Lower and Higher Human Needs

Abraham Maslow, an American Psychologist, gave the theory of ‘Hierarchy of Human Needs’. This theory once upon a time was greatly accepted- though modifications were suggested to this theory subsequently. Even today this makes the introductory reading on motivation.

According to this theory- humans have various needs- lower to higher. Lower needs are the needs to subsist. Food, water, rest, sex etc.. are the basic/viscerogenic or the lower order needs.

Then come the needs for security, affiliation, esteem and self-actualization. ‘Self-actualization’ and ‘esteem needs’ as per this theory are the higher needs. Fulfillment of one need gives rise to another. Or, as per presumption of this theory- higher needs arise only when the lower needs are satisfied.

On the face of it this appears fine- as per a hindi proverb- ‘Bhuke bhajan na hoyi gopala’ (One can’t pray empty stomach)! Humanists tried to relate/attribute even the errant or non-conforming behaviour like stealing etc to deprivation. बुभुक्षितम किम न करोति पापं? Means what sin a hungry man is not compelled to commit?

Cast a superficial look – you would only be convinced about this. So try to keep the people satisfied, happy so that their Higher Needs are aroused. And many of us greatly support this theory.

But this this theory does not explain why some people court death than face dishonour? Why the monk sold his ferrari? Why the dying Karna (of Mahabharata) dragged himself to get a stone to break his gold-fill tooth to give alms to the beggar? And the proverb- why a lion doesn’t eat grass?

Actually human needs are governed by our value system. It is the values that give rise to higher needs no matter the lower needs are satisfied or not. Rana Pratap vowed to fight for his country even when he did not have anything to subsist. Nirala one of the greatest Hindi poets- lived in abject poverty- yet cared– shared– gave all his possessions to beggars. So important are the values and not the satisfaction of lower needs!

And a true fighter’s personality lies in his values. He not only wins a war- he wins glory for himself, his country and society and lastly for humanity. Wars are won by CHARACTER and not by arms alone.

My young friends- think what you want to become. You not only should achieve a position in mundane terms but also must become a true hero in life with your character- with your concept of right and wrong- with your conduct and spirit of self-sacrifice.