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  • Writer's pictureLama Jigme Gyatso

Ambition, Peace, and Meditation

Good afternoon P., thank you for asking "How does Buddhism reconcile ambition with the extinction of desire?"

The greatest difficulties in Buddhism come from making literal interpretations of figurative teachings; for humans evolved to think symbolically and similes, metaphors, and hyperbole abound.

From a certain point of view the FIRST noble truth could be explained thusly... there are stressors: some circumstantial, some physiological, some social, and some mental. Don't fool yourself, complex lifeforms evolved this ability to perceive stressors NOT as a philosophical shortcoming BUT as a survival mechanism. For those entities of the past, bereft of such instincts, did NOT live long enough to pass on their genetic traits.

Rudimentary lifeforms developed the primal drives of shoving, reaching, clinging, and competing that they might live long enough to reproduce. These actions were rewarded by their dopamine-oriented reward systems.

Over a vast ocean of millennia mammals evolved, each with a neo cortex armed with an oxytocin-oriented system that rewarded NOT for mere procreation and survival BUT for selfless and mutually nurturing relationships.

The SECOND noble truth observes that when our under-brains' primal drives of shoving, reaching, clinging, and competing dominate our over-brain's choices, utterances, and deeds our experience of stress is multiplied.

The THIRD noble truth is that it is possible to perceive the drives of our under-brain with OUT being controlled by them.

The FOURTH noble truth is that the Buddha's path of freedom from the tyranny of our under-brain in eight-fold, easy to practice, and easy to master.

The lesson of the seven enlightenment factors is to choose flexibility over rigidity, love over fear, laid back over controlling, and egalitarian over elitism. When ambition drives our scatteredness or our controlling tendencies our stresses are multiplied. However when ambition is channeled by the centered spontaneity of our choices, utterances, and deeds then peace, joy, and love abound.

How are we to cultivate this centered spontaneity that is the middle point between the two extremes of contrivance and scatteredness? By practicing the Buddha's eight fold path.

If you have further questions on this subject reach out to me over Reddit's chat. Until then may you and yours be happy and healthy. - L. Jigme

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