Grateful that my father-in-law introduced me to reading Maugham. What one of his character says, hit me very hard, and stays with me: “Oh, my dear boy, one mustn’t expect gratitude. It’s a thing that no one has a right to. After all, you do good because it gives you pleasure. It’s the purest form of happiness there is. To expect thanks for it is really asking too much. If you get it, well, it’s like a bonus … it’s grand, but you mustn’t look upon it as your due”.
In some ways, this was a part of my upbringing. My parents always taught that the opportunity to do good is it’s own reward. In school, we were told नेकी कर कुये में दाल (Do good and forget about it). Doing good is always a responsibility and a privilege. I have elsewhere written about the Zen monk, who on receiving a huge donation from the King, gave him an even more valuable lesson, “It is the Giver who should be grateful.”
Unfortunately the human condition is different. The normal experience we all have is…even the people who do very little, expect others to acknowledge and compliment. And if others have not recognized their contribution, people are unhappy!! The sheer & pure joy of having done a good deed is a fast passing fancy! Rather, it is as though unless others acknowledge and compliment, my good deed is not “complete”. And I will somehow or other find a way to showcase my “good deed”, my action and point to others my nobility, in having gone down to the level of the hoi-polloi, and made them benefactors of my munificence!! My endeavour is to prove that I am next only to God, as omniscient & as compassionate, as giving & as forgiving, such that, really, people should hail the second coming of the Christ!!
Sounds familiar? In smaller or larger degree, we all carry this seed of thoughts and feelings. And always feel wronged…at being misunderstood, at being undervalued, at not getting our due!!! Superior to all others, we keep wondering when will they wake up to our greatness? when will they understand how wrong they are? when will they kowtow to the superior being who is amongst their midst?
Again, the fault lies not in our stars but in ourselves. What we need to do is just change our mindset, change the lens through which we look at the world…and it will flash upon that inward eye that I am the supplicant, I am the receiver, I am the beneficiary, I am in the debt of forces and people around me who are giving me this living experience. They contribute in innumerable ways to make my life and my living richer and fuller!! I should be grateful for all that I am receiving, and continue to get, day in and day out.
Albert Einstein captured this thought so beautifully: “A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received and am still receiving.” This quote disabuses my ego, and reminds me that without the contributions of others I am nothing. I get support from hundreds of others to enjoy the life as I do. I stand on the shoulders of so many giants, people far better and more learned than me, who contribute to helping me understand my real situation. In front of all these, it is foolhardy for me to expect that others should thank me. Rather the fact to understand and learn quickly is, I must be grateful, I am the beggar, and my bowl is always over-full if I develop my eyes to see this. As the Hindi song goes: एहसान मेरे दिल पे तुम्हारा है दोस्तो , ये दिल तुम्हारे प्यार का मारा है दोस्तो.
Piglet in Winnie the Pooh by A A Milne showed us the way to be: “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” Can we learn from Piglet? As soon as we are able to see things and people around us with gratitude, the world around us blooms and blossoms. Recollect all the happy people in your life. You will see clearly that they are grateful. Grateful they are alive. Grateful they have another bright and shining day unfolding before them. Grateful for the very chance to be happy and alive. As they say, we can complain that rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice that thorns have roses!! Long long ago, Epicurus cautioned us: “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” Remember whatever your condition, what you have today, is the dream and aspiration of many others who are hoping they would reach your position/condition. Blessings have to be counted. Unfortunately our habit is to hunger for things one does not have. But once received, we quickly undervalue it and think this was only your due….and hunger now for something more, something different, something always beyond our grasp. Can we change gears and learn to be grateful instead?
So start every day with a grateful heart. Grateful that you are alive. And look forward to the new day unfolding its’ gifts and treasures before you. Everything that happens in your life is an experience. See it positively and learn its’ teachings. The Greek philosopher Seneca obviously had a great insight, when he wrote: “True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing.”
Why go that far back. Our modern master Eckhart Tolle (A New Earth: Awakening to Life’s Purpose) reminds us an eternal truth: “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” We have it within us to be happy. To be happy, be grateful!! Gratitude. That is all we need to bring heaven on earth!! That is why Hindu scriptures always said: It is all within you. You hold the Keys of the Kingdom. Meister Eckhart had the last word on this: ” “If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.”
पोटा पुरता पसा पाहिजे नको पिकाया पोळी देणाऱ्याचे हात हजारों दुबळी माझी झोळी (I need just a handful of grains to fill my stomach, not पुरण पोळी. There are thousands of hands ready to give, but my alms-bag is too flimsy to hold all that I receive).
Thank you all for being in my life: vikas