A Thankful Heart
At times it can feel as if our world is besieged by negativity. When this happens, the perfect antidote is a thankful heart. Inherent in a thankful heart is a spirit and feeling of gratitude. Let’s take a moment to define gratitude. According to definitions given in Oxford Languages dictionary, gratitude is defined as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Being thankful; showing appreciation; returning kindness – Gratitude is obviously a very good thing.
The problem is that many times the things we are thankful for keep our focus directed towards the world instead of our spirituality. We just scored a big business deal. Thank you, Lord. The stock we bought tripled in price. Thank you so much, God! We got admission into the college we wanted. God is good, we say. We get the job of our dreams, meet the man of our dreams, meet the woman of our dreams. I love you, God! The list could go on and on. These are the kinds of things we are thankful for. Worse yet, when we make these kinds of things our priority then, if we don’t get these things, we don’t practice gratitude.
Hazur Maharaj Ji explains our situation to us. In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. 3, he says:
You see, the Lord has given us so much in life, but we don’t have that thankful heart. Instead of asking the Father to give us the boons in life, we should ask him to give us that heart which is full of gratitude for what he has given to us. We need that understanding to thank him for what he has given, but we are always protesting what he has not given. We must believe that what he has not given is not meant for us, is not good for us, is not to our advantage. And for whatever he has given us in life, we should be grateful to him, we should be thankful to him. So we need a thankful heart, a heart full of gratitude, rather than praying for worldly things or to fulfill our worldly desires. Everything is comparative. If we look to other people and start counting all the advantages we have over them, they’re numerous. And for that we should be thankful to the Father.1
There is so much wisdom in Hazur Maharaj Ji’s words. The purpose of his message is twofold. First, he is telling us to be accepting of whatever it is that we have in this world, a big bank account, a small bank account, a big house, a small house – he asks us to be grateful for what we do have instead of focusing on what we don’t have. But secondly and more importantly, he is directing our focus back to spirituality, back to where it should be, when he says, “If we look to other people and start counting all the advantages we have over them, they’re numerous.” When Hazur Maharaj Ji says this, when he speaks of these numerous advantages, he is speaking of the spiritual advantages we have been blessed with.
When we understand his message, when his words penetrate and sink in, then we begin to understand what we should have gratitude for. We begin to understand what we should be thankful for. We begin to understand what we should show appreciation for. We begin to understand how we should return the kindness.
We should be grateful for the fact that we have a human birth. Why should we be thankful for a human birth? In Divine Light, Hazur Maharaj Ji says:
Blessed are those who realize the great value of human life and the true purpose for which our benign Creator bestowed this rare gift on us. It is only after passing through millions of lives in the lower species that we again got this human body, and the main object of the Lord in bestowing this precious gift on us is to afford us the opportunity ‘to know ourselves’ and to know our Creator, and thus return to our eternal Home from which we were separated eons ago.2
Hazur Maharaj Ji reinforces this by saying:
Eating, sleeping, procreation and sense pleasures, all this we have experienced in millions of lives – even in the lower species to which we transmigrated before again obtaining the human body. The purpose of human life is to enable us to know ourselves and to know the Lord, which cannot be accomplished in any other form. For this a soul has to have a human form, so our main attention now should be towards God-realization. All other things and interests are secondary and unimportant.3
By shifting our perspective and understanding why we should be so grateful for our human birth, we also become aware of the other things we should be thankful for. We should be grateful that we have a living Master. We should be grateful that we have four vows around which to build the foundation of our life. We should be grateful that we have satsang. We should be grateful that we have seva. We should be grateful that we have meditation. Having this focused and pointed appreciation will channel our gratitude into the things that matter. By developing a thankful heart, the impact will be so positive that no matter how much negativity we may be surrounded with, it will not affect us, and we will be free to carry on with our main work, our spiritual work, the purpose for which we were born.
- Spiritual Perspectives, Volume 3, Q #531
- Divine Light, Letter 50
- Divine Light, Letter 107