Aug 30th, 2013
This "Buddha quote", however nice it sounds, is not something the Buddha likely said at all (turns out to be from the cheery 70's writer on love, Leo Buscaglia). Oh, the Buddha certainly taught us to be grateful for this precious life, but also to be Grateful (Big "G") in a way that puts down the balance sheet and any need even to hunt for the "silver lining".
What is the difference between gratitude and Great Gratitude seen in a Buddha's Eye?
Daido Loori once recommended this elegant, simple practice on daily gratitude. I will second the recommendation:
Expressing gratitude is transformative, just as transformative as expressing complaint. Imagine an experiment involving two people. One is asked to spend ten minutes each morning and evening expressing gratitude (there is always something to be grateful for), while the other is asked to spend the same amount of time practicing complaining (there is, after all, always something to complain about). One of the subjects is saying things like, "I hate my job. I can't stand this apartment. Why can't I make enough money? My spouse doesn't get along with me. That dog next door never stops barking and I just can't stand this neighborhood." The other is saying things like, "I'm really grateful for the opportunity to work; there are so many people these days who can't even find a job. And I'm sure grateful for my health. What a gorgeous day; I really like this fall breeze." They do this experiment for a year. Guaranteed, at the end of that year the person practicing complaining will have deeply reaffirmed all his negative "stuff" rather than having let it go, while the one practicing gratitude will be a very grateful person. . . Expressing gratitude can, indeed, change our way of seeing ourselves and the world.
This is a lovely, transformative practice. Yet, Daido would also remind us, there is a greater, transcendent, boundless Gratitude in the Buddha's Teachings that does not even need the subtle "see the bright side" "find the positive to counter the negative" or "personal pay-off of what's ultimately nice for 'me'" in the above sense of ordinary gratitude. Rather, there's an even Greater "Non-Pay-off" than that! A Jewel so precious, it shines as both earthly jewels and life's thrown bricks and stones in our shoe.
Ordinary human gratitude is what we are encouraged to feel in the above exercise, and it is fine. In fact, it is wise, healthy and important. Yet there is a "Buddha's Gratitude" which is not dependent on what we "like" that momentarily pleases the selfish-self, that is not based simply on "looking out for the good side" or experiencing the "gorgeous" day. This Emptiness that is all Fullness -is- both the glass "half full" and "half empty!"
A Buddha's Gratitude is Vast and Unlimited ... a Gratitude both for that which we love and that which we may not, a Treasure beyond yet holding mere "silver linings" "brass rings" and "lumps of coal". It is a Peace and Wholeness which transcends "pro vs. con", a Beauty which sees even the ugly times as "gorgeous day". We are grateful for life, for death, for health, for sickness .. each and all as Sacred. It is a Gratitude in the face of a cancer diagnosis, Gratitude that dances all disappointments, a Gratitude which comfortably holds even the tragedy of Syria or any other bloody field (a Gratitude that is Grateful, even as we seek to stop such tragedies in the world).
This last point is vital too, for while such is a Gratitude ever Grateful for this world of both peace and war, health and disease, nonetheless we may seek for peace, fight the disease. While Grateful for this garden of both flowers and weeds, each a Jewel in Indra's Net, we may seek to water the flowers and pluck the weeds we can.
Yes, it is a lovely Practice to not complain, and to learn to see the "bright side" of life's ups and downs. But I also recommend to sit Zazen, sit as Gratitude sitting, sit as this Light which holds light and dark and all shades in between.
Yes, please practice daily the expressing of gratitude, and complain less and see the "negatives" less. Simultaneously, please let us work to make this world nicer, more peaceful, to end the wars, feed the hungry, nurse the sick. Yet let us also Sit a Buddha's Gratitude for ALL OF IT.