Author Topic: The Lessons of Gratitude  (Read 1904 times)

Offline Hanzze

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The Lessons of Gratitude
« on: May 14, 2012, 07:58:41 am »
This Essay may explain you the reason, why the entrance into the practice of the Buddha Dhamma traditional begins, in learning gratitude from the kindness of your parents and may also show you some important lessons far beyond the dependency of our society on gratitude and why people actually seek for liberation, which might got lost trough the attachment of tradition and just following how the others did.

And it also explains why gratitude look like this

or this

and never really like this

or this

which cause our upcoming generations to become in this way

and it will show you, why it is important for your self, to learn to give from a devoted position and not from a position of lordliness as well as why you parents and grandparents maybe (in Asian countries they do it even today) did it natural only in such a devoted way.

Enjoy this great work:

The Lessons of Gratitude

These two people are hard to find in the world. Which two? The one who is first to do a kindness, and the one who is grateful and thankful for a kindness done."

— AN 2.118

In saying that kind and grateful people are rare, the Buddha isn't simply stating a harsh truth about the human race. He's advising you to treasure these people when you find them, and — more importantly — showing how you can become a rare person yourself.

Kindness and gratitude are virtues you can cultivate, but they have to be cultivated together. Each needs the other to be genuine — a point that becomes obvious when you think about the three things most likely to make gratitude heartfelt:

1.    You've actually benefitted from another person's actions.
2.    You trust the motives behind those actions.
3.    You sense that the other person had to go out of his or her way to provide that benefit.

Points one and two are lessons that gratitude teaches kindness: If you want to be genuinely kind, you have to be of actual benefit — nobody wants to be the recipient of "help" that isn't really helpful — and you have to provide that benefit in a way that shows respect and empathy for the other person's needs. No one likes to receive a gift given with calculating motives, or in an offhand or disdainful way.

Points two and three are lessons that kindness teaches to gratitude. Only if you've been kind to another person will you accept the idea that others can be kind to you. At the same time, if you've been kind to another person, you know the effort involved. Kind impulses often have to do battle with unkind impulses in the heart, so it's not always easy to be helpful. Sometimes it involves great sacrifice — a sacrifice possible only when you trust the recipient to make good use of your help. So when you're on the receiving end of a sacrifice like that, you realize you've incurred a debt, an obligation to repay the other person's trust.

This is why the Buddha always discusses gratitude as a response to kindness, and doesn't equate it with appreciation in general. It's a special kind of appreciation, inspiring a more demanding response. The difference here is best illustrated by two passages in which the Buddha uses the image of carrying.

The first passage concerns appreciation of a general sort:

"Then the man, having gathered grass, twigs, branches, & leaves, having bound them together to make a raft, would cross over to safety on the far shore in dependence on the raft, making an effort with his hands & feet. Having crossed over to the far shore, he might think, 'How useful this raft has been to me! For it was in dependence on this raft that, making an effort with my hands & feet, I have crossed over to safety on the far shore. Why don't I, having hoisted it on my head or carrying on my back, go wherever I like?' What do you think, monks? Would the man, in doing that, be doing what should be done with the raft?"

"No, lord."

"And what should the man do in order to be doing what should be done with the raft? There is the case where the man, having crossed over to the far shore, would think, 'How useful this raft has been to me! For it was in dependence on this raft that, making an effort with my hands & feet, I have crossed over to safety on the far shore. Why don't I, having dragged it on dry land or sinking it in the water, go wherever I like?' In doing this, he would be doing what should be done with the raft."

— MN 22

The second passage concerns gratitude in particular:

"I tell you, monks, there are two people who are not easy to repay. Which two? Your mother & father. Even if you were to carry your mother on one shoulder & your father on the other shoulder for 100 years, and were to look after them by anointing, massaging, bathing, & rubbing their limbs, and they were to defecate & urinate right there [on your shoulders], you would not in that way pay or repay your parents. If you were to establish your mother & father in absolute sovereignty over this great earth, abounding in the seven treasures, you would not in that way pay or repay your parents. Why is that? Mother & father do much for their children. They care for them, they nourish them, they introduce them to this world.

"But anyone who rouses his unbelieving mother & father, settles & establishes them in conviction; rouses his unvirtuous mother & father, settles & establishes them in virtue; rouses his stingy mother & father, settles & establishes them in generosity; rouses his foolish mother & father, settles & establishes them in discernment: To this extent one pays & repays one's mother & father."

— AN 2.32

In other words, as the first passage shows, it's perfectly fine to appreciate the benefits you've received from rafts and other conveniences without feeling any need to repay them. You take care of them simply because that enables you to benefit from them more. The same holds true for difficult people and situations that have forced you to develop strength of character. You can appreciate that you've learned persistence from dealing with crabgrass in your lawn, or equanimity from dealing with unreasonable neighbors, without owing the crabgrass or neighbors any debt of gratitude. After all, they didn't kindly go out of their way to help you. And if you were to take them as models, you'd learn all the wrong lessons about kindness: that simply following your natural impulses — or, even worse, behaving unreasonably — is the way to be kind.

Debts of gratitude apply only to parents, teachers, and other benefactors who have acted with your wellbeing in mind. They've gone out of their way to help you, and have taught you valuable lessons about kindness and empathy in the process. In the case of the raft, you'd do best to focus gratitude on the person who taught you how to make a raft. In the case of the crabgrass and the neighbors, focus gratitude on the people who taught you how not to be overcome by adversity. If there are benefits you've received from things or situations you can't trace to a conscious agent in this lifetime, feel gratitude to yourself for the good karma you did in the past that allowed those benefits to appear. And be grateful for the good karma that allows you to receive and benefit from other people's help in the first place. If you had no good to your credit, they wouldn't be able to reach you.

As the Buddha's second passage shows, the debt you owe to your benefactors needn't be tit for tat, and shouldn't be directed solely to them. Now, the debt you owe your parents for giving birth to you and enabling you to live is immense. In some passages the Buddha recommends expressing gratitude for their compassion with personal services.

Mother & father, compassionate to their family, are called Brahma, first teachers, those worthy of gifts from their children. So the wise should pay them homage, honor with food & drink clothing & bedding anointing & bathing & washing their feet. Performing these services to their parents, the wise are praised right here and after death rejoice in heaven.

— Iti 106

However, AN 2.32 shows that the only true way to repay your parents is to strengthen them in four qualities: conviction, virtue, generosity, and discernment. To do so, of course, you have to develop these qualities in yourself, as well as learning how to employ great tact in being an example to your parents. As it happens, these four qualities are also those of an admirable friend (AN 8.54), which means that in repaying your parents in this way you become the sort of person who'd be an admirable friend to others as well. You become a person of integrity, who — as the Buddha points out — has learned from gratitude how to be harmless in all your dealings and to give help with an empathetic heart: respectfully, in a timely way, and with the sense that something good will come of it (MN 110; AN 5.148). In this way, you repay your parents' goodness many times over by allowing its influence to spread beyond the small circle of the family into the world at large. In so doing, you enlarge the circle of their goodness as well.

This principle also applies to your teachers, as the Buddha told his disciples:

"So this is what you think of me: 'The Blessed One, sympathetic, seeking our well-being, teaches the Dhamma out of sympathy.' Then you should train yourselves — harmoniously, cordially, and without dispute — in the qualities I have pointed out, having known them directly: the four frames of reference, the four right exertions, the four bases of power, the five faculties, the five strengths, the seven factors of Awakening, the noble eightfold path."

— MN 103

In other words, the way to repay a teacher's compassion and sympathy in teaching you is to apply yourself to learning your lessons well. Only then can you spread the good influence of those lessons to others.

As for the debts you owe yourself for your past good karma, the best way to repay them is to use your benefits as opportunities to create further good karma, and not simply enjoy the pleasure they offer. Here again it's important to remember the hardships that can be involved in acting skillfully, and to honor your past skillful intentions by not allowing them to go to waste in the present. For example, as Ajaan Lee once said, it's not easy to attain a human mouth, so bow down to your mouth every day. In other words, respect your ability to communicate, and use it to say only what's timely, beneficial, and true.

These are some of the lessons about kindness and empathy that well-focused gratitude can teach — lessons that teach you how to deal maturely and responsibly in the give and take of social life. Small wonder, then, that the Buddha cited gratitude as the quality defining what it means to be civilized (AN 2.31).

But well-focused gratitude can also teach lessons that apply further to the training of the mind.

First are the lessons touching on the nature of human action itself. The sense that you've benefited from another person's action underscores the point that action does give results; the importance you give to the other person's motives in helping you underscores the point that the quality of the action lies in the intention behind it; and the sense that the other person went out of his or her way to help you underscores the sense that action isn't totally determined: You feel indebted to the people who helped you because you sense how easily they might have denied that help, and how difficult your life might have been if that's what they had chosen to do. Your parents, for instance, didn't have to raise you, or arrange for someone else to raise you; they could have aborted you or left you to die. So the fact that you're alive to read this means that somebody chose, again and again, to help you when you were helpless. Sensing that element of choice is what creates your sense of debt.

All three of these points — the efficacy of action, the importance of intention, and the existence of choice — were distinctive elements in the Buddha's teaching on action. And the emotional resonance that gratitude and empathy give to these points may be the reason why, when the Buddha introduced the basic outline of this teaching, he cited topics connected with these emotions: the value of giving, and the debt owed to one's parents (MN 117). He couldn't offer his listeners proof for his three points — that would come only with their experience of Awakening — but by showing how his teaching on action allowed for generosity to be a meaningful action, and gratitude a meaningful emotion, he offered his listeners an emotionally satisfying reason for accepting his words.

Gratitude also gives practice in developing qualities needed in meditation. As the Buddha noted, the practice of concentration centers on the power of perception. Training in gratitude shows how powerful perception can be, for it requires developing a particular set of perceptions about life and the world. If you perceive help as demeaning, then gratitude itself feels demeaning; but if you perceive help as an expression of trust — the other person wouldn't want to help you unless he or she felt you would use the help well — then gratitude feels ennobling, an aid to self-esteem. Similarly, if you perceive life as a competition, it's hard to trust the motives of those who help you, and you resent the need to repay their help as a gratuitous burden. If, however, you perceive that the goodness in life is the result of cooperation, then the give and take of kindness and gratitude become a much more pleasant exchange.

Similarly, gratitude requires mindfulness, in the Buddha's original sense of the word as keeping something in mind. In fact, the connection between these two qualities extends to language itself. In Pali, the word for gratitude — kataññu — literally means to have a sense of what was done. In SN 48.10, the Buddha defines mindfulness as "remembering & able to call to mind even things that were done & said long ago." Our parents' instructions to us when we were children — to remember the kindnesses of others — are among our first lessons in mindfulness. As we develop our sense of gratitude, we get practice in strengthening this quality of mind.

However, not all the lessons taught by gratitude and empathy are of a heartwarming sort. Instead, they give rise to a sense of samvega — which can be translated as dismay or even terror — over how risky and precarious the goodness of the world can be. To begin with, there's the fact that you can't choose beforehand whose kindness you'll be indebted to. There's no telling what kind of parents you'll get. As the Buddha rightly notes, some parents are stingy, immoral, and foolish. Not only are they abusive to their children, but they also might not be content or even pleased with the type of repayment the Buddha says is best for them. They may demand an unreasonable level of repayment, involving actions that are downright harmful for you, themselves, and others. And yet this doesn't cancel the debt you owe them for the simple fact that they've enabled you to live.

You've probably heard of the passage in which the Buddha says,

"A being who has not been your mother at one time in the past is not easy to find... A being who has not been your father ... your brother... your sister... your son... your daughter at one time in the past is not easy to find. Why is that? From an inconceivable beginning comes transmigration."

When you think about how difficult each of these relationships can be, it's no surprise that the Buddha didn't say this to make you feel warmhearted to all the beings you meet. He said it to induce samvega:

"Long have you thus experienced stress, experienced pain, experienced loss, swelling the cemeteries — enough to become disenchanted with all fabricated things, enough to become dispassionate, enough to be released."

— SN 15.14-19

Even the debts of gratitude you owe to yourself for the good actions you've done are enough to induce a sense of dis-ease. You know that not all your past intentions have been skillful, and yet these are the things that will shape the conditions of your life now and into the future. You're in a precarious position — enough to make you want to find a way out even of the network of kindness and gratitude that sustains whatever goodness there is in the world.

This desire grows even stronger when you allow your empathy to spread to those who have had to make unwilling sacrifices to keep you alive. Every day, the Buddha advised, you should reflect on the fact that life depends on the requisites of food, clothing, shelter, and medicine. Many are the beings who have had to die and suffer other hardships because of your need for these things. Contrary to the song that concludes Mahler's Fourth Symphony, lambs don't gleefully jump into the stewpot to feed you. And even if — when you're in the fortunate position to be able to decide what kind of food you eat — you adhere to a vegetarian diet, you still owe an enormous debt to the farmers and workers who have had to slave under harsh conditions to provide the requisites you need.

The sense of indebtedness that these reflections induce goes far beyond gratitude, and is certainly not pleasant to think about. This may be why so many people try to deny that they owe anyone a debt of gratitude at all. Or why those who do encourage the contemplation of gratitude as a source of happiness tend to reduce it to a generic sense of appreciation and contentment — in the words of one writer, "wanting what you have," "knowing that you have, and are, enough" — devoid of any sense of debt. Gratitude of this sort tends to focus on things, because gratitude to things is so much easier than gratitude to benefactors. Things don't make demands. They don't suffer, and they don't mix their kindness with abuse.

Yet there's no getting around the fact that our very lives depend on the kindness and hardships of others, and that we can't get out of the resulting debts by callously denying them or blithely wishing them away. If we don't repay them now, we'll have to repay them — sometimes at high interest — later, for even death doesn't erase our debts or free us from coming back to incur more.

So to avoid these entanglements, we need another way out — a way the Buddha found through training his mind to reach a happiness that no longer needs to depend on the kindness and sacrifices of others. And although this happiness provides an escape, it isn't escapist. It settles your debts in a responsible and generous way.

This is because unconditional happiness allows you to abandon the cravings and attachments through which you repeatedly take on the identity of a being. To identify yourself as a being means having to find food — both physical and mental — to keep that identity going. This is why, when you're a being, you need to depend on a network of kindness, gratitude, and sacrifice. But when you can abandon the need for that identity, the mind no longer has to feed. It's no longer a burden to anyone. As for the body, as long as you're still alive, those who provide for its needs reap merit many times over for the gifts they provide. This, in fact, is one of the motivations for gaining awakening:

"We will undertake & practice those qualities that make one a contemplative... so that the services of those whose robes, alms-food, lodging, and medicinal requisites we use will bring them great fruit & great reward."

— MN 39

At the same time, the example of your behavior and freedom of mind is a gift to others, in that it shows how they, too, can free themselves from their debts. This is why the Buddha said that only those who have attained full awakening eat the alms food of the country without incurring debt. They've even paid off their debt to the Buddha for having taught the way to release. As he said, the only homage he requested was that people practice the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma — i.e., to develop the disenchantment and dispassion that lead to release (DN 16; SN 22.39-42) — so that the world will not be empty of awakened people. In this way, attaining full release is not a selfish act; instead, it's the highest expression of kindness and gratitude.

Of course, it's a rare person who will take this route to freedom, but that doesn't lessen its value or relevance. As with gratitude and benefaction, it's an opportunity to become rare and distinctive that's open to anyone with the discernment to appreciate it and the determination to become truly kind and debt-free.

"The Lessons of Gratitude", by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight, 28 December 2010, . Retrieved on 14 May 2012.

Offline Freyja

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Re: The Lessons of Gratitude
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2013, 10:12:34 pm »
Earlier today, I made an attempt to send my gratitude (via PM) to one (teacher?) I have been quietly following for about a year now, only to find that he did not accept PM's at all.

So instead I decided to do a search on "laziness" here, because I felt I am having a problem with this (still unsure...which probably means "yes")

That led me to the Drop of Dhamma Delight! website (thanks for that, by the way ... to? I do not recall but the site is and I was working down this list:
When I came across equanimity. A new term for me.
I decided that I now have questions about that, also. So I came back here to search and that is how I found this fine posting.

This has very much helped me today and I am grateful.

I wish I could send flowers, if not a PM and am perfectly fine to instead just do my best to abide by the following:
"In other words, the way to repay a teacher's compassion and sympathy in teaching you is to apply yourself to learning your lessons well. Only then can you spread the good influence of those lessons to others."

Hanzze, I know you did not realize I was here following your words and seeing you as a great teacher all this time and I hope this does not cause you discomfort (I mean, public and me being unknown here) because all I am here doing right now is typing a bunch of stuff to tell you -- > Thank you, I am truly grateful for your time and postings here that I have found. Many of them have helped me through the past year and led me to other discoveries I may not have otherwise found.
<3 :hug:

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: The Lessons of Gratitude
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2013, 08:27:59 am »
Hi, Freyja.  Glad you found beneficial information in Hanzee's posts.  I have not seen him here recently.  You may want to try DhammaWheel

We used to run into each other frequently there, but I have not visited there in months.  So,I can't say for certain.

What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: The Lessons of Gratitude
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2013, 11:10:51 am »
Johann Brucker (aka Hanzze) is no longer a member here, but if anyone has an interest in doing so, they'll find him on his own forum:

Please note that he is not a recognized teacher in any tradition, but a self-professed ascetic.

Offline Samana Johann

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Re: The Lessons of Gratitude
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2017, 04:54:15 am »
Hanzze, I know you did not realize I was here following your words and seeing you as a great teacher all this time and I hope this does not cause you discomfort (I mean, public and me being unknown here) because all I am here doing right now is typing a bunch of stuff to tell you -- > Thank you, I am truly grateful for your time and postings here that I have found. Many of them have helped me through the past year and led me to other discoveries I may not have otherwise found.
<3 :hug:

Upasika Freyia,

"These two people are hard to find in the world. Which two? The one who is first to do a kindness, and the one who is grateful and thankful for a kindness done."

At a certain point it is very needed to see also the need to have gratitude in regard of one's own skilful and sacrifying deeds done in the past, and to know how hard it is to "earn" ones own way to a certain point, one will not and no more spend ones earnings aside of walking on, in gratitude torward so many and ones own deeds hard to bear, hard to do.

It's not easy to find talks on gratitude in modern/western world, at least because it goes straight against the grain of strong wrong view, something the world faces in it's darkness not seen. Less are those following lights.

Meanwhile my person could collect (was given) some other helpful talks on this topic and likes to share them here as well:

The Right Angle: It’s Never Wrong
Venerable Luang Por Liam Thitadhammo

Excerpts from a talk given at Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery, California, in May 2009

The entire world and everyone in it needs the Dhamma as a protection. We all survive and find comfort in life with the support of the knowledge and skills, mindfulness and wisdom, of countless others. Without their help we would all perish as soon as we leave our mother’s womb. We’d have no food to eat, clothes to wear or house to live in. Our parents (who are initially total strangers to us) give us life and all the things we need to make us healthy and strong. For our clothes and living places, and all the various skills we learn, we are entirely indebted to others. From the first moments in our mother’s wombs, all of us have a debt of gratitude owed to innumerable others – let alone our parents and all our teachers, to whom the sense of gratitude we should feel is incalculable.

Even people of one nation have much to be grateful for to those living in another. This is something which, if you think about it, is not too hard to see. Knowing and acknowledging with gratitude the debt we have to others, and placing them above ourselves, is called kataññuta. The effort to repay the debt is called katavedita. The ones who know what has been done for them are call kataññu. And those who return the favour gratefully are called katavedi.

Kataññu-kataveditā: acknowledging the debt we owe to others and paying it back with acts of gratitude are spiritual qualities which protect the world from harm, help society to function, and lead to peace and happiness. People, however, are less and less able to see that we all have this mutual debt of gratitude which must be repaid, and failing to understand this is the reason for the increase in heated fighting and quarrelling. So taking an interest in the qualities of kataññu-katavedi is something which is of vital importance to us all.

All the beautiful customs and traditions of old have in part been grounded in the principles of kataññu-katavedi. These qualities were firmly established, nurtured over time and deeply understood by all societies. Anyone who fails to accept that our lives are inextricably linked with one another, and who does not see our mutual indebtedness, will surely live a life of selfish ingratitude.

The people who manifest most gratitude are the ones who acknowledge that even cows, water buffaloes and other animals, have helped us along the way, all the more so our parents and our teachers. If more people could develop gratitude to the cows and water buffaloes of our world, then society would always be happy and peaceful on account of such a broad vision and lofty thoughts. Feeling grateful even to the animals, how could we harm our fellow human beings to whom we owe so much more?

Any society prospers and flourishes when its members cultivate spiritual qualities. Having fully developed the human potential, the capacity for profound thoughts, people will be diligent and skilled in earning their livelihood without intending even the slightest harm to one another. If we wish to so prosper, again, it goes without saying how much we have to be grateful for to our parents and teachers, since these are the true devas illuminating our lives, the pujaniya-puggalā: the people worthy to be held up, high above our own little heads, and truly venerated.

Anyone who develops a more refined sense of gratitude in life will gradually feel a deep appreciation towards the forests, fields, streams, rivers and swamps, the paths and roads and everything in the world, the flowers and the unknown birds flying here and there all around us. Not knowing the value of forests, there are those who have destroyed them with their selfishness, so our children and grandchildren will have no wood for their houses. In addition, the streams and marshes dry up, because the forests, where the water reserves naturally gather, have all gone. Without the forests and the flowing streams, the clouds can no longer form and build up to release their abundant rains. Fruit trees are cut down whole, so their entire worth is reduced to what can be harvested that one time.

If people simply had gratitude in their hearts, then these things couldn’t happen. The things which gladden the mind would be plentiful all over the earth, and everywhere we would live at ease. Being grateful for all the things our planet provides us with, we would cherish, nurture and foster its welfare.

On a deeper and more subtle level still, we can also acknowledge even the debt we owe to our enemies, and feel grateful for life’s obstacles. Viewed from this angle, such opponents help us to grow in wisdom, patient endurance, and a spirit of sacrifice. People who are envious and jealous, only serve to strengthen our own hearts and bring out the best of our mettā and karunā, which we might ordinarily lack. All the difficulties we face allow us to see the world in its true nature. And through learning how to overcome life’s challenges, we find the way to a life of ease. All our illnesses and problems can thus give rise to insight in us. We are forced to let go until we really see the truth of anicca, dukkha and anattā, and eventually realise the path and fruit of Nibbana. People without kataññu do not know the value of these adversities, and they heap disaster and peril on to their lives while digging their own graves with anger and negativity. Their minds know no ease and their lack of self-control, with the frustration it brings, means that they are filled with fear and trembling as life seems to go ever more wrong. They are on a fixed course for self-destruction.

However, those who appreciate life’s challenges, who gratefully rise up to meet them, bring an immeasurable coolness and beauty to the world. If all people felt this way, how could our world fail to become a heavenly realm?

Knowing the value of adversity, nothing in life is perceived as bothersome or difficult. With lofty thoughts such as these, as people develop this most subtle sense of gratitude, this very capacity to appreciate those who oppose us and those things which obstruct us, cools the heat from the frictions of the world.

Considering how even our enemies have been of so much help to us, try then to imagine the value of our mothers and fathers, and the highest of all objects of veneration, the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha.

Spiritual teachers undertake the task of training their disciples’ minds, picking up from where their parents left off and taking them to yet even higher levels. For this purpose, teachers have to develop extraordinary patient endurance, and painstakingly put their hearts into their work, if they are to plant and cultivate deeper and deeper levels of spiritual awareness in their disciples’ minds. This is the sign of true mettā in a teacher – they must constantly study and train themselves to a very high level, thereby having the wherewithal to instill the truth in their disciples’ hearts. This is the sign of true wisdom in a teacher.

Teachers must be constantly selfless and, in this way, remain the reliable objects of their disciples’ deep veneration – not just spiritual workers to be hired and fired. Any disciples, having cultivated a wholesome mind and knowing what is proper, will feel much kataññu towards their teachers, those who bring coolness to the world with their enduring patience and wisdom.

Acknowledging the debt we have to our parents and teachers simply makes one want to give in return; this is achieved by doing only that which will be of benefit to future generations. Disciples will do anything to honour the good name of their spiritual home and they constantly share the merit of their wholesome actions with their mother, father and teachers.

This chance we have to receive these highest gifts is as wonderful as if the Blessed One himself were offering them to us directly. The Noble Disciples endured all manner of hardships in order to faithfully maintain the Buddha’s dispensation, all of this having been done with a heart of deep devotion and gratitude to the Teacher.

If the hearts of everyone on Earth were truly filled with ka taññu-katavedi, then doubtless our world would be more beautiful and alluri ng than a heavenly realm, safer and more praiseworthy than a heavenly realm, more desirable than any heavenly realm. If we consider this well, we will be able to main tain restraint towards one another, not acting impulsively or out of anger. When we think of people who have helped us in the past, parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, then we won’t act in mean or selfish ways. And even if we sometimes do act unmindfully in these wa ys, we will be quick to ask for and to give forgiveness.

Thinking of parents and teachers who have passed away brings up thoughts of respect in us, and so we care for, and behave compassionately towards, our fellow human beings.

Kataññu, the spirit of gratitude, has the power to change a demon into a true human being. The spirit of gratitude will benefit the world so much, and keep it cool forever. Thus we should cherish this high est of qualities, striving and sacrificing to keep it alive in our hearts, as the safest shelter for us all.


Dhamma Talk given on the 17th of March, 1975
Acariya Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno
translated from the Thai by
Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu

All of us sitting here – and this includes the adults as well as the children – should not forget that we each have a mother and father who gave us birth and have provided for our needs. When we were first born we weren’t even able to know whether we were human beings or what, so we had to depend on our parents to look after us. They cared for us from the time we were in the womb until we came out into the world, and from that point on they kept caring for us and watching over us. As soon as we were old enough to start our education, they sent us to school and provided for all our related needs.

From the beginning of our schooling to the end, how much did it cost them? The books, pencils, paper, clothing, sports equipment, tuition, and all the other items too numerous to name – all of these things were a responsibility our parents had to shoulder.

When we came into the world, we came without a thing to our names. Even our own bodies and every aspect of our lives came from our parents and were watched over by them. They provided for our growth and safety, teaching us to know all sorts of things. We ourselves had nothing to show off to them aside from our eating and playing and crying and whining and pestering them in various ways as we felt like it.

There was nothing of any worth to us at all except for the fact that we happened to qualify as people like the rest of the human world.

Children at this age are in the stage where they’re really bothersome at all hours of the day. Their bodies may be small and very endearing, but the trouble they cause isn’t small like their bodies at all. Everything that happens to us at this age is an enormous issue – until we get old enough to know what’s what and start our education. Even then we still can’t help causing trouble for our parents over things like clothing and so on, but at least we begin to gain knowledge, starting with the ABC’s and on through elementary school, high school, university, and graduate school, until we finally count as educated. So, in keeping with the fact that we’re educated, we shouldn’t forget the kindness of our parents who cared and provided for us before anyone else in the world. And we shouldn’t forget our teachers and other benefactors. We should always keep their kindness in mind – because everything we have in body and mind has come from the care, protection, and teachings of our parents and teachers.

Those who are ungrateful, who forget the help of their benefactors, those who are selfish, and see only their own knowledge and abilities in the present without showing deference or consideration for their benefactors are a dead-weight on the world and can find no real progress in life – like a dead tree standing with no fruits or leaves to give shade. So I ask that you each take care to remember not to be the sort of person who is like a dead tree of this sort. Otherwise you’ll be an object of disgust for all your good fellow human beings, and will have no value to the day you die.

Let me stress once more that we have each come from our parents and have gained knowledge from our teachers. This is why we shouldn’t forget ourselves and think that we’re smart and self-sufficient. Otherwise, when we make a slip and fall, we won’t be able to pick up the pieces – the pieces of us – which is the worst sort of loss we can experience, especially now that the world is changing faster than anyone can keep up with, because of all sorts of strange and unnatural theories and ideas.

If anyone were to come along and say that the world has gone crazy, he wouldn’t be wrong, and we’d have to admire him for speaking the truth because things you wouldn’t think were possible have come to pass.

I’ve been around a fairly long time now, and I’ve come to see things in this present-day world that I’ve never seen before. Students, for example, will at the drop of a hat put their teachers in jail or drive them out of their jobs and create all sorts of havoc, stirring up trouble in places that used to be at peace. At first they seem reasonable and admirable in their ideals, but as time passes they get carried away with themselves, loose sight of their parents and teachers and forget that good adults do exist. If this keeps up, I’m afraid that young people carried away with theories of this sort will end up throwing their parents in jail on grounds of being old-fashioned, out-of-date and an embarrassment to them in front of their friends.

This sort of thing can happen if we don’t come to our senses and correct the situation right now. Don’t let these ‘modern’ ideas bring about the end of the world – for the world these days is spinning towards … it’s hard to say what. I’m afraid the knowledge we’ve gained will become a tool for cruelty and heartlessness, and we’ll end up drowning in it. So I ask that you reflect on things carefully. Our nation and society are things of great value to us, so don’t treat them as tools for your opinions, your urge for the excitement of action, or your desire for fame. If society breaks down, you’ll have no way of restoring it.

Buddhism is absolutely right in teaching us the virtue that can prevent all these dangers – the virtue of gratitude to our benefactors. Who are our benefactors? To begin with, our parents, who have cared for us from the day of our birth all the way up to the present. There is no one else in this world who would dare make such sacrifices for us, who would love and show us such compassion as our parents. They are the ones whose kindnesses we should bear in mind more than those of anyone else – and yet we hardly ever give them any thought.

The fact that we hardly give them any thought is what can make us arrogant and ungrateful as we grow older. We tend to forget how, as children, we used to lord it over them. We forget that every child has held the power to order its parents around in every way in line with its whims, even in ways that aren’t proper. Especially when the child is very young; that’s when it’s very powerful. The parents have to put up with so many hardships that you really feel sorry for them. They try everything they can to placate the child because of their love for it, because it is flesh of their own flesh, blood of their own blood. If it orders them to be birds, they have to be birds; if crows, they have to be crows, even though they aren’t birds or crows at all. In other words, they have to run around in search of whatever it wants. Otherwise its shrill, small voice will fill the house.

Every child has been the lord of its parents, ordering them around as it likes. As it grows older, its position diminishes from lord to boss and then to supervisor. But as long as it’s still very young, it holds sole absolute authority within the family. Whatever it demands has to come true. Otherwise it’ll cry until its eyes are on fire. So the parents have to scurry around to satisfy its wants. Every child holds the position of lord, boss, and supervisor in the family before its position finally works down to where it’s tolerable. But never will it agree to come down to the same level with its parents. Until the day it is parted from them by death, the child will always have to hold the reins of power.

There is no doubt that all of us here – all of you, and I myself – have held the position of lord of the family, boss of the family, supervisor of the family, and the old habits have stuck so that we continue to take advantage of our parents, even unintentionally, because the principles of nature among parents and their children create this sort of bond. This holds true for everyone all over the world.

So for the sake of what’s noble and right – in keeping with the fact that our parents gave us life and have done us so many kindnesses – we as children shouldn’t abuse our authority or take too many liberties with them, even unintentionally, because to do so doesn’t fit in with the fact that we have lived under the shelter of their many kindnesses.

To exercise power, abusing the fact that we are their children, abusing their love and compassion for us, ordering them around and speaking harshly with them – these are grave errors on our part.

Some children argue with their parents in an arrogant way simply because of their greed. They pester their parents to buy them things like their friends’, with no thought at all for the family budget. They want this thing or that, so-and-so much money: a constant turmoil. As for the parents, their hearts are ready to burst. It’s hard enough to raise a child as it is, but even harder when the child never seems to grow up.

So I ask that you each consider this carefully. Raising a child is a much heavier burden than raising any number of animals. If there’s anyone who hasn’t experienced any great hardship in life, try raising a child or two and you’ll know what it’s like.

Now, in saying this, my purpose isn’t to criticise the children here.

I’m just speaking in line with the way things are all over the world. I too have sat on my parents’ heads, urinating and defecating all over them.

I doubt that there’s anyone who could match me in this respect. My purpose in saying these things is simply to give all of us who have used our parents as servants a sense of the wrong we have done them, so that we won’t be proud or arrogant with them, and won’t try to force them to do things that are improper or before the right time has come. No matter how poor our parents may be, they have worked their hardest to provide for us to the best of their ability. All of us gathered here today have been children raised with the utmost hardship by their parents.

Don’t think that you’re a deity who floated down from some heavenly mansion and made a spontaneous appearance without anyone to give you birth or care for you. It’s only through the sufferings and hardships of our parents that we now sit here as adults, students, teachers or whatever.

To put it plainly, the fact that we’ve been able to grow is thanks to the hardships and difficulties our parents have borne so patiently. None of our parents have been millionaires with wealth like an ocean – apart from the ocean of love and compassion in their hearts that will never run dry.

If we were to keep a record of how much our parents have spent on each of us, we’d be so shocked at the amount that we wouldn’t be able to finish the account. The money has flowed out in every direction, regardless of the season. But no parents have ever dared keep such a record, because the expenditures have no value for them when compared to their love for their children, who are flesh and blood of their very hearts. Think about it. How many children does each parent have for whom he or she has to make so many sacrifices of so many sorts before the children can grow to the point where they really count as human beings and the parents can relax some of their concern. And then there are the children who never grow up, who keep pestering their parents to the day they die.

So all of us, as our parents’ children, should have a sense of our own indebtedness. Don’t regard yourself as smarter than your parents or superior to them. Their kindness has sheltered you from the moment you first entered the womb up to the present. This is why parents are said to be the Brahmās [1] – the gods – of their children. Their love for their children is love from pure motives. Their compassion, compassion from pure motives. They make all sorts of sacrifices – again, from pure motives. There are no hidden or ulterior motives involved at all. No matter how rich or capable the child becomes, the parents’ compassion and concern never fades.

For this reason, children who are ungrateful to the parents who have been so kind to them are destroyed as people – even though they may think they’re advanced. There’s no way they can prosper as human beings with cool virtues in their hearts. Any wealth they may gain is like a fire burning their homes and their hearts at all times, because the evil that comes from destroying the source of one’s life is bound to bear such heavy results that no one else can be of any help. This is an ancient and irrefutable law that has been taught us by sages. If you don’t want to fall into hell in this very life, you should reflect on your parents’ kindness and show them your gratitude. You’ll then be sure to prosper like all other good human beings.

The Dhamma teaches us to be grateful to our benefactors, such as our parents and teachers. Anyone who has cared for us, anyone who has taught us, we should respect and help whenever the occasion calls for it.

Don’t be callous, stubborn, or proud of your higher status or education.

Always bear your benefactors’ kindnesses in mind. Remember that you are their child, their student. Always think of yourself as beneath them, in the same way that a mountain, no matter how tall, is always beneath the feet of the person who climbs it. No matter how sharp a knife may be, it can’t get that way without a whetstone; no matter how knowledgeable we may be, we couldn’t get that way without our teachers. For this reason, the Buddha teaches us to respect our parents and teachers as the first step in becoming a decent human being.

Notes  :
1.Brahmās: the realm of deities; the inhabitants of the heavens of form and formlessness.


"Without abandoning these five qualities, one is incapable of entering & remaining in the second jhana... the third jhana... the fourth jhana; incapable of realizing the fruit of stream-entry... the fruit of once-returning... the fruit of non-returning... arahantship. Which five? Stinginess as to one's monastery [lodgings], stinginess as to one's family [of supporters], stinginess as to one's gains, stinginess as to one's status, and ingratitude. Without abandoning these five qualities, one is incapable of entering & remaining in the second jhana... the third jhana... the fourth jhana; one is incapable realizing the fruit of stream-entry... the fruit of once-returning... the fruit of non-returning... arahantship.

"With the abandoning of these five qualities, one is capable of entering & remaining in the second jhana... the third jhana... the fourth jhana; capable of realizing the fruit of stream-entry... the fruit of once-returning... the fruit of non-returning... arahantship..."

You, and who ever is interested, may find some inspirations also here:

Without gratidute no success

Since my person, if posskble likes to expand on ATIs heritage the "The Path to Freedom: A Self-guided Tour of the Buddha's Teachings" with the missing attribute kataññu - gratitude, my person is always happy to get known founds of Suttas related to gratitude and right view as well talks, since it would be actually the main topic in every good buddhist community. So feel always invited to share over there, on, direct if inspired.

Sabbītiyo vivajjantu
   Sabba-rogo vinassatu
Mā te bhavatvantarāyo
   Sukhī dīghāyuko bhava
   Niccaṃ vuḍḍhāpacāyino
Cattāro dhammā vaḍḍhanti
   Āyu vaṇṇo sukhaṃ, balaṃ.

« Last Edit: June 08, 2017, 05:19:03 am by Samana Johann »
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Offline Samana Johann

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Re: The Lessons of Gratitude
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2017, 03:56:31 pm »

"Gratitude to Parents"
— May 8, 2013

Focus on your breath. Settle in from the activity of the morning, and remind yourself you're doing this not only for yourself but also for the people around you.

There's a passage where the Buddha says that all good teachings are alike in that they teach gratitude to parents. It's good to think about that when the mind settles down.

I used to ask Thai people what they would identify as the most basic Buddhist virtue, and they'd always say gratitude. But as the Buddha himself pointed out, it's not just a Buddhist value. It’s universal, it's everywhere. Particularly the virtue of gratitude for your parents.

Back when you were small and weak, they were strong. They looked after you. The time's going to come when you're strong and they're weak. So, you owe it to them to help them, because after all they had the choice when you were defenseless: They didn't have to raise you. They didn't even have to give birth to you. They could have aborted you. But they chose to give birth to you, they chose to raise you, they went through all kinds of difficulties. And so regardless of whether you feel that they were skillful parents or not, at least you’re indebted to them for that much: that they enabled you to survive.

If they did teach you right and wrong, and did teach you good things about what it means to be a good person, you owe them that much more. So how do you repay them? Part of it is by actually becoming a good person yourself.

There's an old Thai verse, it's in Pali but I can't find it in the Canon anywhere. A Thai monk apparently wrote a verse in Pali, saying that the sign of a good person is gratitude. The fact that you’re grateful for the goodness done for you shows that you recognize goodness when you see it. That’s a sign that you’ll be more likely to appreciate the effort that goes into goodness, and to go through the effort of doing good things yourself. So this is one of the ways in which you show your gratitude: by training your mind so that you’re a good, reliable person—reliable to yourself, reliable to the people around you.

Then, when the time comes to repay any karmic debts you have to the people who’ve helped you, you're in a position where you can. You’ve strengthened your mind through the practice. As the Buddha said, the best way to repay your parents, if they’re are not generous, is to give them the example of being generous so that they might become inspired to be generous, too. If they're not virtuous, give them the example of being virtuous so they might be inspired to become virtuous. That’s how to repay your debt to your parents.

In cases where it's difficult to deal with your parents, use the strength of mind that comes from concentration and from developing your discernment to support you in behaving skillfully around them. That makes your dealings with them a lot easier, and puts you in a position where you can trust yourself not to harm them or yourself.

So work on these qualities. They're good for you; they're good for the people around you. A lot of the good things in the world—like status, wealth, praise, and material pleasures—are the sorts of things that, when you gain, other people have to lose. Or if they gain, you might have to lose. There's always somebody gaining, somebody losing. Those “goods” create a lot of divisions in the world. That's why we see so much divisiveness in our society right now. It's because everybody seems to be focused on the types of goods and the types of happiness that create divisiveness. So those things aren't really good. The happiness they give is not really happy.

So look instead for the kinds of happiness where the boundaries get erased. When you're generous, that erases boundaries. When you're virtuous and are careful about other people's well-being, that erases boundaries. When you develop qualities of goodwill in your heart, that erases boundaries. Those are the kinds of goods that you really want to work on because everybody benefits—which means that the goodness of those goods is genuinely good.

So keep these thoughts in mind.

"Repaying Our Parents""
December 2, 2014

There’s a daily practice we have of dedicating the merit of our meditation, of our practice, to those who have passed away, to people who have been good to us. And it should be something we do every day. Of course, our parents had some wonderful qualities, but they also had some very human foibles.

In spite of their foibles, we have to appreciate them for the good they did, because that helps us to appreciate goodness within ourselves — and then to think about what we can do we can repay them. If they’re alive, we try to repay them in our dealings with them.

If they’ve passed away, we dedicate the merit of our practice to them. That was one of the things that really struck me when I first went to see Ajaan Fuang: how much he stressed the importance of dedicating the merit of my meditation to my parents. That’s something we should think about every day.

Not all of our parents are Buddhists; not all of them are even favorably disposed towards Buddhism. But we shouldn’t let that make a difference. There’s goodness in the world — Ajaan Lee talked about this quite a lot — there’s goodness in the world that has nothing to do specifically with the Buddha. In many cases, he simply pointed out things that everybody had known before: that killing is bad, stealing is bad, illicit sex, false dealings, intoxication are bad.

We owe a lot to our parents. They let us be born. They provided us with food, clothing, shelter, medicine. They taught us how to walk and how to speak. They may not have been perfect human beings, but they did their best. Without them we wouldn’t be here. So we dedicate our goodness to them, in hopes that something gets through, something gets back to them wherever they may be.

A lot of people had already seen that. Many of us have learned these things from our parents. Even if we didn’t, we can repay our parents by setting a good example for them in avoiding these unskillful forms of behavior. Because we live in this world, we live through our dependency on other people. I think I’ve told you the story about the young boy in Thailand whose parents had scraped together money to send him in to a private Christian school in Bangkok. The boy started picking up Christian ideas at school, and one night he came home, saying that he wanted to ask grace at the table.

So the parents let him. He started his grace by thanking God for putting food on the table. The father immediately cuffed the boy up against the head and said, “What kind of ingrate are you? I’m the one who put the food on the table. If it were up to God, there’d be nothing on the table at all.”

Remember that we’re part of a long line of human beings, each generation depending on previous generations, and each setting an example for the following ones. We repay our debt to the previous ones by setting a good example for those who come after.

It’s in this way that goodness gets passed down from generation to generation and stays alive in the world. Often, the generations before us have come back and they’re going to be reborn as generations after us, so we want to make sure that we haven’t dropped anything good in the meantime as we pass it along and hand it back to them. If we can improve what gets passed along, so much the better.

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