Charles Dickens wrote, “Reflect on your present blessings, of which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
During an evening meeting a few years ago, Master touched upon gratitude not just once but several times within different contexts. He made a statement to the effect that human beings are the most thankless and destructive of all the species, with the least faith. What about showing some gratitude, he asked? What are the things that he is referring to that we should perhaps be grateful for?
The first thing to be grateful for is that we have received a human body. We take it so much for granted. Yet, without this mass of bones and skin, we would not have the opportunity to embark upon the inner experiences that are going to lead to the discovery of our true self. In Quest for Light, Maharaj Charan Singh writes:
The human body is a priceless gift bestowed on man through the Lord’s grace. The purpose of this rare gift is to afford us an opportunity to return to our true home.
Note that in just three lines, he refers to this gift as priceless and rare. We don’t realize how long it may have taken us to get this human body; how many times we were incarnated in all kinds of lower species until, finally, we were given a human form. And then, we had to go through countless human bodies, through countless karmas before we got this very body earmarked this time for our soul to travel on the inner spiritual path. In a poem entitled “Even the Gods Want a Human Birth”, Tukaram writes:
Even the gods in the heavens want a human birth.
We are lucky to have been given this body
So that we can be his devotees.
We should take advantage of this life
To reach the highest spiritual region.
We will take the ladder to the heavens
And climb it step by step, says Tuka.
Maharaj Sawan Singh explains in Spiritual Gems:
It is only man – and not even gods and angels – who has been endowed by the Almighty with faculties, by developing which he can attain the highest spiritual region, provided he is initiated by a perfect Master and works hard to elevate his soul to the higher regions.
No wonder Tukaram enjoins us:
Look upon this human body with great respect,
For within it lies the Name
That leads to permanent happiness.
When duality vanishes, the Lord is seen
And the self merges in the Lord.…
Tuka says: give up all wanderings
And know that permanent happiness
Lies within you.
In Words Eternal, Maharaj Charan Singh says:
Strike the bargain of Nam and accumulate this treasure while the Lord gives you the opportunity to live in this body.
The fact that we have been given initiation is another reason for us to be grateful. Maharaj Charan Singh continues:
Initiation is not the spoken word but a touch of the soul from the soul of the Master to the soul of the initiate.
This is the miracle of initiation, that transference of energy, that link between Master’s soul and ours. Nam is not so cheap. It is a rare article. Only a few among billions get it in a lifetime. It is our key to entering the spiritual spheres.
Another reason to be grateful is that we live under the full guidance of a perfect living saint. He guides us and he pulls the strings, but we are unaware of it until we go within. In Light on Sant Mat, Maharaj Charan Singh writes:
Once a Master has accepted a disciple, he never leaves him but is ever ready to guide him on the path. He does much more for us than the human mind can comprehend.
We have very little idea of what a Master does for us and how much he does and gives. In Spiritual Gems, Maharaj Sawan Singh gives an insight into this:
The power – Guru – is within you and is ever busy in making matters easy for you.…The power within is not ignorant of what you are doing. It is with you and constantly watches you and guides you.
We should also be grateful that we do not need to worry about our progress. It is all in his hands, and everything will happen in due course. He knows when. He will make it happen. What a bargain! Maharaj Sawan Singh continues:
That power is far more eager to meet you than you can possibly think of.… The power within does not err. It will open the door when it finds that the time has come. Increase your love and devotion, and entrust yourself entirely to its care.
In Quest For Light, Maharaj Charan Singh says:
There is hope for every disciple on this path. When the Lord has arranged for our initiation into this science it means he wants us to come back to him one day. And if that is the Lord’s wish what power can keep us back here for long? It is only a question of time until our burdens are lightened and we are pure enough to stand in his presence. This is the greatest blessing that the Lord can shower upon any human being.
We should be very grateful that we are the lucky ones who have been given the privilege, the gift of remembering God. We should not take this for granted. To even think of the Lord is a gift. We have also been given the gift of simran! Maharaj Jagat Singh writes about simran in Science of the Soul:
It is a wonderful talisman, the significance and efficacy of which you will realize only when you devote sufficient time (two and one–half to three hours daily) to it, to the exclusion of all other thoughts and cares.
We should be grateful that we have a destiny meant exclusively for us, guaranteed to provide the experiences that are meant to purify us and to make us grow so that we become fit to see the Light and hear the Sound.
In Spiritual Gems, Great Master says:
Whatever comes to man from the Lord is the result of his own actions, and the Lord makes him go through them for his own betterment.
In Quest for Light, Maharaj Charan Singh understands our plight and offers us encouragement:
There are always ups and downs in life. Things never remain the same, and we should try to face these moments of trial with patience and courage, keeping full faith in him.… To make an effort is our duty, but the results are not in our hands. Sometimes we have to learn to live with our handicaps when efforts fail. This is the time of test for us and we should not lose our mental equilibrium, but say and sincerely believe that this is the will of the Lord and we accept it in all humility. Who knows? Things could have been worse. So our feeling of gratitude to him must never be lost.
As we become aware of the multiple gifts we have been given, how do we express our gratitude?
Master said something like: You express your gratitude by doing what he has asked you to do; you do your meditation. You do it because he has asked you to. It is that simple. You do your part, he explained, for in so doing you help him do his part. It is a team: Master and disciple, disciple and Master. We learn to dance together the dance of love.
In Science of the Soul, Maharaj Jagat Singh confirms:
He does what he thinks proper. If we do our duty, why would he not do his? We should proceed in love and faith and see that we do not transgress his commandments. The best and most appropriate way of appreciating his kindness and expressing our gratitude is to give more and more time to bhajan and simran, so that we may go in and contact Nam, and thus have a first hand experience of everything.
Master once said something to the effect that simple people go in because they have gratitude. They understand what they have received. So somebody asked him: What is simplicity? He answered: It is letting go of preconceived ideas and living in the moment. We complicate our spiritual life by having so many preconceived ideas of what our progress should look like or feel like. We have a timetable; we worry when it is not met.
A satsangi was so worried about not meeting his own timetable that he got up and asked whether his inability to open the third eye after so many years meant that this path was not for him. Absolutely not, replied the Master.
In 2003 there was a study on gratitude done by two scholars at the University of California at Davis and the University of Miami entitled: “Counting Blessings vs. Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life.” The purpose of the study was to examine the influence of grateful thinking on psychological well-being in daily life and thereby put to test popular and classical assumptions concerning the benefits of gratitude. It was an extensive study. It is interesting to note here that the study concludes that the regular practice of grateful thinking leads to enhanced psychological, physical and social functioning. The authors also suggest that gratitude is a form of love which is also likely to build and strengthen a sense of spirituality. So there might be something after all to the advice “count your blessings” that we might have gotten from our parents or from friends. Being able to feel and express gratitude, concludes this study, unleashes positive qualities – contentment, appreciation, happiness, hope, trust in the good and surrender to the will of a higher power.
Thomas Merton, the scholar, spiritual writer and philosopher, in the book Words of Gratitude, writes:
To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of his love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.
And so let us end with Master’s question: What about showing some gratitude?