Any society prospers and flourishes when its members cultivate spiritual qualities. Having fully developed the human potential, the capacity for profound thoughts, people will be diligent and skilled in earning their livelihood without intending even the slightest harm to one another. If we wish to so prosper, again, it goes without saying how much we have to be grateful for to our parents and teachers, since these are the true devas illuminating our lives, the pujaniya-puggalã: the people worthy to be held up, high above our own little heads, and truly venerated.
Anyone who develops a more refined sense of gratitude in life will gradually feel a deep appreciation towards the forests, fields, streams, rivers and swamps, the paths and roads and everything in the world, the flowers and the unknown birds flying here and there all around us. Not knowing the value of forests, there are those who have destroyed them with their selfishness, so our children and grandchildren will have no wood for their houses. In addition, the streams and marshes dry up, because the forests, where the water reserves naturally gather, have all gone. Without the forests and the flowing streams, the clouds can no longer form and build up to release their abundant rains. Fruit trees are cut down whole, so their entire worth is reduced to what can be harvested that one time.
If people simply had gratitude in their hearts, then these things couldn’t happen. The things which gladden the mind would be plentiful all over the earth, and everywhere we would live at ease. Being grateful for all the things our planet provides us with, we would cherish, nurture and foster its welfare.
On a deeper and more subtle level still, we can also acknowledge even the debt we owe to our enemies, and feel grateful for life’s obstacles. Viewed from this angle, such opponents help us to grow in wisdom, patient endurance, and a spirit of sacrifice. People who are envious and jealous, only serve to strengthen our own hearts and bring out the best of our mettã and karunã, which we might ordinarily lack.
All the difficulties we face allow us to see the world in its true nature. And through learning how to overcome life’s challenges, we find the way to a life of ease. All our illnesses and problems can thus give rise to insight in us. We are forced to let go until we really see the truth of anicca, dukkha and anattã, and eventually realise the path and fruit of Nibbana. People without kataññu do not know the value of these adversities, and they heap disaster and peril on to their lives while digging their own graves with anger and negativity. Their minds know no ease and their lack of self-control, with the frustration it brings, means that they are filled with fear and trembling as life seems to go ever more wrong. They are on a fixed course for self-destruction.
This reflection by Luang Por Liem is from the talk, “The Right Angle: It’s Never Wrong.”