Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Flow, Laya and the Highest Good

If there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake, clearly this must be the good. Will not knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on life? Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what we should? If so, we must try, in outline at least, to determine what it is. (I.1094a18) -- Aristotle


1. From Wiki: Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.

2. Csíkszentmihályi (the person who proposed this) described flow as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost"

3. From 'Finding Flow' by the same author "It could be singing in a choir, programming a computer, dancing, playing bridge, reading a good book. Or this complete immersion in the activity may occur in a social interaction, as when good friends talk with each other, or when a mother plays with her baby. What is common to such moments is that consciousness is full of experiences, and these experiences are in harmony with each other. Contrary to what happens all too often in everyday life, in moments such as these what we feel, what we wish, and what we think are in harmony"


1. Laya according to hindy philosophy "is a state of mental quietude".

2. " Laya is a stillness brought about by the application of an external force. This `force' may be the sudden upsurge of emotion of which one is unaware or the planned breath regulation of which one is aware. In either case there is an external agency causing the thought vacuum. When the application of this force is withdrawn, the mind returns to its original state"

3. "Whether unconsciously in the act of something as simple as tying your shoe lace, or in a moment of deep joy or sorrow, to a conscious fusion of the mind in the wonder of nature, music, dance, creativity, or through breath-regulation or concentration on an object, laya may occur".

Highest Good

Quoting from my prior post, "I think those actions that let one person forget about himself/herself are inherently good. When a musician performs passionately; when a tennis player gets ready to return a serve; when a scientist discusses the veracity of a theory with his colleague; possibly even when the cashier is in the midst of counting cash -- there is a possibility of the doer of the above actions losing track of themselves.It is possible that they forget their identity and in that instant, whatever they are doing is not for themselves. If that possibility manifests, then I think the action is of highest good"


I am quite delighted that what I currently consider to be the "Highest good" is very similar to the idea of "Flow" in Western philosophy ( a very recent idea, as late as 1990) and the idea of "Laya" from Indian Philosophy. It has reinforced what I consider to be the 'purpose' of life. I now strongly think that I should try and maximize experiences that "flow", according to the above definition of flow.

P.S: Apparently, The guy who proposed flow, Csíkszentmihályi's name is pronounced ('Chick-sent-me-high' :)

Pathological Murderers, psychotic killers, obsessive compulsive rapists could be in flow/laya when indulging in their respective crimes. Could these actions be classified as highest good ? May be it is not an if and only if law. Hannibal Lecter could have been a really good person then :).
That is a reasonable comment.

I have not yet clearly organized my thoughts here...but let me try.

When somebody talks about an action being 'good', they generally have another end , which they want to optimize. For eg. peace may be 'good' as opposed to 'war' if you want to maximize the life expectancy of people. In other words, what is 'good' has always been depend on the moral code that is practiced.

What I mean by 'good' is 'independent' of any end or moral code. For example, the society terms Hannibal Lecter as pathological -- but Hannibal Lecter is perfectly reasonable from his view point.
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