Free of Ambition You Can Find Your True Vocation

From Krishnamurti’s Book LIFE AHEAD

One of the causes of fear is ambition, is it not? And are you all not ambitious? What is your ambition? To pass some examination? To become a governor? Or, if you are very young, perhaps you just want to become an engine-driver, to drive engines across a bridge. But why are you ambitious? What does it mean? Have you ever thought about it? Have you noticed older people, how ambitious they are? In your own family, have you not heard your father or your uncle talk about getting more salary, or occupying some prominent position? In our society – and I have explained what our society is, everybody is doing that, trying to be on top. They all want to become somebody, do they not? The clerk wants to become the manager, the manager wants to become something bigger, and so on and so on – the continual struggle to become. If I am a teacher, I want to become the principal; if I am the principal, I want to become the manager. If you are ugly, you want to be beautiful. Or you want to have more money, more saris, more clothes, more furniture, houses, property – more and more and more. Not only outwardly, but also inwardly, in the so-called spiritual sense, you want to become somebody, though you cover that ambition by a lot of words. Have you not noticed that? And you think it is perfectly all right, don’t you? You think it is perfectly normal, justifiable, right.

Now, what has ambition done in the world? So few of us have ever thought about it. When you see a man struggling to gain, to achieve, to get ahead of somebody else, have you ever asked yourself what is in his heart? If you will look into your own heart when you are ambitious, when you are struggling to become somebody, spiritually or in the wordily sense, you will find there the worm of fear. The ambitious man is the most frightened of men, because he is afraid to be what he is. He says, ‘If remain what I am, I shall be nobody, therefore I must be somebody, I must become a magistrate, a judge, a minister’. If you examine this process very closely, if you go behind the screen of words and ideas, beyond the wall of status and success, you will find there is fear; because the ambitious man is afraid to be what he is. He thinks that what he is in himself is insignificant, poor, ugly; he feels lonely, utterly empty, therefore he says, ‘I must go and achieve something’. So either he goes after what he calls God, which is just another form of ambition, or he tries to become somebody in the world. In this way his loneliness, his sense of inward emptiness – of which he is really frightened – is covered up. He runs away from it, and ambition becomes the means through which he can escape.

So, what is happening in the world? Everybody is fighting somebody. One man feels less than another and struggles to get to the top. There is no love, there is no consideration, there is no deep thought. Or society is a constant battle of man against man. This struggle is born of the ambition to become somebody, and the older people encourage you to be ambitious. They want you to amount to something, to marry a rich man or a rich woman, to have influential friends. Being frightened, ugly in their hearts, they try to make you like themselves; and you in turn want to be like them, because you see the glamour of it all. When the governor comes, everybody bows down to the earth to receive him, they give him garlands, make speeches. He loves it, and you love it too. You feel honoured if you know his uncle or his clerk, and you bask in the sunshine of his ambition, his achievements. So you are easily caught in the ugly web of the older generation, in the pattern of this monstrous society. Only if you are very alert, constantly watchful, only if you are not afraid and do not accept, but question all the time – only then will you not be caught, but go beyond and create a different world.

That is why it is very important for you to find your true vocation. Do you know what ‘vocation’ means? Something which you love to do, which is natural to you. After all, that is the function of education – to help you to grow independently so that you are free of ambition and can find your true vocation. The ambitious man has never found his true vocation; if he had, he would not be ambitious.

So, it is the responsibility of the teachers, of the principal, to help you to be intelligent, unafraid, so that you can find your true vocation, your own way of life, the way you really want to live and earn your livelihood. This implies a revolution in thinking; because, in our present society, the man who can talk, the man who can write, the man who can rule, the man who has a big car, is thought to be in a marvellous position; and the man who digs in the garden, who cooks, who builds a house, is despised.

Are you aware of your own feelings when you look at a mason, at the man who mends the road, or drives a taxi, or pulls a cart? Have you noticed how you regard him with absolute contempt? To you he hardly even exists. You disregard him; but when a man has a title of some kind, or is a banker, a merchant, a guru, or a minister, you immediately respect him. But if you really find your true vocation, you will help to break down this rotten system completely; because then, whether you are a gardener, or a painter, or an engineer, you will be doing something which you love with your whole being; and that is not ambition. To do something marvellously well, to do it completely, truly, according to what you deeply think and feel – that is not ambition and in that there is no fear.

To help you to discover your true vocation is very difficult, because it means that the teacher has to pay a great deal of attention to each student to find out what he is capable of. He has to help him not to be afraid, but to question, to investigate. You may be a potential writer, or a poet, or a painter. Whatever it is, if you really love to do it, you are not ambitious; because in love there is no ambition.

So, is it not very important while you are young that you should be helped to awaken your own intelligence and thereby find your true vocation? Then you will love what you do, right through life, which means there will be no ambition, no competition, no fighting another for position, for prestige; and then perhaps you will be able to create a new world. In that new world all the ugly things of the older generation will cease to exist – their wars, their mischief, their separative gods, their rituals which mean absolutely nothing, their sovereign governments, their violence. That is why the responsibility of the teachers, and of the students, is very great.

Questioner: If somebody has an ambition to be an engineer, does it not mean that he is interested in engineering? Krishnamurti: Would you say that being interested in something is ambition? We can give to that word ‘ambition’ various meanings. To me, ambition is the outcome of fear. But if as a boy I am interested in being an engineer because I want to build beautiful structures, marvellous irrigation systems, splendid roads, it means I love engineering; and that is not ambition. In love there is no fear.

So, ambition and interest are two different things, are they not? If I am really interested in painting, if I love to paint, then I do not compete to be the best or the most famous painter. I just love painting. You may be better at painting than I, but I do not compare myself with you. When I paint, I love what I am doing, and for me that is sufficient in itself.