On this day we are considering kataññu-katavedi, which is the Pali for gratitude. Gratitude is a positive response to life; in developing kataññu we deliberately bring into our consciousness the good things done to us in our lives. So on this day, especially, we remember the goodness of our parents, and we contemplate it. We are not dwelling on what they did wrong; instead, we deliberately choose to remember the goodness. And the kindness that our parents had for us – even though in some cases, generosity might not have been there at all times. This is one day in the year for remembering our parents with gratitude and recalling all the good things they have done for us. Having a day like this, when we deliberately think of parents with gratitude, is a way of bringing joy and positive feelings into our lives.
Of course my mother was not perfect, she was not a perfectly enlightened being when she had me, so naturally there were things she could have improved on. But generally speaking, the dedication, commitment, love, and care were all there – and directed mainly to making the lives of my father, my sister and myself as good and as happy as could be. It was a dedication; she asked very little for herself. So when I think back like this, kataññu, gratitude, arises in my mind for my mother and father. Now I can hardly think of any of their faults which used to dominate my mind when I was young; they seem so trivial now, I hardly recall any.
If we just go on with the force of habit and conditioning we remain more or less stuck with all kinds of things instilled into us – with habits that we acquired when we were young – and these can dominate our conscious life as we get older. But as we mature and grow up, we realise that we can develop skillfulness in the way we think about ourselves, and in the way we think about others. The Buddha encouraged us to think of the good things done for us by our parents, by our teachers, friends, whoever; and to do this intentionally – to cultivate it, to bring it into consciousness quite deliberately – rather than just letting it happen accidentally.
This reflection by Ajahn Sumedho is from the book, Gratitude, chapter, “Gratitude for our Parents.”