Sunday, June 24, 2012


Every experience in life, be it good or bad, adds value to who we are. It shapes our future course, sometimes positively and sometimes negatively. We become a different person through every experience in life, bit by bit. Often people feel helpless in the hands of 'destiny' almost like a blob of wet clay being shaped by the God-potter. In Buddhism, it is believed that our thoughts, words and actions actually shape our destiny. Thus, the responsibility is placed squat on your face for all you experience and all you go through, good or bad. At the same time, the power to be the potter at the wheel, is also yours... each individual's irrespective of caste, creed, financial security or gender. A simplistic concept and yet very difficult to practise.

As each experience in life contributes to who we are and who we become, whether it is the working of a somewhat vicarious God sitting up there somewhere, or through mere consequences of our thoughts, words and actions, repaying debts of gratitude is a crucial element in Buddhist practice. A humility that is rooted in Japanese culture stems from this Buddhist thought, that by making efforts to repay one's debts of gratitude, we move forward in our evolution into better human beings. A constant reminder of how insignificant we are in the face of the overpowering Universe and its laws. There are many ways in which we pay gratitude, without realising that we are doing the same. These acts are an integral part of social interaction in India and often are done superficially or mechanically as a mere body routine. If one can add the thought to it, then the gesture is that much more valuable.

1. Namaste

The most common greeting in India, with hands joined together, head slightly bent, it is an acknowledgment of the other individual with equal if not more respect. The hands are placed close to the heart chakra, where divinity is believed to reside. It is a salutation used commonly by Hindus and Buddhists and in recent times, has become popular even in Western cultures. It is an act of respect or adulation and thus, in a moment, repaying debt of gratitude for having encountered the other noble soul.

2. Touching feet

This is a humbler version of Namaste, in which we show respect by touching the feet of elders. It requires the body to be bent and the head bowed in a gesture of complete reverence and thus, expressing gratitude. Sometimes, this also is a way to seek blessings from those who have experienced more in life, especially during auspicious occasions.

3. Prayer

In life, we all experience ups and downs. When the going is smooth, we oft forget the omnipresence of 'God' in our lives (for the atheists, God can be interpreted as Good Orderly Direction). When the going gets tough, we remember this super power, and how we need to express gratitude to It and at the same time seek Its intervention in setting things right in our lives. All religions have a regular routine of prayer, the degree of which varies from one to the other. In Hinduism, though daily prayer is a requirement, one can often skip it if one attends the Pujas which happen in regular intervals throughout the year. Be it a visit to a temple or a puja, God is kind and will bless those who express their gratitude for all that they have. In Christianity acknowledging one's sins and confessing about it adds a different dimension to our conversations with God and manifests an interesting angle to the manifestation of God's benevolence.

Whatever faith you may consider, prayer is the highest form of expressing and repaying one's debt of gratitude. Our direct channel is God and sometimes, we may not even meet the individuals for a long time, but through this server, in a way, we are expressing our gratitude to all the experiences we have with different people throughout our lives. However, keeping all this in mind, I believe how we pray (to rocks, trees, money, God, idols, whoever) is each individual's prerogative and how it manifests in each individual's life is a mix of more than 3000 factors! But more of that later.

4. Unconditional love

I believe, that an act of love is far more superior than prayer. An act of unconditional love, that is free of expectations, greed, opportunity or benefits, is the highest form of expressing gratitude. Much like the 'I see you' ritual in the tribe of Navis (Avatar)! When we truly are in that paused frame of giving and receiving this pure emotion of love, we are truly acknowledging the presence of the other individual, in his/her entirety, body, mind and soul. A loving embrace, a caring touch, all convey subliminally the depth of emotions we feel, as if to say "Thank You for being here". It always leaves us satiated, no matter how difficult our circumstances may be at that point of time. It carries no expectations, but to be reciprocated... and yet it can be expressed by one and all, and is learnt instinctively.

Yet, in the humdrum of our seemingly busy lives, racing towards so called progress that is only depleting our natural resources, we tend to forget the power of the human touch and how easy it is to express our debt of gratitude.

It is crucial we lead a life, in which we express our gratitude. From the routine to the emotional, each act carries significance. Once we are aware of the power of expressing gratitude, we will surely emerge a better human being day by day. Use your body to speak your mind, in a respectful way and see the change it brings!


Subhorup Dasgupta said...

great post, abhimanyu. loved the opening paragraphs where you highlighted humility and karma. one of the greatest ways that we can repay our debt is by aspiring to become all that we are capable of. both buddhism and hinduism give a lot of importance to contentment. the secret behind mankinds progress though is perhaps the opposite, so it is important to find a balance between humility and the desire to change one's karma and aspire for greater welfare. loved the post. it is a joy to read your writing.

Cousin from Mars said...

Nam myoho renege kyo