AMBITION to man is what fragrance is to a flower. There may be flowers without fragrance; but no man is without ambition. It is a force without constraints or restrictions. It stealthily creeps into the heart of a young man and a young lady alike. The rich man will try to become richer and the poor man to become rich. He will not be contented with two square meals a day. If he was to be so he is certainly not ambitious. The man who has renounced his material life is also not free from ambition. His ambition is to seek the ultimate truth. Whatever one’s age or status be, every one nurses in his heart of hearts a secret ambition. It is born out of today’s discontent and looks up to a better and more satisfying tomorrow. It is a driving force that spurs the inactive into action, a force that shakes off the lethargy, like the west wind that sweeps off the dust from the ground. It is because of ambition that nobody likes to remain as a nobody, and everybody would like to be somebody, somebody – good, great, powerful and wise as the great Shakespeare has said:
Why then, the world’s mine oyster
Which I, with my sword, will open
It cuts, like a sword, the outer shell, to bring the inner pearl out.
Ambition is, like a sword both an asset and a liability. It can make a man to succeed in his life or career. It may bring all the bounteous things in life; finally he may become the object of admiration; people may worship and emulate him. He will become a living legend. Such people are the ones who make history and fill its pages. Gandhiji, Pandit Nehru and Vallabhai Patel belong to this category. Their life is a source of inspiration to people, of all times and of all nations. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Vinoba Bhave and Tilak are no less in greatness. That Indian Batsman Sunil Gavaskar who is affectionately referred to as the ‘little master’ has created a legend of his own.
Little known to history are numberless people who have achieved greatness in their little spheres of action, as Grey calls – many a gem of purest ray serene. Burning with an un extinguishable flame of ambition, they too struggle and toil, trekking along with perseverance, surmounting difficulty after difficulty and in the final race they may not be the winners who get trophies. But posterity will certainly remember them. Their names will evoke mixed feelings of joy and sorrow.
Lakshmi Bhai of Jhansi, Netaji Subash Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh, are some of those whose names fill our hearts with thoughts ‘too deep for tears’.
Instead of elevating man to higher realms of divine thoughts, ambition sometimes fills his heart with animal passions of selfishness which inevitably leads him from misery to misery and finally to despair and death. Like the drowning man he causes distress and disaster to all those around him. Italy’s Mussolini and Spain’s Generalissimo Franco are two such. But Hitler of Germany excels by far the other two. The entire world shook because of his un satiating lust, but it was himself and his own Germany that paid heavily. It all began with a foolish notion that Germans were a superior race. Soon the national pride took the ugly shape of national ambition – to prove the superiority of Germany. As a consequence Germany suffered a crushing defeat resulting in its partition and Hitler died an ignoble death, with none to weep and pray for the peace of his soul.
There are others like Saddam Hussain of Iraq and Ayatollah Khomeni of Iran who are the two latest arrivals on the scene. They are suffused with unbounded ambition that borders monomania. Such people mix religion with politics and employ all pretexts under the sun to project their views. They forget that the essence of religion is tolerance and instead of forgiving, they declare war against their opponents. Nobody knows where such perverted ambition leads us. Already India is paying heavily for such misguided policies of fanatics. Nature will not tolerate such aberrations and one day all will come to nothing; but before that, much innocent blood would be shed.
Lack of ambition too is not a healthy sign. It leads to stagnation and finally to death by degrees. When there is nothing to motivate or inspire; life becomes dull and eventless: Besides, when difficulties crop up, one feels utterly incompetent to face them. They may believe that time is the best healer of all wounds. But such a notion is another form of incompetence. Even God will not help those that cannot help themselves.
Absence of ambition is not contentment. Contentment is the highest form of philosophical outlook. It can never be the outcome of want. If it does, it is not contentment. A hungry man will never experience the feeling of satisfaction; it is only when the hunger is satisfied that contentment can come. Only a rich man can renounce his wealth but not a poor man. If, on one side, he looks at the things he wants with greedy eyes, and on the other, in spite of his suffering, talks of contentment it is likely to be mistaken for weakness and he will be an object of ridicule. But when an Edward renounces his empire for the sake of his lady love, people hail it as the highest form of sacrifice a man can do for the sake of love; again when a Buddha renounces his kingdom people are all appreciation for his high ideals. A man who has his share of life in material luxury, can only think of severing his earthly ties. But material success is not a sufficient condition for sacrifice. It is therefore more desirable to have a noble ideal before us, even if we fail to reach than not to have at all. To love and lose is better than not to love at all.
Therefore it is essential that we all have an ambition in our life. But before you set your goal before you, you must also realize whether it would be possible for you to reach it or not. Without considering the practical aspect of it, it is no use of setting high ideals before you. All of us are not made of the same stuff. Certainly there are inequalities; and the circumstances in which we are placed too vary. Simply because we set our eyes on something great and noble, there is no reason why we should succeed. True, if we aim at the sky we will shoot high. But should we not know how to shoot first? All of us cannot become Gandhis, Nethajis, Buddhas and Nehrus. In all probability, we can, in our private life rise to the heights reached by Othello, but we must take care that we may not fall down like Macbeth, into the pit of hellish fire; or like Faustus to the very hell itself. One may even try to become a Shakespeare, for, before he became the great Shakespeare, he was just like any one who was not inspired by ambition. Therefore, it is better to remember.
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune,
Omitted, all the current of their lives,
Is bound in shallows and in misery