May 18, 2012

Being grateful

Anything we receive must be thanked for or received with gratefulness. Why is this? It’s because we are always privileged to receive. That means there is always someone else who is not getting while we are getting. This is true about anything we get; always, there is someone less fortunate who maybe more deserving and yet because of opportunities or circumstances, they are not privileged to have it. So, gratefulness is a show of humility that we express when we are in a privileged position of receiving what good measure life has to offer - whether a job, position, wealth or achievement, etc. When we look at each of these as achievements, we tend to, unawares to ourselves, attribute the credit of that achievement to ourselves when actually we -- the recipient -- are the end point of a long chain of people who have been involved and instrumental in making that achievement happen or make possible.

In everyday life, we in our politeness, show gratitude to our bosses, our colleagues, or our communities that have given us a privileged lease on our life. Often this feeling comes out of a belief that if not for that person or institution that gave it to us, we might not have received it. Even at the expense of not really believing this to be so, we often shower them with words of thanks and gratitude for giving us the opportunity -- more as an intellectual or socially desired engagement rather than an act of heart. Similarly, up the line, our bosses too are grateful to someone for placing them in the flow of life’s benefits. So in the ultimate analysis, there is no living being beyond the scope of gratitude. Yet there is a universal intelligence, and that Source is always instrumental in our achievement. There is thus no scope for pride that any given achievement can ever be totally attributable to the recipient’s independent will.

On the spiritual level this is very meaningful for the preservation of our environment. This God-given privilege of life, children and good health all come from a source that we must be grateful to. Because we don’t see the Giver is not reason enough to be ungrateful. What we do to our earth and its environs that precipitate the chaos we see is not the sign of grateful human beings.

This simple logic above must enable us to change our mindset towards humility and away from the ego’s push to say “I did whatever I did, all on my own”. Nothing is further from the truth. Every moment is the culmination of all the moments that have gone before it and thus, every action we take is a mix or accumulation of the wisdom of many before it. So how can we take personal credit? If we can change our mindset to this shift in realization, we will soon become more humble in our attitude. And contrary to the prevailing belief of the independent and competitive individual being the epitome of modern society, in actuality, the humble attitude is the basis of a caring and sharing society. Loving kindness is only possible in such communities.


Anonymous said...

Indeed, gratefulness is a godly attribute worthy of emulation by men and women. But, true gratefulness and graciousness are not human attributes though a select few individuals have manifested them.

Arthur John Arberry is a noted Arabic and Persian scholar. Among other works, he wrote about the mystics of Islam. In this work there is a story about a Bedouin. It goes this way:

In the Sahara, water is very scarce and available only in small quantities in oases. And many Arabs live far from large oases, especially Bedouins. A Bedouin once witnessed some rain and saw a quantity of water gathered in a pool on the ground. It was the time of the Khalifah Haroun Rasheed. During his time, anyone who brings rare special gifts to the Khalifah were handsomely rewarded so this Bedouin, desirous of the reward, filled a camel waterbag with the water and made the fortnight-long journey to Baghdad. After, a few days in waiting, he finally got an audience with the Khalifah. When the man presented the water bag to the Khalifah, he showed immense gratitude, rewarded him handsomely and asked a Courtier to keep him in one of the royal guest houses until he wanted to leave.

In private, he told the Courtier, “Do not let the Bedouin see the River Euphrates running behind the Palace.”

Professor Arberry says that every Sufi story has a Zaahir and Baathin meaning, though most teachers are not likely to reveal the baathin meaning until the student matures, which for some may take 40 to 50 years. He says, in the allegory the Khalifah is God. There are men who spend all their life in the service of humanity and God, praying all the time. There are others who think of God only on Fridays or other days or when misfortune befalls them. The transgressors are unaware of the devotion of the devoted, the sleepless nights the devotees spend in prayers, year after year. Yet He accepts the comparatively meagre prayers of the ordinary as if it is the greatest prayer He had been offered.

Now that is Real Gratitude.

Abdul Sattar Yoosuf said...

Thanks Anonymous. Thats the direction we would all hope to move along.