It appears that satisfaction of worldly needs is not the beginning of creativity or high thinking but often the end of it. Even the greatest creators lost their creativity once their worldly needs were satisfied and they got recognition and respect, power and wealth from the world. Thus worldly possessions seem to be the biggest enemy of creativity as they kill creativity as soon as they meet each other. They are like antiparticles that annihilate each other as soon as they are brought into contact with each other.
Indian thoughts on Creativity
Indian philosophers realized, many thousand years back, the need for creation of a separate class or caste for creation of knowledge. They understood that worldly desires can only create materialistic knowledge which can make rich people richer, powerful more powerful and create an unequal society. The materialistic knowledge can only create a materialistic society where people would be fighting with each other for more wealth and power. The purpose of true knowledge is to unite the world and bring peace, happiness and prosperity to all and not only to a few.
They discovered that worldly possessions are in reality the biggest enemy of the true knowledge. They, therefore, attempted to create a class members whereof could be kept away permanently from the worldly pleasures, so that they could focus on the creation and distribution of knowledge. They called such professionals as Brahmins or the “knower of the universe” and gave them the highest place in the society but without any material achievements.
Brahmins held the responsibility for acquisition of knowledge and wisdom for the world. They wrote the earliest books for mankind. The Vedas are now accepted as the oldest creation of human mind. The earliest Veda i.e. Rig Veda originated around 3500 BC- 1500 BC. The Vedas were followed by the Upanishads and then by the Bhagavatdgita, the most famous treatise of the Indian philosophy.
However, the life of a Brahmin was the most difficult. As per the Shastras (holy books) their duties comprised of teaching, learning, performing Yajna (vedic rituals), accept charity and give charity.
The typical daily schedule of a Brahmin, according to the Sastras, is described as following:
o A Brahmin must get up two hours before the sunrise (Brahma muhurta).
o After getting up, he cleans his teeth, bathes in cold water and performs prayer
o Next he performs rites or sacrifices to the gods
o Next is the daily study and chanting of the Vedas
o In the second part of the daytime, the Brahmin must teach his disciples the Vedas
o Afterwards he must gather flowers himself for the worship he is to perform.
o Since he is not expected to earn a salary, he must beg for his food and also for the materials for the conduct of various sacrifices.
Shastras gave Brahmins the right to beg for their food and other requirements. They were not expected to accumulate wealth and own lands. They must donate excess charity to the priests. Brahmins were permitted to eat only Sattvik or simple food which included raw fruits and vegetables, milk, and limited cereals.
The daily schedule, eating habits and duties prescribed for Brahmins, were based on long experience of Indian philosophers. They had understood that the only method to create divine or eternal knowledge was to rise above the worldly pleasures of senses.
Simple Living: the only method for high thinking
The proof of any theory lies in the real-life examples of the world. We can ourselves see that all great thinkers of the world led a simple life. Some of them continued to remain simple and hence, they maintained their creativity till their last moment, while others fell prey to the worldly temptations and lost their genius.
Gautama Buddha is one of the greatest philosophers of the world, who was born in 563 BC. He founded Buddhism, one of the greatest religions of the world. He was the son of King Shuddodhan and was brought up in luxuries of life. He got married and had a son. However, at the age of 29, he renounced all the material possessions including his family and became a monk. He wandered in all places and meditated for six years before he got enlightenment or true knowledge at the age of 35.
Jesus Christ was the founder of Christianity, the most popular religion of the world. He was born at Bethlehem from Joseph and Mary. He assisted his father in carpentry. His parents escaped to Egypt to protect their child from the reach of the Judean king, Herod the Great. Jesus was lost at the age of 12 and no account of his life is available till he attained the age of 30, when he was baptized. Following his baptism, Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights. During this time, the devil appeared to him and tempted Jesus thrice. Each time, Jesus refused each temptation. He started his public discourses thereafter, which attracted a large number of people and gradually gave birth to Christianity.
Albert Einstein is widely regarded as the greatest scientist of the 20th century and even of all time. He could not find a teaching job due to his unconventional thoughts. The father of a classmate helped him obtain employment as a technical assistant examiner at the Swiss Patent Office in 1902. The job barely provided him enough salary to make both ends meet. During these years, he stayed in a single room apartment with bare minimum facilities. Yet in 1905, he wrote four papers that changed the world forever and gave birth to modern physics. Most physicists agree that three of those papers (on Brownian motion, the photoelectric effect, and special relativity) deserved Nobel Prizes. He was awarded Nobel Prize for his paper on Photoelectric Effect in 1921, i.e. 16 years after its publication. Despite being world-famous, he maintained a simple life-style and lived in a small apartment at Princeton University. He limited his wardrobe so as to save time in selecting his dress.
We can find similar lifestyles among all great thinkers and philosophers like Mahatma Gandhi, Darwin, Newton, Mirza Galib (Urdu Poet), Tusidas, Kabirdas and innumerable other great thinkers of the world.. In the history of mankind, no king, or dictator, or rich man has ever earned recognition as a creative genius, though they had fulfilled all their physiological needs.
Conclusion: The time to think high is now or never
Most people believe in the Maslow’s law of hierarchy, which stated creativity or self- actualization as the last stage of fulfillment of human needs, only after all the worldly needs were satisfied. They, therefore, strive in their life to satisfy all their worldly needs in the hope that after they have achieved all their worldly goals, they would strive for self-actualization or doing things which interest them most or the things they love most. In the process, their life is passed and they never get time to understand and acquire the right knowledge of the world, which is necessary not only for the spiritual quest of man but also for making him happy. Since happiness is the goal of every man or woman, hence, the right time to start thinking high is now or it would never come.