As Zen Replaces the Id...


Maslow's Self-Actualization and the Buddha's Enlightenment

A.H. Maslow proposed one of the more general theories on motivation. He explained motivation in terms of a hierarchy of needs. According to his theory, we must first fulfill the most basic needs before being motivated to fulfill the higher ones. In ascending order, the needs are: Physiological (food, temperature, etc.); Saftey; Belongingness and love; Esteem (prestige, accomplishment); and self-actualization, or achieving one's fullest potential as a human being.
Maslow listed the following properties of a "self-actualize d personality":

  1. An accurate perception of reality, that the world is "as it is," not as they would like it to be.
  2. Independence, creativity and spontaneity.
  3. Acceptance. Of themselves and others.
  4. Ou tlook on life is problem-centered, not ego-centered.
  5. Enjoyment of life, open to "peak experiences."
  6. Sense of humor.

"Peak experiences" are times when a person feels contentment, peace, and "oneness with the universe."

*(currently looking for a proper source from Maslow to footnote this and add his own words.)

This FORUM topic:

  • Is Maslow's "peak experience" the same a "satori" (enlightenment)? How about "moments of clarity," "breakthroughs," or other such experiences? Is Maslow's "self-actualized person," "enlightened?"

  • Comments on this FORUM...

    Comments on recent FORUMS...

    05/19/98 02:08:55
    Name: Bob My Email: Email Me
    Student Status/Affiliation: Student FORUM (if you are sharing your views on a forum topic): Maslow/Buddha

    It is clear that Maslow was heavily influened by the teaching of Zen. I would suggest his peluctence to disclose this was based upon the world view of diversity at the time.

    04/20/98 16:28:05

    I was just spiritually enlightened when I learned my connection with the religions of buddha and my catholic religion. I think if you can see that you are here for a reason, then you can be happy just living. Then, you do need to learn about enlightenme t in books. You just need to spiritually enlighten yourself. No one else has the ultimate power to make you understand how everything in life comes together but yourself.

    04/15/98 03:16:10

    Name: billy conway
    My Email: Email Me
    Name: ava My Email: Email Me
    Student Status/Affiliation: ex FORUM (if you are sharing your views on a forum topic): self actualization

    It seems to me that Mr. Maslow's describtion of a self actualized person, falls very short of explaining or exploring man's devine nature or the limitless possibilities of the mind itself. Where is the phycologist who is brave enough to penetrate the vei , and bring back a picture of human nature which includes qualities we normally only ascribe to our gods.

    03/19/98 02:39:23
    Name: H asif
    My Email: Email Me
    Student Status/Affiliation: psychiatrist

    In my opinion peak experience is higher level personal experience lying somewhere between between higher reaches of personal and tranpersonal levels. It has been described in many traditions in different ways.sufi's explain it as the opening of first mout of our soul(according to the tradition there are 8 mouths which open one by one thus unveiling reality in deeper gradations)In hindu tradition it may be correlated with opening of heart chakra.These experiences appear to be related with sudden awakenin of our dormant potential at very early stages. Satori , nirvan , atoneness with reality without duality , in my opinion are rare experiences avlaible to very few people in the history of mankind. They can be sought but to understand them as peak exreie ce of self actualization would be a mistake.

    03/18/98 19:01:57
    Name: William T. Horn My URL: Visit Me
    My Email: Email Me Student Status/Affiliation: 2nd Year Religion Major
    FORUM (if you are sharing your views on a forum topic): Zen of Maslow

    Perhaps there is some connection between Maslow's self-actualixion and satori. However, the Zen of Dogen is different from the Zen believed here in the west. The "expression of religiousity" that is satori arose in a vastly different cultural context. For example, in the Japanese language, there is not the degree of subject/object duality as there is in English. This difference highlights the general difference in the way in which the ego or self is constructed for the people in these two distinct cultures (see the first chapter of T.P. Kasulis' "Zen Action/ Zen Person") My understanding of Maslow is that he identified people whom he thought were "self-actualized" and held them up as role models. His self-actualized people were westerners with a totally different conception of self than a Zen master. Th e self-actuali ed people in Maslow's study were, for example, celebrities. These self-actualized people did not realize anatta when they acted. Their construction "self" is so different from that of Medieval Zen Masters that any correlation between the two would be a st etch. Zen is art.

    03/17/98 17:25:16
    Name: Gary My URL: Visit Me
    My Email: Email Me FORUM (if you are sharing your views on a forum topic): Maslow and Enlightenment

    Maslow suggests a process of maturation that would be consistent with 'satori'. It is only natural that as one develops a sense of self, that the ego then becomes strenghed to ward off the possiblity of external negating influences. Maslow accurately po in s out that a view SHOULD be developed that has one realizing they need not continue their eternal lawsuit with life. By acheiving 'contentment', he further suggests that the continual pursuit of conflicting desires is appeased and reconciled, thus, fre ein the mind from its habitual folly. When one 'lets-go' of their preoccupation with the formal external world; watching their own ideal images being cast forth and then pursued in a form remeniscient of idolatry, they are then returned to the world of t he i formal and intemporal. Humor, in a broader sense, could be thought of as the good cheer to be in the world in good faith, and rises naturally from beneath when the energies used to maintain the myth of our heirarchial distinction are dispelled, and o ur pe ceptions once again "have the innocence of child". Ironically, Western theology does not so much differ from Eastern, as "one must die, to be re-born". Contentment is the cessation of the continual upward-tending ego machinations, and 'humor' is the resul . (i could be wrong) lol

    03/01/98 15:25:22
    Name: Michael A. Vandiver (a.k.a. Nothing) My URL: Visit Me
    My Email: Email Me Student Status/Affiliation: 9th Grade Drop-out
    FORUM (if you are sharing your views on a forum topic): Maslow's Self-Actualization and the Buddha's EnlightenmentMaslow's Self-Actualization and the Buddha's Enlightenment

    I believe they are on the terms that "needs" are not a static, definite concept. What I experienced a s "satori" as I believe it was, taught me was the ideal that I have no true needs but desires I felt I were obligated or chained to in order to "be". Sinc I've centered my Self on the subject and the object of my concept of need I've come to this decisio n of definition. need - A way or tool requiered to acheve a desire. Also something I attempt to not use as an excuse for something I did and regret.

    02/26/98 19:40:42

    I first asked myself this question almost 30 years ago. My answer now, is the same as then -- how can we say for sure? The experience of enlightenment is common to all major religions and contains qualities that are not mentio ned in any of Maslow?s writi gs concerning the peak experience. In addition; the road to self actualization directs a person through a different landscape than does the road to enlightenment. My guess is that any individual is able to experience many d ifferent states of mind, and hat the peak experience may be just below the experience of satori.

    02/25/98 12:30:53

    Name: George
    My Email: Email Me
    FORUM (if you are sharing your views on a forum topic): Maslow
    N ame: Matthew Atherton My Email: Email Me
    Student Status/Affiliation: Second year student; University of Hull; BA Politics, Philosophy and Economics. FORUM (if you are sharing your views on a forum topic): Self Actualisation and Enlightenment.

    Two years ago I went travelling in Africa. On this trip I had an experience that has changed the c ourse of my life. (I would like to say at this time that I am an Athiest and in no way shape or form do I believe in a god). It has led me to your web site I am not saying that this was my destiny or that it is some kind of pre-written fate that I am fu lfilling - it just happened. I was staying at Tiwi beach, just south of Mombasa, with a few friends I met on the way up from Cape Town. One night I spent s me time alone just thinking about my time spent in Africa and how much of a liberating experience it had been for me. And then something happened - I had a "moment of clarity" I felt total contentment. That moment is the most 'alive' I have ever felt. I annot even begin to describe how I felt because I do not have the command of language to do so. It does, unfortunately, remain a private experience for me. The high I felt at that moment lasted about 5 minutes and then it was gone. After this experienc I turned to a friend and actualy said to him "My life will never be the same again." Since that moment I have become increasingly interested in Buddhism and meditation. So I read a couple of books and started to think deeply about what had happened to e - Had I achieved satori, if only for a brief moment? I also read 'The Celestine Prophecies' by James Redfield (maybe you have to?). I came across Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in a conversation with my house mate Karen, she is doing a psychology degree, a d became convinced that yes Maslow and the Buddha are on about the same thing. And yes it is my belief that Maslow's perfectly "self-actualised person" has reached "enlightenment." However just because I have had this experience does not mean that I am nlightened - it just means that I've had a small taste of what it feels like to reach nirvan a. True enlightenment is when you never get down from one of your peak experiences - you can introspect and recall what it feels like in an instant because you be ome so accustomed to feeling this way - this is enlightenment and this is what subsequent L ama's can do, that is why they are Lama's. If anyone else has had a similar experience - please write to me. My e-mail is, I don't c re whether you feel silly about talking about it. Trying to understand your peak experien ce is one step on the road to enlightment.

    02/23/98 10:08:25
    Name: Rudy Harderwijk
    My Emai l: Email Me
    FORUM (if you are sharing your views on a forum topic): Maslow

    Do you seriously think that Maslow is an enlightened being to describe enlightenment? In case his theory were anything near reality, nobody could ever get enlightened: as who can say they will ever manage to fulfil their bodily desires, (unrealistic) feelings of safety and (self??) esteem before starting the path towards self-actualization Please note that even many psychologists nowadays consider his ideas quite simplistic.

    02/22/98 22:14:02
    Name: buster
    FORUM (if you are sharing your views on a forum topic): maslow

    How in the world would one know unless one had empirical knowledge of both and could d istinguish the difference? If a difference could not be distinguished, where then is the distinction? Barring empirical knowledge, all one can do is speculate, and specu ation has never lifted a finger to help get the chores done.

    My thanks to everyone who took the time to contribute!

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