“Monks, I will teach you the level of a person of no integrity and the level of a person of integrity. Listen & pay close attention. I will speak.”
“As you say, lord,” the monks responded.
The Blessed One said, “Now what is the level of a person of no integrity? A person of no integrity is ungrateful & unthankful. This ingratitude, this lack of thankfulness, is advocated by rude people. It is entirely on the level of people of no integrity. A person of integrity is grateful & thankful. This gratitude, this thankfulness, is advocated by civil people. It is entirely on the level of people of integrity – Kataññu Sutta
Gratitude is an antidote for the poisons of greed, jealousy, resentment, and grief. When we are grateful we do not wish for more than we have, but appreciate that which is already present in our lives. We do not chafe at the good fortune of others, or resent or mourn that which is missed, lost, gone, or never had. The desire for more can be boundless and endless. There is always one more thing to want.
Acceptance and gratitude are feelings that can occur spontaneously, but they are also attitudes that can be cultivated. The more space we make for them in our lives, the more we practice them, the less room there is for mental poisons to take root.
Can we be grateful in this moment that we have this human life to cultivate and develop? That we live in a time and place where we can hear and study the dharma? Can we be grateful for the earth that holds us up, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food that nourishes us? Can we be grateful for the presence in our lives of people who love us, and people that we love? Can we be grateful that, whatever ailments afflict us, we are still able to breathe and think and move? Can we be grateful that, whatever financial reverses we may have suffered, we still have shelter, clothing, and food to eat? Can we be grateful for our parents who gave us life and kept us alive through childhood, who fed and clothed us, who cared for us when we were ill?
As you try to cultivate gratitude for what is present, do resistances arise? The “yes, buts” and “if onlys?” Yes, but my parents were self-absorbed, judgmental, controlling… If only I were thinner, richer, healthier, younger… Let the resistances arise, observing them without pushing them aside, without amplification, without judgment. Do they persist or dissolve? What’s possible in this very moment?
What’s it like to be grateful when you have cancer? When you are incarcerated? When you are unemployed? Can we be grateful and appreciative no matter what? In practice we “open the hand of thought” and let the story line become permeable, transparent. We let the world shine through.
“Continuous practice, day after day, is the most appropriate way of expressing gratitude. This means that you practice continuously, without wasting a single day of your life, without using it for your own sake. Why is it so? Your life is a fortunate outcome of the continuous practice of the past. You should express your gratitude immediately.” — Dogen (Kazuako Tanahashi, trans.)