Is Competition Wrong?

Competition is vital to our current social structure. Businesses compete for the best employees, schools compete for the best teachers, sports teams for the best records, grocery stores for the best produce, students for the best grades, etc. This idea of limited resources is everywhere in society which leads us to constantly be evaluating and judging people and situations. Charles Darwin introduced us to the idea of “survival of the fittest” and we’ve definitely run with it. But now I’m finding competition to be destructive to my quality of life and I’m wondering if we can do without it.

In my ideal world I’m accepted and appreciated for who I am today, and I spend my time and energy contributing to my community in  a productive way. Instead of tearing the people around me down so I can outcompete them, I’m building them up so our community can be stronger. We take care of each other when we’re down instead of climbing on top of the weak.

It seems that competition drives deadlines and hard work but the perpetual motion prevents us from stepping back and seeing the destination. If we look at the people at the top of the pile, they’re successful but our their lives empty? Can they be happy knowing that maintaining their spot at the top mandates pushing the people at the bottom down?

This is definitely an oversimplification with unfair stereotypes, but the general trends seems appropriate. My question is, where would things settle out if we did away with competition? Would society be dragged down by free loaders and unmotivated people or would we connect with a deeper desire to love, contribute, and grow. Is dhamma leading me to resist competing? Only time will tell. Time to meditate.

4 thoughts on “Is Competition Wrong?

  1. Lisa Griffiths

    I think what makes people want to invest in community, is feeling safe with a particular community. Like you said, “feeling accepted and appreciated by the group.” If it’s a live-in ecovillage where all aspects of people’s lives are wrapped up in that community, feeling safe gets a lot more complicated!

    In my opinion, meditators or people that handle stress well are more inclined to feel safe, and therefore have a better chance at building cooperative communities.

    That being said, members will still have to choose what they want more and less of in their lives. For example, who they nominate to do a certain job, carry a responsibility, or who they feel most compatible with in a personal relationship. It can’t be everyone, b/c people aren’t all equally skilled at everything and only have so much available time (in this life anyways). So I don’t see competition going away completely, but more so the way it’s perceived.

    When more people stay conscious of the fact that each individual can only know a limited perception of others maybe more individuals will feel safe amidst competition. As competition only reveals a fragment of the self, so value-judging someone as a whole doesn’t make sense.

    I didn’t grow up christian but I appreciate this message:

    “Only God has the right to Judge!”

  2. When Darwin talks about “survival of the fittest,” he’s referring to a species’ ability to adapt to change, not its ability to competitively prevail upon other species. In fact, there’s a case to be made that Darwin thought evolution favored cooperation above competition. The interviewee in this Scientific American article, for example, takes that position:

    I’d also suggest tracking down a movie called “I Am” by a director named Tom Shadyac (the guy who directed Ace Ventura). It’s a documentary that explains how cooperation and democracy, not competition, are the foundations of real progress. (See the trailer here:

    Anyway, it’s an interesting question and I think you’re exactly on track.


    Once I was listening to the interview of one of the biggest industrialist in India and owns a TV channel, also following Vipassana for more than 20 years. The question asked was to him that your channel had been 2nd in TRP and business, making good profits, what are your plans and will you make an effort to take it to 1st. He replied I need not have to be emotional about being 1st, if my channel is 2nd and consistently continues to be at 2nd, I would be happy with it.

  4. Yes, and in addition, most anthropological thought favors the idea that the human species was able to survive – in the intense physical situation faced by early humans – by cooperating with each other, as in hunter-gatherer societies is still the case. Language perhaps arose because it facilitated that cooperation. Competing with each other even now seems to be counter-productive in the long run.

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