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The Cost of Ambition

Q: My question is about being ambitious. When you are ambitious, you plan your life in a particular direction, and you take some steps at the expense of others…

Sadhguru: What is your business anyway?

Q: I am into financial markets.

Sadhguru: You were saying, “at the expense of someone.” Everything is at the expense of someone. The house in which you live may be very comfortable for you. But to build a building like that, I do not know how many worms, insects and other creatures have suffered immensely. We have committed genocides. If we are conscious of this, we will do things only to the extent necessary – nothing more, nothing less. If we become unconscious, we will do things blatantly, in excess.

Choose From Humanity, Not Vanity

Who is to decide how much is necessary? You decide, but from your humanity, not from your vanity. If you decide from your humanity, you will make a decision. It may not be in line with my decision about what is necessary for me, maybe it is more, maybe it is less, but that’s okay. As long as you decide from your humanity, not from your vanity – not because you want your stuff to be bigger than your neighbours’ stuff. If you genuinely decide what is actually needed for you, it is fine. Is it the right thing? We do not know. The ants, the bees and the birds, most of the creatures on the planet will not agree with us. But as they have to live, we also have to live.

But we must understand, as we have to live, they also have to live. If we understand this and do whatever we are doing, it is fine. If we forget this, that is when we go berserk and do things which will ultimately destroy us, not them. Scientific studies say that if all the insects on the planet disappear today, in just a few years’ time, all life on the planet will be wiped out. Our life and the life of the insects are so closely related. And if all the microbial creatures disappear, you will die right now because more than half of you is bacteria. There is more bacteria in you than yourself.

If you understand this, you know the bacteria, the worms, the insects, the animals, the trees and the plants should stay healthy. Otherwise we will not exist. Do it either out of your humanity or at least out of your intelligence. Whether you apply your dry intelligence or a feeling of humanity, both ways, you will do the same thing because they are not different. They are two different approaches. But if you do not have an overflowing sense of humanity or the intelligence to see far enough, you become a disaster.

Ambition is Your Own Mission

So, if you realise that the financial market is truly at the cost of someone else all the time, maybe you must change your business. How do you live with something which is always at someone else’s cost? Once in a way, if we cross pathways and it is at someone’s cost – all right, we have to live with it. But every moment of our life, whatever we do, if it is at someone else’s cost, then we will have to change our activity.

Anyway, it has nothing to do with your ambition. Ambition is essentially a mission, but it is about you. It is good to have a mission, but let it not be about you. If your mission is about everything around you, you will see, anyway you will get the windfall. There is no question about it.

There is no one in the world who is devoid of humanity. It is only a question of scale. For one person, humanity means himself. He is bothered about humanity, but only one human being. For another person, his idea of humanity is him and his family. This is the one usually referred to as “the corrupt man.” Another man’s sense of humanity is him and his community. He wants to kill the others. Another man’s humanity is him and his nation. He wants to destroy the rest. Another man’s sense of humanity is all of humanity. Another man’s sense of humanity includes all life around us which supports this life. So everybody has humanity. It is only a question of scale.

Scaling Up

This is why I am telling you, let us do things in the largest scale possible. Your thought, your emotion, your humanity must happen at the highest scale, because only then your activity will not be at someone else’s cost. If you are ambitious, why don’t you do it in a big way? Make your love very big. Why should you just love that girl in the neighbourhood? Love the entire neighbourhood, what is the problem? There is no price to it. And not just your neighbourhood, look out into the ocean and fall in love with the ocean. There is no price to it, and it is not at anybody’s cost.

Just because you love everyone that you see, it does not mean someone else cannot love them too. All those things which are not at anybody’s cost, you must scale them up to the fullest size. Material things are always at somebody else’s cost. Let us keep that only to the extent necessary. How much is necessary, I will leave it to you. I will not make a judgment about that, nor should you make a judgment about somebody. How much is necessary, let it be your decision. But just be sane enough to see that these decisions are happening out of your humanity, not out of fancy vanity.


Sadhguru. Named one of India’s 50 most influential people, Sadhguru is a yogi, mystic, a bestselling author & poet. Sadhguru has been conferred the “Padma Vibhushan” by the Government of India in 2017, the highest civilian award of the year, accorded for exceptional and distinguished service.

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