‘Kindness’ – the new ‘Spirituality’ in the global village?!

June 18, 2012

It took a long time for me to become a confident writer on the subject of spirituality after becoming a resident in the Western society (UK).

Why? I was born in Sri Lanka and as a Buddhist. In that culture the word ‘spirituality’ had a deeper meaning of ‘respect – peace and harmony’. But in the West I noted the word was tarnished by terror, anger & suspicion. (When I blog on Spirituality – am I ringing the bells at secret spy operations?!?!).

In a multi-cultural world of the West, I noticed convergence of different religions are not happening to the same degree of convergence of humanity for freedom. We tend to associate with labels of religion than the true meaningful religious practice. Then we begin to identify differences between each other than the commonality. The result is promoting anger, aversion and disrespect for not being a part of x & y religion or culture. Conundrum in the word of ‘spirituality’! (I lost!).

‘It is the human nature to have both positive and negative elements. And it is human capability to empower positive elements to dis-empower negatives!’ – Aung San Suu Kyi (accepting noble peace price, 2012, Oslo).

Over the time, I managed to recognize the bright side. Our common aspirations (aspire for better education), collective creativity (World Wide Web), richness we seek in diversity (master piece of an art work), positive energy in a healthy competition (Olympics), readiness to embrace happiness together (elated crowd at a Football stadium). In that backdrop, how people empower positive spirit: kindness (action of a stranger in the street), act of charity (donating while paying for a beer at the pub), volunteering (sharing labor for common causes).

The word ‘kindness’ is more appropriate in my learning now to express ‘spirituality’ in this evolving multicultural global village. We humans can understand that word – respect it – and connect with it, regardless of our skin color, birth place or language and belief system. Every religion promotes kindness. We are born enjoying the warm kindness of a mother (& a farther). We are protected in the streets by the discipline of kind majority (isn’t that why streets are more secure in day light than lonely nights). Isnt that ‘kindness’ the new word to replace ‘spirituality’ in this global village!?!?!

(You are most welcome to share your insight. Thank you for helping my learning curve!)


Giving up vs letting go, my own case study

February 17, 2012

‘Letting go’ is a great concept that many Buddhists nurture from a young age,
admire and apply on an everyday basis. In the western world ‘forget and let go’ is a
commonly used phrase where one encourages the other to give
up when facing a difficult  situation. This brings me to the big question – Is there an
unthought-of distinction between ‘giving up’ and ‘letting go’?

Immediately it would seem that there is no dissimilarity between the two
words, for letting go is surely due to relinquish. However, on searching for the
definition of these correlated words, the answer becomes more apparent. To ‘give up’
means to quit or abandon. We give up on certain habits or actions after being
strongly convinced that this is the correct act to pursue. We give up smoking in
order to preserve a healthier lifestyle. We abandon projects due to the pressure of
circumstances. We may even give up on certain people in order to please others.

Letting go, on the other hand, is an entirely different concept. An initiative
directly connected to the underlying fundamentals of Buddhism – craving (Lobha),
aversion (Dhosha) and illusion (Moha).

Following is an example where I found the fine line between ‘giving up’
and ‘letting go’:

My own case study

My team and I, we submitted a project proposal to the EU office, in which the
Fusion team in Sri Lanka, together with some experts in eNovation4D UK, spent
innumerable hours and days creating the final piece, even enduring sleepless nights
to meet the deadline. The value of the proposal being worth several
millions, it could have done wonders to our charitable work in Sri Lanka.

Yet the heartbreaking providence was that, within two weeks, EU would
confirm its inability to accept our proposal merely due to our failure of attaching a
single paper (a portion of the document). It seemed absurd that such an imperative
proposal was dropped on the lack of one diminutive document! My mind
instantaneously began questioning the reasons for this trivial error. How unjustified
is this situation? As any customary human being would have been, I was helpless and
distraught due to this unfortunate final outcome, and enclosed with fury towards my
diligent member of staff due to his unintended lack of attention to the final
submission. The result was so scandalous that some members of staff took leave due
to illness and incapability to withstand the sudden pressure mounted on them by this
ill-fated circumstance. One argued that ‘we may need a miracle’, this petty comment
increasing my well concealed rage and I argued otherwise, attempting to convince
him that he may be wrong.

Not ready to give up!

What misery had I been presented with? I was overwhelmed by aggravation,
anxiety, desperation and moreover, extreme melancholy. Why was this so? I was
severely engulfed by the idea of ‘winning’ the EU proposal, and I wanted to be so
until I was certain that I had endeavoured every possible route to success.

Hence, convinced that I could persuade the EU to reconsider our proposal, I
took urgent actions believing that we had reasons to justify. A number of emails were
sent back and forth and a number of experts were consulted to identify justifications
as well as to build convincing arguments. We needed an efficient machine in action
to build a case to persuade the EU, but it was only once I had ventured every
prospect that I commenced my unwinding process.

“If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will
have a lot of peace.” – Ajahn Chah

Imaginary journey: 4 years forward fast track in 1 second

I had overlooked the reality of the process, instead constructing the inevitable
through my imagination, in duration of a second I had envisioned and lived four
years of my life (of winning the proposal). Within this minuscule time I had already won the project, signed the
agreements with EU and spent days with Fusion to develop an implementation plan.
In this brief journey of mindfulness, we are visiting rural communities, delivering
project activities, even celebrating success of some, fighting to avoid failure of
activities, negotiating, struggling, completing tasks, writing progress reports,
presenting at conferences and being recognised as success stories. All this was only a
dream I possessed. A trick of mind. Before me, suddenly they were fading away,
disappearing… into history. I had seen the project’s finality
which I fought to embark on.

It was then that I ascertained a new dawn of peace in my mind.


Did I give up? I believe not. If I had abandoned the effort halfway I would say it is ‘giving up’. Yet I had eliminated all
possible methods of victory, inputting all my effort in attempting to accomplish a
joyful result. And so I will return to my original question. There is a fine distinction
between ‘giving up’ and ‘letting go’, where giving up would be abandoning a task due
to intolerance or lack of effort. On the other hand, letting go can only be achieved by
carrying out this task through difficult measures and only when nothing else can be
done to modify the final outcome should one let go. It may be difficult to separate
yourself from your emotional bonds and determined hopes, but at one point in our
lives, we must all, as I have discovered, learn to let go.

(Original blog was co-edited by Devni Liyanage).

Happiness Matrix – a tool for empowering Fusion team

January 12, 2012

It all began as a response to the negative symptoms: staff falling sick, losing team work, irregular attendance! (see my early blog post).

Back in Sri Lanka – (on July 2011), we decided to organize a retreat to avoid this. We went to a scenic training facility (Sarvodaya- Education center at Bandaragama) and spent two full days reflecting – criticizing – and ultimately engaging to recognize our common aspirations: how to remain happy as a team while serving the poor communities (e-Empowerment)?

Our awakening process began. The problems are within ourselves: our perspective – our thought process!

We went back to the drawing board: the teaching of Lord Buddha – ‘Arya Ashtangika Magga‘  – (Eight fold noble path of virtue).

1. Correct perspective (Samma Ditti)

2. Correct thoughts (Samma sankappa)

3. Correct words (Samma vacha)

4. Correct action (Samma kammantha)

5. Correct livelihood (Samma ajiva)

6. Correct effort (Samma wayama)

7. Correct concentration (Samma sathi)

8. Correct peace and happiness (Samma samadhi)

We have managed to develop a matrix – one that combined two interpretations of both Correct (Samma) and Wrong (Mitya). For instance, our Fusion Education programme offers ICT education packages through rural telecentres. A package is offered for a fee (47% cheaper than average price in the market) and over 1000 rural youth and children sign up for this programme annually. As a Fusion team member how do we interpret that action?

One interpretation – Fusion Education contributes to a charitable cause (provision of education to needy). – Samma Ditthi (Correct perspective)

One also can argue – Fusion Education as a business to generate money (children has to pay a fee – it is not free). – Mithya Ditthi (Wrong perspective). (from a social enterprise and sustainability perspective).

Well – ‘Happiness Matrix’ is still a beta version, and lot of improvements were needed to replicate it. And for some it is overly academic. Yet, we have found Happiness Matrix provides a tool – for our team members to review and reassess ones own action against our own ethical and moral fiber. That tremendously empowered each member in their own judgement into their action!

(If you are interested to learn more about the Happiness Matrix – please drop us an e-mail: harsha@fusion.lk. We are happy to share our learning resources).

Transcending frustrations – (detoxification of minds)

August 11, 2011

I returned home from Geneva, after a happy – busy – successful business visit. The International Conference that I was invited was full of promising events, and had the opportunity to meet with promising multi-national organisations. But, out of all busy meetings, most interesting one was meeting with Gaya – Lalani and Laskshman, the Sri Lankans living at Geneva. Our long dinners always ended up in spiritual discussions.

As usual, I was about to start a follow up mail chase with potential leads, clients….and friends. But, for some unknown reason, I started feeling that I should slow down…(some fear starting accumilating inside my mind without any reason though)..while my logical  mind was counter arguing to continue with momentum that seems to be heading for success.  It was like putting breaks into an express train. But, I was determined that I should slow down, thus started to engage with gardening, seeing a film with family…and making reasons to put away computer and internet (my  office & personal secretariat).

Then I notice following morning all the ‘green lights’ of my Gmail chat space is empty. Those green lights are my fellow team members of Fusion, whom I used to see every morning, when I wake up at Canterbury UK to check the mails…as I see green lights…I visualise the office the busy faces …and the way they spend busy hours in mid day Sri Lanka, wathching the green coconut canopies from third floor of Fusion office. But, I could not find any help, every inquiry mail I drafted ended in a black-hole. (Alarm bells ring…!!?!?).

Work of Serendipity

My mind was still fresh with Lalani and Lakshman and I thought I should buy Thich Nhat Hanh’s Peace is Every Step for them…especially to share my gratitude for the delicious sandwitches that Lalani made for me just before dropping at the Airport. And my google search ended up in beautiful readings about Thich Nhat Hanh’s life story. The book I bought at amazon.com arrived at door steps two days later, and that has become a peace builder immediately within my teenage daughters.

“In our busy society , it is a great fortune to breath consciously from time to time……while we practice our conscious breathing our thinking will slow down, and we can give ourselves a real rest” – (p11 Hanh)

Flower bed

I started doing a long flower bed, as a way to distract me from office work. All the day long, I dug the soil and removed heavy piles of concrete pieces, left overs from new house construction.  My hands are too soft and not ready for heavy digging. They were so painful. And suddenly I noticed I am breaking an ant colony. My youngest family helper  – Asini, reappeared telling…’shall I throw some suger to attract ants?’. How come I did not get that wisdom, when I was struggling to dig the holes without breaking their colony. I was too late, and still feel sad…that I did not consult others to find a solution to get away from ants.

My google calendar remain blank, as I felt I should not plan. Still the ‘green dots’ are dormant, so does inbox. It took another two days to realize five members of the team are sick, and two are admitted to hospital. I felt sad, alarmed and unhappy…as I cant do much from the distance. It is unpleasent feeling..but I felt I should read it carefully and treat it carefully.!

“If we face our unpleasant feelings with care, affection and non-violence, we can transform them into the kind of energy that is healthy and has the capacity to nourish us”. (p52 – Hanh)

As usual, I sat for meditations, and continued distributing mettha to all of them.

(This lead to the Fusion’s Happiness Programme! I will blog about Happiness Programme later).

Sophisticated and Simple – Demands of the Post-modern human

August 31, 2010

Sophistication has become a ‘need’ of Post-modern humans. Technology & globalisation generate this urge for sophistication.

Maslow’s Law recognises basic needs – food, water, shelter, sex & clothes. Entertainment and self-esteem are identified as secondary and tertiary levels respectively.  Yet, looking at the way of life of the young generation (10 – 20 yrs of age) and their manner of peer networking, one may question whether technology is qualifying to be a basic need. Of course, Twitter is not oxygen, but I could not believe it when I saw teens in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia enjoy SMS texting whilst tolerating hunger. This is mobile phone penetration at the bottom of the Pyramid and 90% of usage is for communication (i.e. security and gossip). A significant portion of these consumers live below the poverty line (<2$ a day) and their communication costs are eating into their food budget.

Such urges are rooted in the spoiled West. Twitter, Facebook are thriving due to the urge of teens to share their gossip, ego and self-esteem. By buying a David Beckham t-shirt, (with £15 from Dad) one teen generates a chain of gossip between a whole classroom full of grammar school girls. The Paparazzi feed the BBC’s, CNN’s and Times and the tabloids keep their spy networks to watch the hit counts. The adults suddenly recognize they are out of the loop and are thus compelled to know anything and everything happening at every second, from Afghanistan to Somalia, Brasil to China.

This complex mind cannot live only with food, oxygen and clothes. It needs mobiles with one million applications, radios with hundreds of channels, companions who can talk different languages, teachers who can create drama in the classroom to teach the subject material. Food must be tasty but should be wrapped with designer material, but also served in a modern techy environment.

Yet, there is a line of simplicity within this sophistication – simplicity in terms of maintaining the sophistication within the limits of ones control. Sky provides 300+ channels. But viewers can choose them simply by manoeuvring 9 digits on the small remote control. Mobile phones have only a handful of buttons, yet users can use these few buttons to complete many tasks; conversations, reading MSN news, texting a message, calculating the budget.

Is it only the controllability? (i.e. keeping everything within the limits one can manage?). Well, yes and no.

Such an intrinsic urge for simplicity is a result of the urge for inner peace. The writing of the Dalai Lama, Thich Naart Haan, Ajan Sumedho – the modern day Buddhist ambassadors – emphasize the peaceful nature of the inner mind. (One can experience this state by experiencing ‘Samadhi’ in meditation). The Human mind is peaceful at birth, and it is subjected to increased sophistication and complexity over time and with education and maturity. Yet internally, all humans silently seek that peacefulness.

Post-modern humans are individuals struggling within this dilemma of sophistication and simpleness. Microsoft managed to add sophistication through Windows and MS-Office and we all became fast consumers of that sophistication. This enabled us to reach the ‘simplicity’ of multi-tasking, (Excel accounts, Word typing, PowerPoint presentations and Outlook emailing all at once). But, when the working space got cluttered, Google ‘search’ has provided a new way to reach the next level of simplicity. Yet, today, people are beginning to complain about the growing clutter within the Google applications. The frustration emerges, challenges build up, and the journey continues to find the balancing point between sophistication and simplicity!

For profits vs Not-for profits (Greed vs Scale)

September 11, 2009

Following is an extract from a recent research publication from Stanford University;

“It is interesting to note that there were several funding models …. One possible model was nonprofits supported by earned-income ventures distinct and separate from their core mission-related activities. Another possible model was nonprofits that operated on a strictly fee-for-service model…, without important supplementary fundraising …. Although there are some nonprofits supporting themselves with such funding approaches, they were not present among the large nonprofits that we studied. It is our belief that these types of approaches do not lend themselves to large-scale, sustained nonprofit advantage over for-profit entities. (Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2009 Spring).

Above statement tend to shock my deep belief, that fuels the Social enterprise ambition behind Fusion. Why?

We follow Non-profit models, but closely adopting for-profit strategies such as ‘Fee for service’ approach in a niche market (ICT skill demands of rural Sri Lanka) to generate scalable revenues (profits) to support core operation.

How is it Not-for Profit?

1. at our pricing we tend to be in favor of customer, (and closely follow Low cost value chains to cut down cost)

2. no share holders to extract the profit (out of the enterprise) thus, it is ploughed back to expansion and improvements.

Why dont we go into For-profit model?

Simply to avoid cultivating (& promoting) bad human attitudes that tend to be granted in normal profit oriented enterprise practice such as;

  • unethical practices (killing, intoxication)
  • promotion of greed (aversion and aggression)
  • support competition (that kills the spirit of sharing, peace and happiness).

How perfect are we in our exercise?

This is the question I ask from myself every morning and evening, (and also promote my key staff to follow). It is a question of honesty and integrity to nobody but one’s own belief system (myself).

How do I do this?

Meditation – meditation – meditation.

Vipassana meditation (for about 1 – 1.5 hrs) helps me to go deeper and establish my own clarity. And every day I realize, I am better human today than yesterday. And every evening I convince myself that;

  • I did not support killing of any life forms (non-violence)
  • I did not steal or help stealing (no  malpractices)
  • I did not lie (no untrue statements)
  • I promote cultivation of aversion (avoid anger, hatred)
  • I promote ahimsa (help my well-being, help others well-being)

Can this ensure that Fusion expand to the desired scale?

I am not sure. But I do believe, there is a destiny for everything. The moment we learn to follow such destiny we can be less aggressive, more peaceful and can still contribute to some scale. (It is a personal challange to adjust our ‘desired scale’ to the ‘feasible scale’).

Social enterprising – controling greed?!?!

October 25, 2008

When the Wall-street stumbles, ‘greed’ has become a discussion point. ‘Endless Greed’ of big entrepreneurs lead to this economic crisis! – Presidential candidates (of US elections) pointing fingers, while many join to nod the heads. Yet, in August Times magazine, when Bill Gates writes about ‘Creative Capitalism’, he still does not acknowledge a problem of ‘excessive greed’, instead explore the ways to define creative (business?) models to work with ‘greed’; instead of ‘controling’, he tends to connect ‘inclusivity (of bottom of the pyramid)’ with some ‘passion’ to distribute (& share?) the prosperity.

Connecting the worlds’ 4 billion people living under 2$ a day income, to the capitalist market system, in order to improve their livelihood is a demonstration of passion to an entrepreneur. Yet in the same time,  it can also be projected as systematic exploitation of the untapped markets of poor communities, from the point of view of charity workers. When the models like CIC – Community Interest Company, tend to define the ground rules of the Social Enterprising landscape, charity workers (like us) would begin to recognize a common ground between the ‘Creative Capitalism’ and ‘Compassion in Action!’.

Fusion – of Sarvodaya is designed to test this ground, working along fine lines between corporate ‘greed’ and charity ‘greed’ (never ending desire to serve the poor). Corporate greed helps to invest multiple disciplines of skill, money handling and creativity to generate prosperity and development. But the target group is mostly ‘able’ people. Charity greed helps to employ the disciplines of human skill, donations and creativity to distribute the prosperity and development, mostly targeting the ‘less-able’ people. Charity ‘greed’ seems to be less toxic, comparing to the corporate ‘greed’ thus not even recognized as a ‘greed’.

From the perspective of Buddhism, ‘Greed’ – ‘thanha’ is the root cause of the existence (samsara), thus need to eradicate. Donation (dana) is one key tool to alleviate ‘greed’. Thus we promote ‘sharing’. Yet, in the realistic world of development, ‘sharing’ tend to scare the ‘compassion’ of corporate people, who tend to recognize it as a contradiction to the fundamentals (tools & disciplines) of capital (wealth) building. Interestingly, recent trends of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), climate change & (perhaps) credit crunch, push the global entrepreneurs to tread the path of ‘sharing’ beyond where they are now.

As we sit with multiple corporate partners who tend to partner with Fusion, we tend to see both opportunity and challenge. Opportunities are quite clear and easy to define. Challenges are not! Sometimes very scary.

Recently we visited an interesting rural village in Nuwara Eliya (Sri Lanka), where 100s of farmers who reached reasonable standards of entrepreneurial capacity to connect with high-end markets. They reached this point, as a result of micro-credit and social empowerment supports of Sarvodaya over the years. Now, our visit was aimed to connect them through mobile phone and ICT technologies (at telecentres) to expand their bargaining power and up-market outreach.

The people visited with us, were partly members coming from corporate world. They spent substantial time, their intellectual resources and reasonable finances to reach this point of face to face interaction with farmers. Major drive for the visit was their desire to help the rural farmers.

The interaction was perfectly healthy and promising. Farmers recognized the potential benefits, and they saw a dream coming their way. On the other hand, corporate team found the ground is perfectly set for technology introduction and market connection. Return trip was full of excitement.

Nevertheless, immediate mail communication was – unfortunately scary!

‘to move to the next step – we need 51% of ownership of the project!’ – compassion and greed begun to clash in front of the opportunity!

At this moment, Fusion struggle to formulate the appropriate communication models and perhaps negotiation models to work through these humanly challenges.

Family gathering – Fusion space of Sarvodaya life

July 21, 2008

Sun was setting, as ripples of lake around scenic Bandaragama (Sri Lanka) sarvodaya education centre, turned red. It was true reflection of our minds, after a long day of a lengthy review meeting of Fusion team, after first year of survival. We all realized Social Enterprising had torn our hearts and sapped all our energy. Few of our revenue centres were about to close down, which certainly a killer blow to few of our brothers and sisters who had strived to manage them. And tomorrow is the decision day for them. Yet, all of them were getting ready to organize a Family gathering.!

(How wonderful to see this family spirit. That was my inner mind).

Family gathering – is a unique tradition in Sarvodaya. It is an event lasting for an hour minimum where everybody, despite rank, age or gender, sit together on the floor and spend some time together to build up the common spirit. Its impact is such by the end of the gathering, nobody wants to leave the place. They all feel bonded with an inner fabric of humanity – friendship – happiness and spirituality.

Usually one person volunteers to lead the Family gathering which begins with a few minutes of meditation. Some times, this follows a  small religious speech. One may speak of a Jataka Story (of Buddhist scriptures) or else, one may run a Bible story. (Not specifically labelled to religion). That infuses a bit of a spiritual surrender to the gathering.

Then follows a key speech. mostly by an invited speaker – which can relate to the theme of gathering. Such speeches may last for 10 – 15 minutes, and expected to carry a depth and diversity added with oratory skills to touch the heart of the community.

Cultural activities breaks the monotony. One may play a guitar or a drum encouraging others to sing together. Small dramas, pantomimes are performed by children and youth as they find the stage to demonstrate their unexposed talents.

Such aspects add the vibrancy and evoke sentiments, which gradually lead into open discussions of participants.

It becomes an evening camp fire at times when  it is being organized during Shramadana camps.

Family gathering is a true Fusion space – of culture, spirituality, humanity and development. (I am sure one may add more descriptions – as the outcome of family gatherings are truly difficult to define).

Silence – a noble enjoyment

July 9, 2008

When I visit Sarvodaya Vishva Niketan – years ago (2000), I noticed the sign posted by Dr Ari, – ‘please maintain noble silence’. It reminded me multiple readings .

‘Learn to enjoy Noble Silence’ – Rev Thich Naart Haanh.

Yet, I could not fully comprehend it. But I noticed one thing, every time I walk with somebody to Vishva Niketan (meditation centre of Sarvodaya), we all tend to automatically switch into silent mode, closing all our chatter. Then we tend to walk through small paths, through the woods, and when we arrive at the statue of Load Buddha, we tend to fall dead silent (despite considerable noise from the nearby road).

Over the years I used to enjoy this …..walking through silence.

Now, sitting at home (in UK), most of my mornings are periods of lengthy silence. I realize this is the most joyful part of my day.

Am I enjoying birds? no, any other subtle noise…hidden inside silence? no. But this silence has a power to awaken certain spiritual faculties. It cuts down certain unhealthy emotions (eg unnecessary excitements, aversion), and nurture concentration (Sathi). Thus allow me to be watchful on my own mind, while engage with work. (working meditation?).

It is not that easy to train the mind to enjoy the noble silence. But once you train it – you may find the noble silence even sitting next to a jet engine!

Sand castles and controled ambitions

May 1, 2008

Human civilization moves forward because of the ambition. Ambition fuels greed, persistence, creativity,energy to translate imagination into realization. Children pass exams, poor become rich, people build empires, cities, super powers,…even land in other planets.

When I visited Microsoft head office at Seattle, pass through Boeing’s plane delivery station on the way to Seattle airport, I could not help being overwhelmed by the the power of American dream. They were evidence of the ability to translate ambition into reality by two individual human beings, (our contemporaries).

When I was listening to eloquent descriptions of tour guide about the water fountains, air-conditioning systems, artistic illustrations of 500 queens, fascinating architectural masterpieces made by King Kashyapa at Sigiriya Rock, 1500 yrs ago, I still could not help being overwhelmed by the power of human ambition to make impossible the possible.

Yet, as a meditator, I cannot help seeing the unseen behind all these overwhelming illusions of man kind. Truth of impermanence. Arnt these the sandcastles build over the shore of time? None of these ambitious materialistic realizations can last for ever. They all remain impressive till the next tide comes to take it back into history books.

Still, I myself, though being a meditator, cannot help building ambitious sandcastles. So does Fusion, Eco-Fusion, etc…etc..!

Am I contradicting myself. Probably yes and no..!

Even load Buddha cannot attain Nibbana without having ambition. But this ambition is called ‘Chanda’ in Buddhism. That is different from the ‘ambition’ in worldly terms. How?

‘Chanda’ is free from ‘Thanha’ (Desire). That means ambition to become a Load Buddha is derived from the strong willpower to seek salvation of other human beings. Thus it is not subject to defilement of ego, craving, wrong judgements, selfish motives.

Can we distinguish between Ambition (worldly) and Chanda (spiritual).?

In my understanding, we cant. As human beings, when we engage in worldly affairs, it is almost impossible to maintain our pure focus (concentration power) to judge every decision and action. Thus we are subject to do errors, confuse between Ambition and Chanda.

But, as an ascetic in a monastic life, there is an environment for this.