Nothing Bad Has Ever Happened to Me

Luang Por Pasanno • November 2012

Gratitude is an important quality to bring to mind, because it’s easy for the mind to focus on faults, flaws, difficulties, and obstructions. Whether it’s external or internal—the things around us, or our own particular difficulties—it’s easy to obsess on the negative. When we cultivate and bring to mind a sense of gratitude, it helps the mind direct attention to what is wholesome, skillful, and positive. It’s not a small thing, because the mind requires a reserve and foundation of well-being, and gratitude is a very direct way of being able to establish that. We don’t need to have everything go our way or get what we want in order to be grateful; the fact that we’re alive, breathing, and conscious is a lot to be grateful for already.

Last night, one of the people at Yoga Mendocino mentioned the Jewish concept of a tzadik, a person who is an adept or a well-developed person. One characteristic of tzadiks is that they have a sense of gratitude. In the Jewish tradition, this would be gratitude to God. This reminded me of an eastern European Jewish story where a rabbi went to visit another highly respected elder rabbi in the Ukrainian Hasidic tradition. The visiting rabbi says to the elder rabbi, “In the Talmud it says we should be grateful and praise the Lord even for what is evil, let alone for what is good. How are we supposed to understand that?” The elder rabbi replies, “Go to my student, Zusha, over in the House of Study and ask him.” So the visiting rabbi walks over to the House of Study and finds Zusha there, emaciated, filthy, and clothed in rags. He asks, “Zusha, how are we supposed to understand the saying from the Talmud that we should be grateful and praise the Lord even for what is evil, let alone for what is good?” And Zusha answers, “I can’t tell you. I don’t really know. Nothing bad has ever happened to me.”

When we are established in the quality of gratitude, it buoys us up through everything. There are many logical reasons why we could feel that something is awful or not up to our standard. But from a different perspective, we have the life faculty and the opportunity to come in contact with wholesome experiences. We can make a choice with what is good and what is bad, what is conducive to happiness and well-being, and what is conducive to making the choices that lead to those wholesome qualities. That’s something to be incredibly grateful for. We can generate that gratitude by paying attention to the inclination of our minds, by recognizing what our minds are doing and when we have lost this sense of appreciation. In seemingly difficult and trying circumstances, we can encourage those qualities of gratitude that allow us to understand that, for the most part, as Zusha suggests, Nothing bad has ever happened to me.