Desires are the root cause of misery, as declared by Lord Buddha more than 2500 years ago. Therefore, desires should be reduced to the minimum. But an aspiration gives us a reason for living. An aspiration gives a purpose to our life. An aspiration leads us towards a better and more meaningful existence. An aspiration is a desirable desire.
An aspiration is not an ambition. An ambition is usually a material goal, e.g. becoming a doctor, or becoming a millionaire. When the ambition is achieved, one has the choice of treating it as the final destination, or as a milestone on way to another ambition. An aspiration is neither material, nor a station reached in the course of a journey. An aspiration is limited to the direction in which the journey will be performed, the manner in which the journey will be performed, the way choices will be made while on the journey, and so on. The journey may have a destination, but that is not the primary concern. An ambition may or may not be fulfilled. But a sincere aspiration is always realized.
What may an aspiration be like? A good example is an aspiration for self-improvement. We may think that we are good. But very few of us can truly say that we cannot become better. Becoming better than we are may look like a very simple aspiration. Yes, it is simple, but it is not easy. Since there is always room for improvement, self-improvement is a life-long journey. After we have become a little better than we are, we find it is possible to become still better, and so on. Thus the process of self-improvement never really comes to an end. Another name for this life-long journey of self-improvement is yoga. The aspiration for self-improvement is not only perfectly compatible with worldly life, it is essential for worthwhile worldly existence. It is not enough to be a doctor or a teacher; one should be a good doctor or a good teacher. A good doctor is a good person along with being a doctor; a good teacher is a good person along with being a teacher. To put it ‘mathematically’,
A doctor + A good person = A good doctor
A teacher + A good person = A good teacher
If the good doctor or good teacher has an aspiration for self-improvement, he becomes a better person. As the good person turns into a better person, he also becomes a better doctor or a better teacher.
Aspiration is one of the three major tools in the yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother: the other two are rejection and surrender. According to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the aspiration should be intense and sincere but not impatient. Calm and steady effort towards the aspiration, and rejection of all that comes in way of the aspiration, is all that is required of us. For the rest, it is enough to surrender to the Divine.
(From a work in progress: Timeless Wisdom in Small Doses)