Over the last few months I've distanced myself from my sangha and from Buddhism in general. I still meditate but no longer identify as a Buddhist. One of the things I've noticed is the return of some old ambitions or longer term desires if you like. I don't think they are negative in fact they could have quite positive outcomes though I do recognise that they are driven by a restlessless sort of dissatisfaction.

In the light of my recent experience it makes me wonder if Buddhism necessarily dampens down people's ambitions? Is it possible to be ambitious (in any sense) and a Buddhist or are the two things mutually exclusive. For a Buddhist is ambition a negative thing?

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    There is a sort of fatalistic nihilistic theme being promoted as Buddhism today, which can and does make people think that everything is futile, and take on an attitude of hopelessness. Hopefully groups like this can help stave off such erroneous thinking. Personally, if your ambitions are grounded in compassion and wisdom then I would say go for it. Believe in kamma, that the virtuous, the generous, the compassion, the mindful, the energetic, will succeed. Jan 20, 2016 at 7:36
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    Not intended as an answer to the questions, but a point of discussion: On the one hand, you say you are no longer identifying as a “Buddhist”, but on the other, it sounds like you are still interested in practice of meditation, practice of the Dharma. You might be interested in a couple of Stephen Batchelor’s more recent books: “Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist” & “After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age”.
    – Scott
    Jan 24, 2016 at 15:40
  • LOL @Scott ... I don't think Kaveenga has that level of doubts about his belief. I rather like his matured spirituality, and I love his response. A 'believer' would always feel for Atheists, and have hope that they would eventually rouse (in their live times) to recognize that it's all just too beautiful to have been accidental ... or to end with our dying. Sep 1, 2020 at 22:34

5 Answers 5


Well, Before we continue you must ask why you gave up the identity "Being a Buddhist" and you should also ask why are you still here in this SE. I am not trying to be rude.i'm saying this to make you realize the deceiving side of the mind.It is important you understand this and come up with solutions.

Now Lets talk about the ambitions part, Let me tell you a story I learned it from a monk. this will give you a direct answer.....

One day a man (lets call him Paul) visited an old friend of him (Lets call him Tom). This friend was a farmer and he had a large piece of land which he used to farm. Paul looked around and saw that there is not much of farming going on, only a small part of Tom's land was being used for farming. So Paul asked Tom

"Why are you not using the whole piece of land?, You know what you shold farm the whole thing." "So then what should i do?"asked Tom.

Paul said "Oh, then you should start a little shop near the house and start selling some of your harvest."

"OK, looks like a good idea,so what's next" asked Tom.

"Then you should work hard and make it successful and you should start few more shops like that and get them to success too." said Paul.

"Right,then what should i do?" said Tom.

"My friend then you got good money, that would be a nice time to settle down and have a nice family" said Paul.

"Yeah,nice. So what should i do next?" asked Tom.

"Then take care of your Family and kids and once they are young teach them your business and once they are ready let them take care of your farm and business." said Paul.

"OK Paul. then what i should do?" Said Tom.

"Then what man, you got all things covered, you have a nice family and a successful business and you will be rich too. So enjoy your life and live in peace. Let your children take care of your things." said Paul.

Then Tom said something that amazed Paul, "My friend i know you mean well but here's the thing, I know i haven't farmed all my fields and i don't have a lavish life or a wife. But i'm happy with what i have and what i am. Today i have enough to live a happy life and yes i have little but this is what i always needed. There is not a single thing that i have to dream of. A simple life to live in peace is all i ever wanted and what i have right now. Why should i work so many years to pile up many things just to find peace at the end when i have peace in my life right now?"

You should ask a question from your self, and that is

"Who do i want to be, Tom or Paul?

And after that you could work your way from there. What is missing in your practice is "Not knowing what you really need".

Being a buddhist is all about understanding who you are what you are after. Until you have answers to those two questions you are obviously lost. So ask yourself what you need and choose which type of Buddhist you want to be.

There are two kinds of practices to Lay people...

The stallion :- This path is simple. The only goal is nirvana and there is no stopping until the target is met. you could call this "Hardcore lay person practice". These fortunate ones live simple lives and their only goal "Nirvana" is their goal.

The turtle :- The path is slow but shielded. These fortunate ones live happy normal lives. Their goal is also nirvana but there's a catch. They have decided to reach a higher realm and start their "Stallion stage" and until then they will obey to the "Five precepts" and live a proper Buddhist life. But they will live like any other person with worldly goals in life. The only shield they have is their "Sila (Protecting the precepts) & Shraddha (undying trust on triple gems)". They are taking a big risk here, but they are confident about their Shraddha.

Choose your life my friend....


Path does not make you a boring person. You have realized the true nature of the world and you are no longer driven by the lust of lavish things. This is why it does not feel the same.

But you still have attachments to live like there is no tomorrow. Party & get high not to mention the ladies.

But your mind is giving you mixed signals here. There is a reason why... this happens because of you not deciding a life between these two. So your mind goes back and forth.

My advice is choose your life. either be a "Stallion" or a "Turtle".


May the triple gems bless you!

  • What an enriching reply. Thank you so much for sharing it. Sep 1, 2020 at 22:39

Immoral ambitions are the only ambitions which a Buddhist layman isn't allowed to pursue.

ex: if your ambition involves killing, stealing, lying etc. or any wrong livelihood.

There's really no valid excuse for giving up Buddhism for the sake of an ambition when a man can even be a king and a Buddhist at the same time.

ex: king Bimbisara, king Dharmasoka


If we don't have ambition to practice whatever approach to Buddhism we are practicing then we aren't going to get that far.

Ambition for things other than Dharma will tend to lessen the effectiveness of our practice although certain things are more useful than others.

Having an ambition for teaching or psychology is going to probably help our practice more than having an ambition for selling weapons or being a movie star(for example).


One needs to have ambitions to gain liberation, yes. The rest will be hindrances.

(Just for information: There is no such as "my" Sangha. [that is actually very "Buddhist", I and my making] There is only Buddhas Sangha and if spoken form it, it refers to the monastic Sangha. If you talk about your group, using parisa is most proper. So people and you do not get confused, as well as your mind does not see things wrong. Weather distance your self for the conventional Sangha nor distance your self form the ideal, will be of benefit for you. Step away for YOUR community might be a great start, although there is no physical need. Trying to be a Buddhist is of course the most wrong ambition, yet they naturally are like that. That what makes the Buddhists. If you like to walk the path, it's certainly another lane, Mr Crab Bucket.)


Buddhism helps you achieve your ambitions better. When you make decisions you are void of any -ve roots which might adversely influence your decisions. This lead to better decision which are proactive than reactive.

Distancing yourself from a crowd may help you put more time into meditation and other priorities but nevertheless Buddhism help in both your worldly and spiritual targets. Also both should be in balance. Say your destitute then you have not time or the mindset for spiritual pratice.

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