There are lots of us here living together in community, sharing the same space. So it’s vital that we share the space harmoniously to ensure that things get done, like the external work of taking care of the monastery and the internal work of spiritual practice. To lay a foundation for living together harmoniously, there is a need to develop a sense of kataññū, which is usually translated as gratitude. Now the word gratitude is a bit loaded in the West, sort of like somebody is standing behind us waving his finger saying, “You should be grateful.” That’s quite a repelling image, and it doesn’t convey the real essence of kataññū, which is the faculty within us that recognizes and appreciates the goodness of others.
It’s important to exercise this faculty of kataññū to counteract the mind’s tendency to focus on the things that irritate us, the flaws, the unskillful tendencies. That’s where our minds go, and we tend to weigh ourselves down with negativity. I’m not suggesting we ignore or gloss over the shortcomings we see. Rather, this is about moving away from pointless negativity and, instead, recognizing and paying attention to the things people do that are skillful and wholesome.
Living in a monastery as we do, it’s easy to take for granted the fundamental goodness of others. Goodness can seem so ordinary to us—it’s part of the culture we live in here, and the standards we keep in that regard are quite high. We may need to make a deliberate effort to keep recognizing this “ordinary” goodness and to engender a sense of gratitude for its presence. We make the effort to do this because this gratitude nourishes our ability to live skillfully, and it helps establish wholesome states of mind. With our meditation, it’s much easier to become peaceful when this quality of gratitude is present in the mind as opposed to when we experience negativity, which turns the mind toward all the flaws we perceive in everyone. So pay attention to gratitude—kataññū. Learn to appreciate the goodness of others, which will have the most beneficial results for our practice and well-being.
This reflection is from the newly released two part collection of Dhamma Reflections: