Meditation and Ambition

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Meditation and Ambition

Postby Ashitaka21 » Mon Apr 20, 2009 4:12 am

Are the two separate entities? Can you use meditation to help fuel your ambition?

I understand that meditation is supposed to help you discover what you WANT in life, and what direction you really want to pursue.

I started a similar thread titled "Meditation and University Studies" a little while back and got some great responses. This thread is a little different. I have noticed that I am not as ambitious as I once was, before I started meditation. I want to become a filmmaker, and I have a knack for it. After beginning meditation, I seem almost indifferent to filmmaking, along with my studies and many other aspects of life that were once important to me. I think completely differently sometimes - I take in the moment, and that's all I care about. Creative thoughts have been abated, with my focus on ONE thought at a time. I generally focus on what is in front of me - this has hindered my imagination, and my ambitious nature.

Has meditation blunted my thirst for greatness and utilizing all my talents? I understand that being "great" can be seen as vain, but why can't we dream? Does anyone have any ideas?

Thanks for your time,

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Re: Meditation and Ambition

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Apr 20, 2009 5:15 am

Greetings Ashitaka,

With insight into the true nature of things (impermanence, not-self, suffering) that comes from vipassana meditation, the inclination to take up pursuits that are imbued with these characteristics may well diminish.

Generally speaking, ambition is a craving to become something and for things to be other than they are. On the other hand, the Buddhist path turns away from craving and becoming. Use your meditation practices to examine your ambition... see what these ambitious thoughts are rooted in. If they are rooted in greed, aversion or delusion, then they are unwholesome and will tend to unpleasant mental results. If they are rooted in generosity/renunciation, lovingkindness and wisdom then they are wholesome and will tend to positive mental results.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Meditation and Ambition

Postby appicchato » Mon Apr 20, 2009 6:32 am

Ashitaka21 wrote:Can you use meditation to help fuel your ambition?


Not a good idea...if I were asked... :smile:
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Re: Meditation and Ambition

Postby Ashitaka21 » Mon Apr 20, 2009 2:14 pm

Why can't I aspire to be a great filmmaker? Is that so wrong? Is it conceited, is it vain? Look a David Lynch. He practices TM and still makes amazing films. I would say he at least has a little ambition still even after 30 years of meditating. I don't understand.

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Re: Meditation and Ambition

Postby clw_uk » Mon Apr 20, 2009 2:19 pm

Ambition is craving and clinging


Craving and clinging will lead to Dukka



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Re: Meditation and Ambition

Postby rowyourboat » Mon Apr 20, 2009 10:19 pm

unless you are hoping to be a monk, then better think of livelihood as well - you cannot meditate when you are hungry :broke:
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Re: Meditation and Ambition

Postby clw_uk » Mon Apr 20, 2009 10:24 pm

rowyourboat wrote:unless you are hoping to be a monk, then better think of livelihood as well - you cannot meditate when you are hungry :broke:



Doesnt have to be ambitous however, living to sustatin oneself can provide food without the greed of ambition



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Re: Meditation and Ambition

Postby Ashitaka21 » Tue Apr 21, 2009 1:40 am

I do not understand. If I have dreams, I should just let go of them? That would be sad - my talents would be wasted. Why am I vested with such talents then? I want to be compassionate to others and practice loving kindness, but why can't this coexist with my ambition? It's almost as if meditation "brainwashes" you to become happy because you throw your talents away. What does that accomplish? Yes, you will be happy and nice to others, but you would never challenge yourself. I have much to learn, I know. I just don't understand why I can't utilize my talents?

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Re: Meditation and Ambition

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Apr 21, 2009 1:56 am

Greetings Ashitaka21,

No one is saying you should "throw away" or reject anything.

The point is that with the increased mindfulness and wisdom that arises through Buddhist practice and mental development, your mind (of its own volition) will no longer cling to worldly dreams, goals and aspirations. When the mind realises that craving is suffering, the mind will no longer want to crave, just as you have no inclination to walk into an electric fence. The mind will seek peace and refuge from craving because it comes to see the danger in it.

Where you're at now, you do not apparently see the danger in ambition... the way it reinforces a sense of self (note how many times you use "I" and "my" in the above post), the way craving unsettles the mind, the way that unfilfilled dreams and ambition brings discontent, the way ambition entangles the mind in samsaric matters, the dissatisfaction that comes with the present moment not matching your utopia. No one can make you see these things if you do not see them for yourself... you may simply not be ready to "let them go", and so be it.

You are seeing a conflict here, but I would recommend not to focus too much on the perceived conflict, because the good news is it should resolve itself in due course. In the meantime, if you've not done so, further investigate the Buddha's teachings on anicca (impermanence) and anicca (not-self).

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Meditation and Ambition

Postby Fede » Tue Apr 21, 2009 8:26 am

I will say how it is with me:

My "ambition" is to be the best person I could hope to be.
My ambition is to consciously and mindfully absorb the Four Noble Truths and accept them as absolute sacrosanct fact, to adhere devotedly to the Eightfold Path, and to keep and observe the Five precepts.
I know I am in the cycle of Samsara.
I strive to reach a time when I can leave it. I am coming to terms and to grips with the concept of Self-and Not-Self.... I am aware that I am simply a collection of impermanent aggregates, and I am daily more and more convinced of re-birth as a logical and understandable process.....
(Don't ask me to expound all this in a scholarly manner. I cannot, but I know within myself what I know, and I am learning and expanding as I go...

(Yes, plenty of "I" there.... )

If, during this progress, I diligently strive to achieve Right Intention, Right Mindfulness and Right Livelihood, it must naturally follow, and be logical, that what I do externally will reflect my inner striving.

So it doesn't matter if I am a successful film-maker, or a successful road-sweeper.
My focus of effort lies within me, not externally.
But it's reflected.

How could it not be?
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


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Re: Meditation and Ambition

Postby clw_uk » Tue Apr 21, 2009 8:54 am

Ashitaka21 wrote:I do not understand. If I have dreams, I should just let go of them? That would be sad - my talents would be wasted. Why am I vested with such talents then? I want to be compassionate to others and practice loving kindness, but why can't this coexist with my ambition? It's almost as if meditation "brainwashes" you to become happy because you throw your talents away. What does that accomplish? Yes, you will be happy and nice to others, but you would never challenge yourself. I have much to learn, I know. I just don't understand why I can't utilize my talents?

Ashitaka21



It seems your still clinging to a view of "I am" and then projecting this to the future of "I want to do this/be that"


It's almost as if meditation "brainwashes" you to become happy because you throw your talents away. What does that accomplish?


Meditation helps remove ignorance, greed and hatred. This includes removing a view of "I am" and so craving for "I want to be this" since this is a view of self which comes from ignorance. Ignorance will leads on to dukkha so all that happens is more suffering is created. It "accomplishes" (*i put that in brackets as you dont meditate to accomplish but to let go) a complete calm and peacful mind free of any pain, fear, anger and all the other unwholesome states that cause misery in a human life


Now im not telling you how it is or even what to do so please dont think that, this is for you to investigate yourself

My advice would be to truly investigate how clinging to anything (and so having the sense of I am) leads one to Dukkha (this includes goals and ambitions). Investigate how all of conditoned things are Anicca, which is why if they are clung to it will lead to dukkha and how because of this nothing is worth claiming as "mine" "I am" or "me" and so are Anatta


Metta
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Re: Meditation and Ambition

Postby pt1 » Tue Apr 21, 2009 10:26 am

Hi, I’ve been trying to figure out the same thing lately, suffice to say, it’s not easy being a buddhist in entertainment industry. So far, the most important thing seems to be to figure out what is ambition - what mental factors are involved, how does it arise and what drives it – what kind of intention is behind it. In general terms – every action (mental, bodily or verbal) can be driven by intention that’s either unwholesome (rooted in greed, aversion and delusion), or wholesome (rooted in non-greed (generosity), non-aversion (kindness) and non-delusion (wisdom)).

In practical terms, this goes down to being aware of the intention in the present moment. Regardless of what’s the outward action at present – turning the camera on, rewriting a sentence in the script, preparing lunch for the crew, etc – the question is whether that current action is performed on the back of unwholesome or wholesome intention. That is, each action can be performed in either of these two ways - if based on an unwholesome intention at the moment, then I’m using my talents at that moment to my own detriment as well as to detriment of others. If however that same action is based on a wholesome intention, then at that moment I’m using my talents for benefit of others and myself.

So, it’s not that complicated after all, but it takes time and practice to be able to figure out whether the intention at present is actually wholesome or not (and in most cases it turns out to be unwholesome). Besides, in a single day, there will be countless moments and actions, and intentions behind them will keep changing from unwholesome, to wholesome, back to unwholesome, etc. So, that’s probably why mindfulness and watchfulness are advised so often.

Anyway, in the end, the question whether becoming a great filmmaker (or some other occupation) is right or wrong seems a bit pointless because being a filmmaker in practice consists of many small actions performed every day – and each of these has an intention behind it, and it’s the intention that will bring good or bad results in the end.

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Re: Meditation and Ambition

Postby genkaku » Tue Apr 21, 2009 10:57 am

Do what you do and do it whole-heartedly.

Then forget about it.

If there is a mistake, correct it to the best of your ability.

Worrying about what "ambition" is or isn't, worrying about what "Buddhism" is or isn't, is not so much the point. Pay attention and take responsibility. Isn't that enough?

Just do what you do and do it whole-heartedly.

Then forget about it.

If there is a mistake, correct it to the best of your ability.
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Re: Meditation and Ambition

Postby clw_uk » Tue Apr 21, 2009 3:46 pm

Hi, I’ve been trying to figure out the same thing lately, suffice to say, it’s not easy being a buddhist in entertainment industry. So far, the most important thing seems to be to figure out what is ambition - what mental factors are involved, how does it arise and what drives it – what kind of intention is behind it. In general terms – every action (mental, bodily or verbal) can be driven by intention that’s either unwholesome (rooted in greed, aversion and delusion), or wholesome (rooted in non-greed (generosity), non-aversion (kindness) and non-delusion (wisdom)).

In practical terms, this goes down to being aware of the intention in the present moment. Regardless of what’s the outward action at present – turning the camera on, rewriting a sentence in the script, preparing lunch for the crew, etc – the question is whether that current action is performed on the back of unwholesome or wholesome intention. That is, each action can be performed in either of these two ways - if based on an unwholesome intention at the moment, then I’m using my talents at that moment to my own detriment as well as to detriment of others. If however that same action is based on a wholesome intention, then at that moment I’m using my talents for benefit of others and myself.

So, it’s not that complicated after all, but it takes time and practice to be able to figure out whether the intention at present is actually wholesome or not (and in most cases it turns out to be unwholesome). Besides, in a single day, there will be countless moments and actions, and intentions behind them will keep changing from unwholesome, to wholesome, back to unwholesome, etc. So, that’s probably why mindfulness and watchfulness are advised so often.

Anyway, in the end, the question whether becoming a great filmmaker (or some other occupation) is right or wrong seems a bit pointless because being a filmmaker in practice consists of many small actions performed every day – and each of these has an intention behind it, and it’s the intention that will bring good or bad results in the end.



Ambition isnt evil or wrong, it can be wholesome but ambition is tied to a self view since its about wanting to "become" something or "be" someone

Metta
Last edited by clw_uk on Tue Apr 21, 2009 3:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Meditation and Ambition

Postby Jechbi » Tue Apr 21, 2009 3:50 pm

:goodpost: genkaku!

Hello Ashitaka,

I'm going to offer a contrarian viewpoint: Go for it.

My understanding of the Dhamma is that whatever stage we find ourselves at, there is an opportunity right there in that moment for greater wisdom. Ambition is a complex thing. Most of us, if we are not arahants, will have some degree of ambition. Ambition can be a mix of lots of different things, including (as you correctly point out) a desire to help others. Blended with that desire to help others, you might also find some selfishness mixed in (as Retro correctly points out).

But the point is not to kill the ambition that arises in this moment. That, according to my understanding, is contrary to Dhamma practice. Rather, the idea is to recognize amibition as it arises, identify its causes and conditions if you can, understand its nature, and in that very moment do the right thing to the best of your ability.

Sometimes the right thing to do might be this: to make a great film.

But another thing to bear in mind is that ambition (that blend of stuff that will arise whether you want it to or not) doesn't have to be fed. You don't have to identify "ambition" and try to force it to come, or strengthen it, or anything else. Just leave it be. Let it be.

That's the way it is with these kinds of mental phenomena. We have this incorrect notion that we are in complete control, that somehow "I" am ambitious, "I" am kind, "I" am angry, "I" am intelligent. That's all hogwash. None of that stuff is you. Each of those phenomena -- ambition, anger, kindness -- has its causes and conditions. Each will come up of its own accord based on past and present kamma. You don't have full control of any of that stuff. But, with wisdom, you have some control over what you do in this moment no matter what mental condition happens to arise.

Forget about what you think "meditation" might or might not accomplish. It's impossible to separate out meditation from all the other stuff that you do the rest of the time, like right speech, right livelihood, right effort, etc. If you really want to meditate effectively, then knock off the booze, treat everyone as if you love them, be kind to yourself, bath, smile, and so on. In other words, don't isolate meditation and put it on some kind of pedestal. Do meditate. Don't worry about it.

Ashitaka, I'm no teacher, and I'm not even a very good meditator. But I do know you will get a lot better advice if you go to a teacher you trust and share your practice struggles with him or her.

Regardless, be encouraged. Do your best in each moment, applying whatever wisdom you can. It will work out.

Metta
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But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
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Re: Meditation and Ambition

Postby rowyourboat » Tue Apr 21, 2009 6:11 pm

Hello Ashitaka
It is important to be able to maintain/sustain yourself in life- it is also natural that we change as human beings, especially when we start meditating. we will not always want to be what we thought we would be many years ago. meditation has changed my life- i have diverted my life path into something more wholesome along the lines of what I am already doing (it is in the caring professions)- I hope to bring mindfulness and meditation more into my work. So it is best to find a good balance between both- I have been meditating for a few years now and I find that I have amibition, but for wholesome things-that is what gives me satisfaction- my life would have taken a very differnt path if it hadnt been for the dhamma - i would have been interested in the whole money and power game. i dont see my self going down that path for those reasons. having said that there is nothing inherantly wrong with money- it all depends how badly you crave for it and what you plan to use it for. As long as it is not for entirely selfish aims and you dont develop a bad craving for it -nothing inherantly wrong in it IMO-especially if one is on the path and knows what one is doing.
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Re: Meditation and Ambition

Postby Dan74 » Tue Apr 21, 2009 6:41 pm

I do recall a sutta where a performer comes to the Buddha and is instructed to drop his activity as something bolstering delusion (reference?)

In Mahayana, there is Khyentse Norbu who is a lama and film-maker http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dzongsar_Jamyang_Khyentse_Rinpoche making Buddhist films and thereby perhaps circumventing the Buddha's advice to the performer.

I would say that if you make films that cause people to pursue Dhamma or to embrace more wholesome and creative aspects of their lives, then it is not against the Buddha's teaching and an ambition worth having!

The effects you are describing from meditation could be the initial phase. One of the things I've noticed is a kind of openness and that helps creative ideas flow. But I guess it depends on just how much structure and expectation is there in your meditation practice.

Good luck!!!

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Re: Meditation and Ambition

Postby pink_trike » Wed Apr 22, 2009 3:23 am

My ambition is to see as clearly as I can (in the Dharma sense) no matter what I find myself doing - whether it's art, blowing my nose, building my little business empire, or sleeping.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: Meditation and Ambition

Postby AdvaitaJ » Thu Apr 23, 2009 1:13 am

AN 8.54 Thus have I heard. Once the Exalted One was dwelling amongst the Koliyans, in their market town named Kakkarapatta. Then Dighajanu, a Koliyan, approached the Exalted One, respectfully saluted Him and sat on one side. Thus seated, he addressed the Exalted One as follows:

"We, Lord, are laymen who enjoy worldly pleasure. We lead a life encumbered by wife and children. We use sandalwood of Kasi. We deck ourselves with garlands, perfume and unguents. We use gold and silver. To those like us, O Lord, let the Exalted One preach the Dhamma, teach those things that lead to weal and happiness in this life and to weal and happiness in future life."

Conditions of Worldly Progress
"Four conditions, Vyagghapajja, conduce to a householder's weal and happiness in this very life. Which four?

"The accomplishment of persistent effort (utthana-sampada), the accomplishment of watchfulness (arakkha-sampada), good friendship (kalyanamittata) and balanced livelihood (sama-jivikata).

"What is the accomplishment of persistent effort?

"Herein, Vyagghapajja, by whatsoever activity a householder earns his living, whether by farming, by trading, by rearing cattle, by archery, by service under the king, or by any other kind of craft — at that he becomes skillful and is not lazy. He is endowed with the power of discernment as to the proper ways and means; he is able to carry out and allocate (duties). This is called the accomplishment of persistent effort.
...
Ashitaka,

My rookie opinion: Go for it. Just keep your perspective balanced, remember what's really important, and don't crave or cling to success.

Regards: AdvaitaJ
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We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains.
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