The 4 Step Hierarchy of Happiness


Scientists are practical people. They, instead of looking deep into the subject as to why certain things happen in a particular way, are quite happy to observe and know what happens. No scientist knows, why two masses of matter attract with each other, yet they have successfully found the universal relationship that determines the forces of attraction. They may not know how an atom was formed? How the protons and neutron got into the nucleus? How electrons started revolving around the nucleus? Yet they have accurately measured the size and charges of an atom and predicted its behaviour.

Gilbert Newton Lewis, a famous American physical chemist known for the discovery of the covalent bond rightly said

The scientist is a practical man and his are practical (i.e., practically attainable) aims. He does not seek the ultimate but the proximate. He does not speak of the last analysis but rather of the next approximation.

The scientific study of mental processes and behaviors of human beings is called psychology. The word “psychology” is the combination of two terms – study (ology) and soul (psyche). The word “psyche” comes from Latin which means breath, life or soul. However, this meaning has been altered over the years until today, and now the subject of psychology, as studied in colleges and universities, currently has very little to do with the mind, and absolutely nothing to do with the soul or spirit (

Over the years, psychologists have avoided the cause of human behaviors; and discarded the study of mind and soul from the ambit of psychology. The result is that they know what happens; they rarely know why it happens?

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

One of the most interesting and time a tested theory of psychology is “the hierarchy of needs” of human beings that was discovered by Maslow. It stated that every human being is motivated by needs. Only when the lower level needs are satisfied, a person moves to the next level of needs. These hierarchies of needs are

1. Physiological or Biological Needs: air, food, drink, shelter, sex, sleep

2. Safety Needs: protection, safely, law

3. Belonging or Love Needs: Friends, family , lover, spouse

4. Self-Esteem Needs: Achievement, Recognition, respect

5. Self-Actualization: Peruse inner talent, creativity

This theory of needs had been widely used by all people in all spectrum of society. A manager in an industry uses this law for motivating his employees, leaders’ use this principle to motivate his countrymen and parents use this principle in motivating their children.

While the world was quick to use this theory for motivating people, they have never understood why such needs arise in human beings in this hierarchical manner.

The answer to this question does not lie with the scientists as they know only what is seen and measured, but with the philosophers and spiritual leaders, who can go beyond the matter.

Hierarchy of Happiness

Indian philosophies stated that the ultimate goal of all man is happiness (Ananda). Every man seeks to be happy in his life. He has an inherent desire to be happy and he when he moves in a particular direction, he gets happiness.

What is that direction?

While scientists believe that there is nothing beyond matter and a man is nothing but a combination of biochemical elements, scriptures believe that every man is made of for basic elements. These four elements are

1. Body

2. Mind

3. Soul

4. Spirit

Every man like any living creature keeps on evolving in his life and moves from the stage of body to mind to soul to spirit. The ultimate goal of man as per Indian scriptures is to become one with spirit or divine and achieve salvation i.e. to become one with God (Spirit). Once a salvation is achieved, man becomes free from the cycle of birth and death and always remains in God or Spirit as his soul becomes one with God.

Every man is driven by the same desire in their soul which always seeks union with God or Holy Spirit. This desire of soul is termed by Maslow as “need” as man crave what his soul desires.

A man who resists the desire of soul is like a person who is trying to swim against the tide. He wastes lot of his energy and soon gets exhausted completely. Such a person always feels pain, anguish and tiredness as Nature always force himself back to null.

A person who moves in the direction or flow has to put no effort to move and he attains happiness. The key knowledge is therefore to know the direction that every soul seeks. Accordingly, the source of happiness can be categorized into four classes which are like four goal posts to identify the right path. One can achieve his goal by reaching to these goalposts step by step. These four steps of happiness are as following

(1) Physical Happiness

Every person is first a body. If his physical needs are not satisfied, he can not look any further. Hence the first requirement is the happiness of body and senses. Therefore, having good food and drink is most necessary. Further, body enjoys comfort and relaxation, which can be achieved by housing and relaxation. The enjoyment of reproductive organs is achieved by sexual activities.

Thus the physiological needs defined by Maslow are those which are necessary for the enjoyment of the body and senses. It would not be appropriate to term then as need as body can digest any food and convert that to energy. Yet a man does not wish to eat grass even if that satisfies his hunger. Thus a man who is able to merely satisfy his physical needs can not graduate to the next level unless his body really enjoys and feel happy and satisfied.

However, all physical enjoyments are momentary as they exist only till the contact of senses with the object lasts. The taste of food last only till it is in the mouth. Hence man seeks security of his physical enjoyment which has been termed by Mosley as Safety Needs.

(2) Mental Happiness

The body and senses seek sensual enjoyment which comes from the contact of body and senses with the object. While such happiness will always be required in the life of man as the requirement of body will continue, man also seeks happiness of the mind.

Just like body feels happy only when it is in contact with other bodies (material things), mind is happy when it is contact with other minds. This means that every mind seeks to know what lies in the mind of others. Man can understand the knowledge of the world by study, analysis and experience. Therefore, man feels happy when he lives with people whom he understands and knows. This is what has been termed as “Belonging or Love Needs”. In short, the mind of the man achieves his happiness when he is understood by others and he understands others. This is what is often called love or friendship.

While mental happiness is achieved by meeting of the mind, the human mind tries to create harmony of all minds so that all conflicts can be eliminated. This means convincing others of what is in the mind of the man and learning from others what is in the mind of others with the view to find a unanimous thought. This is often called esteem needs as the person seeks to know all in this stage so that he faces no surprises as every mind becomes predictable to one who knows all minds. Such person is highly respected in the society and given high status due to their ability to know the mind of other people and society.

(3) Soul Happiness

The man, even after knowing everything, does not stop evolving as every person has to evolve to soul in the journey of his life. Knowledge of soul is beyond the knowledge of the mind. The soul is the essence of the person like DNA is the essence of a cell. Just like there are billions of cells in a human body, which all are different and designed for a specific role, same is true with man too.

Every person is designed by nature to perform a particular function. Hence the soul of each person is different from any other soul of the world. Accordingly, everyone is designed for a unique function in this world. However, most people are always guided by their parents and peers and never discover themselves. They know others but fail to know themselves.

The discovery of the Self is the knowledge of the soul of the self. This journey is the source of great happiness. Thus every person gets happiness when he understands himself and does the work for which he is designed. People like Gandhi, Buddha were most happy people as they did what they were designed by nature to do. Gandhi was quite unhappy as an advocate, a profession which his parents decided for him. Buddha too discarded his kingdom to discover himself thereby attaining happiness for self and the world. IN the modern times, Bill Gate dropped from his colleague to become what he could do best.

This stage has been termed by Maslow as self-actualization which is defined as the “desire of the man to become more and more of what one is and to become everything of what one is capable of becoming.” In spiritual term, self-actualization is same as self-realization which is provides happiness to the soul.

(4) Spiritual Happiness

While Self-actualization seems to be the end of journey based on Maslow’s law, it really is just the beginning of the last door of happiness, which is truly eternal. Even after a man knows himself and does everything that he is best at, he still feels a vacuum in his life. The reason is that while he becomes happy, yet he can’t stop feeling unhappy when he sees pain in the life of other men.

The realization of the pain of others by the self is due to the presence of Holy Spirit or God in the entire universe. It is due to this spirit that all souls are connected together like the beads in a garland. Hence one can never be truly happy if others in the world are not happy.

This spiritual nature of man, forces the man to make others happy too. Man, who starts helping others like he helps himself, gets tremendous happiness. In such situation, even the pain of the self becomes a pleasure when that results into the happiness of others. Such a man can suffers any amount of pain and humiliation and even happily give his life if that is needed for the happiness of others. When man is in this stage of life, his material desire ceases and he becomes truly divine as his soul becomes one with God, the Supreme Creator.

One who reaches in this stage never returns to the pain and misery in his life. This truly is the way of eternal happiness.

Find Happiness Here and Now

Though, the evolution of man requires that a man transacts from body to mind to soul to spirit, yet man can always expedite this process once he understand that the ultimate source of happiness lies in being spiritual. Most people fail to advance even beyond mental stage as they never try to even know themselves. For such person, spirituality is incomprehensible and happiness is always an eluding dream.

One needs not to first satisfy the lower needs to move to higher needs as man is always a body, mind, soul and spirit. Thus one can always start his self-actualization or spiritual development, without wasting his time to fully satisfy his physical and mental needs. These desires are in really never satiable as most people spend their life satisfying the craving of the body and mind till the end of their life.

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