This paper was presented at the
National Seminar on
Indian Psychology: Theories and Models

SVYASA, Bangalore,
December 26 - 28, 2007


Pursuit of human excellence and the Indian psycho-spiritual insights

A.N. Tripathi — Varanasi


The philosophy of personalism and the modern humanist school of psychology together give a refreshingly positive and holistic account of human nature, motivation and behaviour. This school recognizes the reality of discernable inner qualities of human personhood and its drive towards realizing higher human values. It posits that the central motivating force guiding human behaviour is the desire to grow by actualizing one’s highest human potentials. It is an urge to be a whole and integrated person, a fully functional person, that is, a truly and fully human person. The earlier ‘scientific’ approaches to psychology ignore these inner human qualities and drives because they cannot be objectively observed, demonstrated or defined. Nor can they be evoked, measured and quantified under controlled laboratory conditions. In an effort to be scientific these approaches miss out some of the most important and rewarding aspects of human personhood.

The line of humanistic thinking can be further strengthened and refined by combining the concepts of growth motivation, self-actualisation and value orientation into one integrated and holistic concept of ‘pursuit of human excellence.’ It may be taken as the single sovereign drive shaping human evolution and cultural advancement, as well as individual human strivings and actions. Thus, the ‘will to excel’ must replace earlier ideas like ‘will to survive’, or ‘will to power’, or ‘will to pleasure’.

The psycho-dynamics of pursuit of excellence can be efficiently explored as a movement towards expanding and refining four basic human endowments. These are, intellectual or cognitive capacities, emotional or affective capacities, moral capacities and spiritual capacities. The first two of these have become main stream elements of the modern, or the western, psychology. But the latter two can be much better understood in terms of the Indian psycho-spiritual insights. Thus a harmonious blending of the two traditions can give us a deeper and richer understanding of human psychology.