What is Self-Realization?


Merriam-Webster defines Self Realization as “fulfillment by oneself of the possibilities of one’s character or personality” and also “the act of achieving the full development of your abilities and talents.”  This sounds a lot like Maslow’s famous Self-Actualization hierarchy.  But just as Maslow found as he dug deeper, this definition only addresses the materialistic, psychological arena.  As he himself noted later in life, self-actualization is healthy self-realization on the path to self-transcendence.

Paramahansa Yogananda popularized the term Self-Realization in the 1920’s in the West; in the spiritual context, he defined it as follows: “Self-realization is the knowing — in body, mind, and soul — that we are one with the omnipresence of God…”  In other words, Abiding in Oneness with all of Creation.  This is an experiential, transcendental presence of being, not head-knowledge.  It’s not about knowing that we are all One, it is Being that.

Self-realized beings exhibit equanimity in all circumstances, and are enveloped in profound inner peace.  They are free from all fear, and from the karma’s compulsions.  They are beyond individual identities, associations, and attachments.  The self-realized operate spontaneously aligned with Life, not the ego.  They are truly free.

All traditions throughout history have had realized beings, and the mystical roots of all religions prescribe various paths to ultimately achieve self-realization.  To name just a few, Christianity’s mystical traditions, Islam’s Sufis, Judaism’s Kabbalists, Buddhism’s core aim, and Hindu’s yogis.  As you may have heard, yoga means union.  Think far beyond the physical yoga taught in boutique studios… the ultimate aim of Yoga is Oneness, it is deeply spiritual.  Ironically the closer you get to self-realization, the less you identify with a particular religion.

For centuries human beings had to choose between being in the business of survival, or being ascetics, and dedicating themselves to the path of self-realization.  But today we are living well beyond the confines of survival, and most of us are ingrained in pursuing ever higher levels of comfort.  So now the opportunity to pursue self-realization is available to a huge swaths of the planet.  It’s just a question of awakening to it.

That’s what is meant by raising human consciousness.  Many organizations see that as their goal – to awaken humanity to the possibility of absolute inclusiveness.  That is the human potential, and it is the purpose of life.  It is said that to be born a human is a precious gift because only as a human being can we attain, and become self-realized… and what a tragic waste to squander a life pursuing the transient material things.  We all want more of this or that, but let’s realize something – the ego interprets our inherent thirst to join with Creation as the chase for wealth, power, control.  But the truth is we all want to be at One with All that Is.


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