Reflections in Gratitude

Reflections in Gratitude

A few years ago, Amma was talking about gratitude as a state of mind. She said that it is the ability to remember all the support we have received, with full humility. Then we will realize that we owe so much to thousands of people, animals, natural forces, worms and even invisible microbes! It would take lifetimes to pay back these debts, especially towards nature and above all, to God. So, we should try to maintain an attitude of thankfulness always.

But don’t think that it is for the benefit of others! Gratitude benefits us more than anyone else. Amma says, “The positivity and goodness that awakens within as a result of being grateful, in turn benefits society and the entire world.”

While we might find it challenging to be grateful to everything, always, at least we can try. 

For example, if you pick up a book, try to remember how you got that book. Did someone give it to you? Did a person help you find the book in a store? Who wrote it, and who edited it? Who taught the person who wrote it? Who printed and bound the book? Who produced the ink needed and who invented the machine that printed the letters? Where did the paper come from and who turned the wood into pulp, then finally paper? How many years did it take the tree to mature?

“Gratitude benefits us more than anyone else.”

When we think about it, for us to just read a book for a few minutes requires the blessings of so many people and factors that are totally out of our control. Shouldn’t we feel grateful to all those people, and to Mother Nature for enabling all of those steps to happen? Above all else, Mother Nature’s blessings determine the success of everything, as we are witnessing now. We can even bow down to a book before we read it.

The food we eat is another fantastic proof of our dependence on so many people and factors. Even if we cook our own meal, where did the ingredients come from? How were they prepared and who did all the work to make sure it reached our dinner table? Even if we grow our own vegetables, where did the seeds come from, and how did the soil become fertile? Even if we save seeds from our own garden and enrich our own soil, we ourselves cannot create a seed, nor can we orchestrate that actual process of soil enrichment.

All this shows the limits of our power and control. No matter how much effort we make, each step of the way the outcome is not guaranteed. Shouldn’t we feel gratitude when the desired outcome is achieved? Even more so, shouldn’t we be grateful to the mysterious power that converts the raw minerals in the ground into the finished product of a vegetable that we can eat?

Of course, the mycorrhizae and the worms improve the soil, and the bees take care of the pollination, but what power prompts them all to do so? It is you or me? What if they all went on strike one day and there were no more vegetables to eat? All life on Earth would cease to exist. Again, plenty of reasons to bow down to our food and give thanks.

When we reflect in this way, Amma says there is nothing for which we should not feel grateful. Even when we go to bed, we need a space to put our head down, a space for our body—not on a bed of nails but something soft—we need a degree of calm and quiet, and ultimately the blessings of sleep, itself. When 60 million people in the USA suffer from insomnia, can’t we just be thankful for a good night’s sleep? Before getting into bed, why not bow down to the bed, itself?

Let us try to remember all the things we can be grateful for during our daily life. However simple something may seem, let us not take it for granted. We can at least mentally bow down to each and everything we use and depend on. This practice will certainly help us experience the truth of Amma’s words—gratitude is a state of mind.

Swami Shantamritananda Puri and other disciples lead an online “Gratitude Retreat” for Amrita Virtual Academy: Click here to sign up: