Whether being a self is about more than simply surviving by meeting our physical and mental needs?

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In simple terms self can be defined as identity. It makes one person different from others.  In more complex terms self can be defined as the product of consciousness, awareness, and rationality (Alladi, 1992). Since the consciousness, awareness, and rationality of different people are different, it can be assumed that different people have different self or identity. Because of the differences in self, people think differently on many occasions. The rights and wrongs of one person need not be the rights and wrongs of another person all the time. The question of “being a self”, arises under the above circumstances. According to Frankl (2008), the concept of “being a self” is heavily influenced by physical and mental factors. This paper argues that the concept of being a self is influenced not only by physical and mental factors but also by spiritual and social factors.

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Man’s search for the meaning of life has started thousands of years before. According to Hill (2002), man is nothing but the result of biological, psychological and sociological conditions. In other words, man is a product of heredity and environment. Therefore, the self should be a product of biological, psychological and sociological conditions. However, there are many instances, in which two people brought up under the same biological, psychological and sociological conditions behave differently or keep different self. Different experiences and circumstances in life force him to change his perception of life quite regularly. It is not necessary that two people interpret the meaning of life, in the same manner, all the time. A prisoner who has been sentenced to capital punishment may think differently about the meaning of life compared to others. The Same way a person who is approaching the end of life situations may also think differently about the meaning of life compared to others.

According to Frankl (2008), the meaning of life is found in every moment of living. The above argument is acceptable since what a person experiences in a particular moment may be different from what he experiences in the very next moment. For example, imagine a case in which a person or a driver met with a car accident and forced to spend his rest of life on the bed. What he thinks about life the moment just before the accident could be different from what he thinks just after the accident. He might have thought about enjoying his life before the accident. However, his thoughts may be changed drastically after the accident. He could be an atheist before that accident. He might turn out to be a strong believer after that accident. Spirituality may supersede rationality in his case. The thoughts about the life after death might have entered his mind only after the accident. Though experimentally not proved, it is believed that a person is made of body, mind, and spirit.  But the relation between body and mind is still debated among psychologists and philosophers. What will happen to the mind if all the materials used in the making of our body with some other materials from another planet? Will the mind be changed in that case? It is difficult to answer the above questions with the help of science, logic or rationality.

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Frankl believes that life never ceases and it continues even after death. In other words, material life ceases in this world and the spiritual life continues even after death. Those who believe in spirituality, being a self is more than physical and mental factors. At the same time, spirituality has been defined differently by different religions and spiritual leaders. The definition given to spirituality by Christians need not be the same as that given by the Hindus or Muslims. For example, having more than one wife in this world is a sin for Christians whereas Muslims can afford to have more than one wife in this world. Same way, Hindus believe in birth and rebirth in this world whereas Muslims and Christians believe only in one life for humans in this world. In any case, all these religions agree that the spirit is the driving force of every human and it came from the God. As per Christian belief, God has created the body of human using mud, the earthly material. He has given life to human body from his breath. In other words, the spirit was created in the body of human from the God. Therefore, it is impossible to destroy spirit even after the death of a human being. According to Frankl, the spiritual self, relies on having a hope in the future. As of now, nobody knows from where we come and where we go after death. No science or technology has an answer to the question: what will happen to human mind or spirit after death. Only the religions and spiritual leaders have an answer to the above question.

To conclude, the self of a person can be considered as the sum of his physical things as well as mental and spiritual things.  The physical attributes determine the self, related to his appearance whereas the mental attributes determine his rationality. On the other hand, spirituality forces a person to develop his self in another manner.

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  1. Alladi, M. S. (1992). The Bhagavad Gita with the commentary of Sri Sankaracharya. Samata Books.
  2. Frankl, V. (2008). Man’s search for meaning. Publisher: RHUK; Exported edition (7 February 2008).
  3. Hill, J. (2002), Biological, psychological and social processes in the conduct disorders, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 2002, Vol. 43(1), p.133-64.
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