Self-actualization: the idea of a hierarchy of needs suggests that the desire to fulfill one’s potential is the final cause of motivated behavior. Few people become self-actualizing according to this view of motivation. Those who do, generally in their fifties, are seen as possessing a similar set of ideals, values, and attitudes.
Transcendental: a. Concerned with the a priori or intuitive basis of knowledge as independent of experience.
b. Asserting a fundamental irrationality or supernatural element in experience.
38. Do thou fighting for the sake of fighting, without considering happiness or distress, loss or gain, victory or defeat-and by so doing you shall never incur sin. Chapter 2, Bhagavad-Gita (as it is) translated and explicated upon by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
The latter, from the Bhagavad-Gita, which is the text of choice for those adherents of Hinduism and also those who observe the tenets of Krishna-consciousness, who have also been called, sometimes derogatorily, Hare Krishnas, and who also engage in what has become a sect-less practice known as Transcendental Meditation.
While reading the above passage I experienced an epiphany on the scale of my first viewing of The Secret, another confirmation that this time period in my life is to be one of a deepening of previous understandings and an opportunity to take the higher road, fully and finally, rather than continuing to consciously remain plateaued because of ingrained fear of leaving my Self behind.
For those who don’t know, the Bhagavad-Gita is the story of Krishna and Arjuna, on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Krisha, the Supreme Personality of Godhead has incarnated into Arjuna’s extended family and has chosen to be Arjuna’s charioteer in the final battle between warring factions of that selfsame family. Arjuna, facing a battle as a result of which he is expected to kill his friends, family members and mentors, despairs and falls prey to fear and attachment, both qualities that Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead spends the entire text exhorting against.
It is an amazing story and a sublime treaties upon the ideas of karma and dharma, one’s cause/effect relationship with the cosmos and one’s duty to one’s family group, culture and world. The quote that leads directly into this exploration, which is actually a reminiscence that I’ve touched upon before and which is a key realization in the journey toward self-actualization. And so I present an extended version of that story, including further contextual analysis.
Learning new things has always come easy to me. A Blessing from God that has allowed me to pick up and hone talents that have helped me to shape my life and express my interests, beliefs and thoughts in a form that people seem to resonate to. At the age of twelve, I learned to play the Happy Days theme on my saxaphone so well that none of my peers would believe that I’d learned it just by listening to it on television. In 8th grade, a young Jewish boy named Joel and I used to improvise together, he on clarinet and I on sax. We particularly enjoying jamming to that old standard, The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company C, upon completion of which Joel would be left giggling uncontrollably and I, laughing along with him, also enjoying the fact that I’d finally found somebody else who could play like I could.
Enforced practice in church, jazz, marching and pep bands allowed me to retain my skills with the saxophone, as years of drawing comic book heroes, learning perspective and the art of design allowed me to also bring these skills into adulthood. Younger years spent playing T-ball, flag football and baseball cultivated an athletic sense within me as well, although a hiatus between 5th and 9th grade reflected a time period of intense personal and spiritual growth that coincided with the onset of puberty and the resultant emotional, psychic and physical growth.
A year of JV football sophomore year and JV basketball junior year reawakened my love of athletics. A spring and summer spent practicing in the Fairchild AFB gym placed me firmly in the Varsity Basketball camp as a starter during senior year then, leading to a 2nd place finish in our League and MVP status for me. That spring, I ran track for the first time, just because my Art teacher, Mr. Cicero, was also the Track coach and he urged me to.
I competed in the high jump, triple jump, long jump and 110 high hurdles.Went to State in the high and triple jumps, finishing 3rd in the high jump at 6’5, a record which, although not the highest or best leap ever, stood for 20 years. The entire season, Mr. Cicero lamented our lost time, ‘if only’ I’d’ve gone out for track during my sophomore and junior years as well.
Which brings me, naturally, back to the Bhagavad-Gita. When the above quote is written, it is Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead speaking, remonstrating Arjuna for refusing to fight. It was his destiny, Krishna exhorted, and for him to refuse to fight because his relatives were on the other side would be worse than him dying on the field of battle. They were dead already, Krishna argued, unarguably so, since nobody ever really dies, the Soul being eternal in nature. Furthermore, to live as a coward and lose all respect was much worse than dying as a hero, thereby fulfilling his dharmic and caste responsibilities. As a Ksatriya, a warrior-protector, killing in the name of Krishna was his chosen dharmic path to a Heavenly reward.
The Hindu caste system, with all of its negatives, is, at its heart, based upon spiritual rather than racial standards. Originally, the term Aryan meant one who was spiritually righteous, filled with light, divine, strong and courageous. Over centuries and millenia, these underlying principles have become subsumed by the collected racial animus of dark versus light, a reversal that is discussed in an extremely comprehensive fashion in Marimba Ani’s seminal text, Yurugu: An African-Centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior.
We are all born within a certain context. Our lives lead us, inevitably toward the fulfillment or the renunciation of those contextual events that make up the days, weeks, months and years of our lives. Our ability to fulfill those duties is reflected by the choices that we make, whether they be for the better or for the worse and regardless of our choice, our decisions are made within the greater context of our individual, family, cultural, ethnic, racial and greater-human dharmic narratives, and it is our decision whether or not we are going to fulfill our dharmic duties or whether we are going to renounce all responsibility and take the path of the Lone Ascetic and Wanderer, the innermost, contemplative path. Self-actualization refers to our ability to either fulfill or not fulfill these dharmic duties to the best of our abilities, and to manifest the skills and talents that we’ve been blessed with for the greatest glory of Divinity.
So during that same summer I spent at the Fairchild AFB gym preparing for my senior year, I was also break-dancing in the parks and the teen club Players and Spectators Jr., in Spokane, Washington, practicing and battling with my boys, Roger Davis and Spencer Alexander. As a team, we had some routines that we’d take to the parks – Spencer only sometimes, because he was a bit younger than Roger and I – and battle the kids from the city. We danced for money and girls, and, being teens with few responsibilities other than our own well-being, there was no shortage of either.
An opportunity arose in the form of a break-dancing contest for Jay Jacobs Clothing Store, which we entered as a team, from which I was picked, along with 15 others, to be in a commercial, which ran at the end of the summer through the spring of 1985. Another ‘skillset’ with which I was able to manifest artistic expression, albeit in a commercial and self-absorbed fashion.
Nevertheless, each talent, cultivated for the pure joy of engagement and competition; of offense and defense – putting the ball through the hole, hitting it with the bat, dodging the defense – of timing – perfecting form in jumping and leaping – of the thickness of lines and curves – intensities of shade – of pianissimo and forte chord progressions and harmonics, of windmilling and locking, flipping and spinning, of achievement for the sake of achievement itself, and not any material or social awards. Learning, for learning’s sake.
According to His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the above quote regarding Arjuna’s refusal to fight is one of the final exhortations in that chapter that concludes Krishna’s opening discourse on the nature of the Atomic-Soul and the Super-Soul. The chapters which follow continue to expound upon the natures of dharma and karma, the meaning of life, the magic worlds and universes of spirit and soul as well as the nature of Heaven, Atman and Nirvana.
I find many correspondences in the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita and Christianity, from its ideas of karma (sowing and reaping the whirlwind/children responsible for the sins of the fathers, etc.) and dharma (giving unto Caesar what is his/utilizing talents for the glory of God), to the physical manifestation of Krishna in human form, as Jesus was also considered to be God in human form, was born and died, vacated the flesh and returned again to prove his eternal and abiding nature.
While there are very obvious differences on the face of it, culturally speaking, the eternal nature of the deepest teachings coincide at their very essence, which is self-actualization. As Jesus the Christ exhorted his disciples, and taught them through their failings to ‘become like him’, so Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead exhorted Arjuna that he was the All, and that each aspect of Creation – from the mineral to the animal kingdom – was some small part (atomic) of Him, conscious and eternally existing.
Even the concept of one life for one person, that Christianity speaks of, finds some expression in the eternal individuality of each Soul, whichKrishna-consciousness details with some authority. Although the question of reincarnation is firmly rejected by orthodox Christianity (to include both protestant and catholic denominations), the individuality of each soul is assured – in Judaism, Christianity and Islam as well – even past the end of Incarnation – in Hinduism and the Krishna-consciousnessmovement – and the ascension of perfected souls to the spiritual planets and universes beyond human ken.
After a year of track at Morehouse College (where I reached 6’10 in the high jump) – and which is also a blog in and of itself – and a semester at San Antonio College I joined the Army and went to Basic Training at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina and Advanced Individual Training (AIT), at the signal center at Fort Gordon, in Augusta, Georgia. I did well on the Army Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) and chose to train as a Single Channel Radio Operator, which was a combat military occupational specialty (MOS 31C) and that also gave me access to both the GI Bill and the Army College fund. Excelling in that training (Honor Graduate), I was also chosen to learn International Morse code (IMC), which was an additional skill identifier. That course was a month long and consisted of sitting at a desk wearing headphones and armed with a morse code tapper of Vietnam-era vintage, as had been the radio and teletype equipment that I’d trained on for the initial operator’s skillset, I proceeded to embark upon an amazing inner journey.
The training regime was relaxed. In the first week, we were responsible for tapping out and being able to interpret 3 groups, repeating what we heard in our headphones. Each group consisted of 5 dits and dashes (didadadittydadadittyda) that represented numbers and letters. The second week, we were responsible for 3 more, and so on, until the final number of groups we had to learn was 10, in order to pass the course and become certified in IMC.
The first week was simple enough. Three groups, fine. I was along with everyone else with the class, progressing normally, we made our quota. And then, late in the second week, something happened.
I’ve attempted to describe the actual experience I am writing of here previously, but those attempts have been inadequate to the task of truly encompassing what happened that day. To just say it, I progressed from 3 to 12 groups in the space of 1 hour. The Sergeant, who had been teaching there for 12 years, could not, would not believe I’d never learned morse code before.
I remember the room was dark, our desks side by side and the groups blended together like a song. One moment, I was listening and tapping code, understanding some and having to think to get the meanings of other letters and numbers, engaging in the reminscence and recognition pattern that typifies all rote memorization learning methods. At some point, I entered a mode of reverie, where the dits and dashes were audible as echoes only as my mind blurred the distinction and what had been audial became also graphical and there was an actual, physical bending of my mental space as if I’d flexed a previously unknown muscle and switched over to another mode where, suddenly, there appeared a depiction of morse code in a perfect pattern of resonance and harmonics. It was as if I’d entered a hidden space that was infinite in nature, I remember the sensation of openness, impossibily deep within my mind, of texture and depth beyond my current needs available and waiting for input. As I was listening and experiencing this, my fingers moved faster and I instantly knew the code, could see the code in front of my mind’s eye, and utilized this precious insight to cement my understanding. Coming out of it, that unknown muscle flexed once again, leaving me drained and confused, but excited beyond belief. Watching the Instructor walking over to me looking just as confused, was confirmation that something strange had indeed just occured.
After that initial jump, I knew Morse code and finally ended up at a speed of 28 groups, the last two weeks of the course being spent practicing and just increasing my speed. The next closest person was 14.
I’ve never returned to that space since. I’ve also never been challenged like that, since. But, knowing it exists, having experienced it, is like a tantalizing glimpse into possibility, into the potential of the human mind to access supposedly superhuman capabilities in order to accomplish tasks that have been thought heretofor unachievable.
As i was reading the above quote from the Bhagavad-Gita, this memory returned to me, and with it, a rushing onslaught of similar memories, of times where I’d learned something quickly – simply for the joy of learning – only to lose it again from lack of practice and neglect. What typified each and every one of these experiences was the joy of the moment, of concentrating to the point where everything else was lost. No thought of material gain, of getting paid for completing an article, a paper, a piece of artwork, of achieving honors for being the best or the greatest, of trophies, of accolades, of anything other than the sheer joy of doing it, of living it, of engagingTranscendental Being itself as a tool in the pursuit of self-actualization.
I recognize the possible affront offered by this essay. But I cannot and will not apologize for who I am and what my experiences have been because they are mine, and they have made me the man that I am. I am manifesting, with all glory given to Divinity, a potential that we all have, and that we all make real in our lives – to a greater or lesser degree – depending upon our own proclivities and potentials, which have been shaped by our life experiences and our individuated zodiacal natures. What we are capable of doing is so much more than what we generally allow ourselves to do, or even to believe can be done. The human mind and body are the most amazing energetic and physical creations upon this planet. To seek to discover their capabilities and manifest them in our lives should be among the greatest goals of a lifetime.
The Law of Attraction assures of us the multiverse’s complicity in the achievement of our individual destinies. The key component of creative visualization and prayer is the ability to associate emotivity, vision and intention in a manner that colludes with our destiny and brings us into a place where we are utilizing our talents in the expression of Divinity, as we are each atomic expressions of the super-soul of which we all form an intergral part. Divinity divining Itself, as it were.
Use your talents for God, Krishna, Allah, Oldumare, Legba, Yemaya, Buddha, or whomever your personal diety is. Be thankful for your gifts, and share them equitably. Be sure of your present and future paths, and know that Divinity is within us all, watching ever, loving fully and understanding us each, with all of our failings, neuroses and problems. No matter our current paths, or the extent to which we feel we’ve doomed ourselves to eternal hell, the potential to achieve what we were born to achieve remains real.
Know that. Believe it. And then live it.