Repay the Blessings

Ajahn Amaro

Repay the Blessings

Along with developing gratitude towards our physical parents, the Buddha also encourages us to cultivate it in relationship to our spiritual teachers and with those who have helped us in our spiritual lives.

This means gratitude to those who have taught us and introduced us to the liberating teachings. Thus, in a similar way, despite whatever shortcomings there might be in our teachers, and things that our complaining minds can find to pick at, the Buddha exhorts us to nurture the sense of gratefulness, the quality of gratitude and to respect that connection with those who introduced us to the teachings and with those who have helped us along the way.

This holds true whether we are still inspired by that person’s actions or whether they have fallen from grace for some reason. Even though we might one day lose faith with that person – perhaps we find out that the one who first taught us meditation was a roaring alcoholic and had 15 bank accounts, 14 of which were seriously overdrawn – still the Buddha’s teaching encourages us to maintain the sense of gratitude and always to pay respect to that person, always to hold them in our hearts.

There’s a very beautiful story in the Suttas on this theme. The Venerable Assaji, who was an Arahant, one of the Buddha’s first disciples, was also the first to introduce Venerable Sariputta to Buddha-dhamma. As the story goes, whenever Venerable Sariputta would lie down to rest at night, he would always consider “Now where is Venerable Assaji? Is he in the north, is he in the south, the east or the west?” Whenever Venerable Sariputta would lie down to sleep, he always would lie with his head towards where Venerable Assaji was staying.

This was because of the sense of, “This is the one who first taught me the Buddha’s teaching; he was the one who introduced me to Buddha-dhamma. So I should always lie as if I were placing my head at his feet, as a gesture of respect towards him.”

So, cultivating gratitude and appreciation, even in the light of serious shortcomings, is a very beautiful and helpful thing. Even in our teachers, even those who have become falling-down drunks, it’s appropriate to cultivate gratitude and appreciation for such people to repay the blessings that they have brought into our lives.

This reflection by Ajahn Amaro is from the book, Gratitude, “Gratitude to Our Guides.