Ambition and Love

It has been said that if you have ambition you cannot love anybody. I agree with that. When one is preoccupied with one’s desires and ambitions, then all one’s efforts are aimed at fulfilling those desires and ambitions. At that time you cannot love anyone, whether son, brother, father or wife. The ambition becomes supreme, whether it is to become a leader, earn wealth or attain knowledge.

However, you must understand the difference between ambition and duty. Educating your children or providing for your family, for example, is not ambition; these are duties. Duty is that which you must do, ambition is that which is not necessary but you still pursue it. Duty is necessary; it is a dharma, ambition is not a dharma. Ambition is born when you compare yourself with others. When you notice that your neighbour is very rich, you also aspire to become rich like him. When your friend acquires an MBBS degree, you are also possessed by an aspiration to acquire a degree. What you are really aspiring for is importance. The expectation of being accorded importance is ambition.

When you educate your children or do something for the sake of your family, you do not do it to assume importance. That is your duty, you will do it even if you don’t like it. For example, you are a teacher in a school and you do your job diligently. As a result, you begin to receive recognition and the praise makes you feel encouraged. This is not ambition. You are performing a duty, the duty of a teacher. However, when you receive praise in such situations, you must check yourself from time to time. The way you need to sweep a room every day to keep it clean, you need to check yourself from time to time. Say to yourself, “I am a teacher and I have to perform my duty – to teach my students wholeheartedly, to be completely interested in them.” It is the same as the duty of parents. Now, if that duty is praised, you receive recognition and that sense of importance enters your heart, you are finished. If you live in the world, you will of course receive praise and accorded importance, but that should not pollute your mind. Just think, “I am a teacher, and this is the way I must do my work.” That’s all.

The difference between duty and ambition lies in that those who are faithful to their duty can love others. But an ambitious person cannot love anyone with a true heart. Anyone who is ambitious is selfish. This is my experience.

I have been observing people for over sixty years. In whosoever I saw ambitiousness, I also saw selfishness in them. The disciples in whom I did not detect ambition, who only performed their duty, I saw love in them. They were considerate towards others. They wanted to fulfil their duty towards others. But those who are ambitious are only concerned about their ambition. They even forget the guru.

I am not undermining ambition. It is not as if ambitiousness is a bad thing. It is human nature to want to feel important. But ambition is a very big hindrance in spiritual life. If we aspire to achieve importance while living a spiritual life, if we wish that people should look up to us, we don’t progress.