I had a previous question on the need to feel proud of ourselves. I was neutrally observing my thoughts and feelings when I was feeling proud of myself or feeling ashamed of myself. This led to a discovery in me that it was because of the desire to achieve. I want to achieve God's grace, achieve a social status, achieve success in my career, achieve happiness and wisdom through meditation, achieve others approval and appreciation, achieve popularity and so on. I think 24/7 my thoughts and judgements are all about the need to achieve something. Is this okay?

If I get detached from this achievement desire, what will it lead to? And how can we overcome this achievement oriented obsession?

3 Answers 3


That’s the way it is in the beginning. Everyone wants to succeed. Who would not want to @ Ashwin Kumar? But as you are now working with it both in meditation and being neutral, you begin to notice that you can observe things in the mind you wouldn’t be able to observe any other way: how it changes its mind, how one intention can sneak up on you to sabotage a previous intention. If you’re careful, you can see these things. If you’re alert and mindful, you begin to notice the tricks the mind plays on itself. As you get better and better at the meditation, you learn how to undo those tricks, work your way around them, find exactly what it is in the mind that wants to wander off anyhow.

You start entering into a dialogue with all your different skillful and unskillful ideas, your skillful and unskillful intentions. And you start converting more and more of your mind to the skillful side. That right there is an important achievement. Bit by bit you begin to figure out all the different ins and outs of the mind. You develop a greater sense of unity, not only in getting the mind to stay with the breath in a state of good strong concentration, but also in getting more and more of your mind on the side of wanting to do what is correct. That’s what right effort is all about, learning how to generate desire to do what’s skillful and to drop what’s unskillful.


The Buddha taught there are two kinds of desire:

(1) Ignorant desire (tanha): which seeks unwholesome & harmful things;

(2) Wise desire (samma sankappa; chanda iddhipada): which seeks wholesome & beneficial things.

The Buddha praised worldly achievements such as having a good reputation, good friends and vocational skill & learning. Refer to Maha-mangala Sutta & Sigalovada Sutta.

The Buddha taught you will succeed at what you want to achieve if you have four qualities, which are: (1) love & devotion (chanda); (2) energy & persistence (viriya); (3) mental focus (citta); & (4) analytical investigation (vimansa).

One who desires progress and success in life, be it in the field of education, occupation or livelihood, is advised to abide by the following principles:

A. The principles of growth: to practice according to the teachings that guide life to prosperity and eminence known as the four cakka (the conditions likened to the four wheels that carry a vehicle to its destination):

Patirupadesavasa: choosing a suitable environment; to choose a suitable location in which to live, study or work, where there are people and an environment conducive to learning and betterment in life, to the pursuit of the truth, virtue and knowledge, and the generation of goodness and prosperity.

Sappurisupassaya: associating with good people; to seek association or alliance with people who are learned and virtuous and who will support one's pursuit of the truth, virtue and knowledge, and one's advancement and growth in a rightful way.

Attasammapanidhi: establishing oneself rightly; to establish oneself firmly in virtue and a right way of life; to establish a clear and virtuous goal for one's life and work, and set oneself resolutely and firmly on the right path to that goal, not wavering or being negligent.

Pubbekatapunnata: having a good "capital foundation"; one portion of this capital foundation comprises innate qualities such as intelligence, aptitude and a healthy body; the other is, on the basis of that foundation, knowing how to rectify or improve oneself, to seek further knowledge, to strengthen good qualities and to train oneself in preparation for when these qualities are needed, to be ready to welcome success, to bring about welfare and happiness and to advance to even greater heights.


B. The principles of success: practicing according to the four conditions that lead to the success of any undertaking, known as the iddhipada (pathways to success):

Chanda: having a heart of zeal; to be keen to do something, and to do it for the love of it; to wish to bring an activity or task to its optimum fruition, not simply doing it to get it out of the way or merely for reward or material gain.

Viriya: doing with effort; to be diligent and apply oneself to a task with effort, fortitude, patience and perseverance, not abandoning it or becoming discouraged, but striving ever onward until success is attained.

Citta: committing oneself to the task; to establish one's attention on the task in hand and do it thoughtfully, not allowing the mind to wander; to apply one's thought to the matter regularly and consistently and do the task or action devotedly.

Vimamsa: using wise investigation; to diligently apply wise reflection to examine cause and effect within what one is doing and to reflect on, for example, its pros and cons, gains and shortcomings or obstructions. This can be achieved by experimenting, planning and evaluating results, and devising solutions and improvements in order to manage and carry out the activity in hand so as to achieve better results.

When applied to the work situation, for example, these four conditions may, in short, be remembered as love of work, tenacity, dedication and circumspection.



mana (pride & conceit) is the 9. fetter. It does not only mean feeling superior than somebody else, but also feeling inferior or feeling equal.

These views are wrong, because they are not true in an absolute sense, since they are based on the illusion of self. Who is feeling proud? Who wants to achieve? I suggest to read those two very good articles about mana: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/various/bl014.html

  • Here are two methods to counteract conceit from the first article:
  1. Recognize Conceit whenever he pops up and name him. This as readers will remember is the advise given by Nyanaponika Thera in his valuable articles in "Sangha." Mara, like Satan, hates to be recognized. This practice is doubly effective because it "keeps one on one's toes," and induces a real dislike of the tendency.

  2. Get back to the first two "steps" of the Noble Eightfold Path (a) Right Understanding of the mental quality or capacity involved: to see according to reality "This (quality) is not mine; I am not this; there is no self in it"; (b) Right Aspiration towards the expunging of Conceit. In the Discourse on Expunging (Majjh. Nik. I.8) we read "Now I say that the arising of thoughts is very helpful in regard to skilled states of mind. Therefore the thought should arise 'Others may be harmful; as to this we will not be harmful' and so on for all our evil propensities. Others may be conceited; but we as to this will not be conceited.'"

  • Reflection on death can be useful: Would these thoughts, things I'm trying to achieve, trying to be really matter in the moment of death?

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