Being grateful opens up our hearts and invigorates relationships…

Have you ever felt violently angry after having been taken for granted not once, not twice, but many times? Did you swear that you will never help or give of yourself to another person again? Often, even the most kind people are pushed into himsa thoughts and behaviour by gross ingratitude. When we do a kind act, most of us like to be acknowledged.

A simple thank you is all we need to repeat the kindness. In today’s self-centred way of life, being grateful is fast becoming a thing of the past. All our scriptures emphasise the fact that we do good not for any reward, but because it is the right thing to do, and to expect anything back is a selfish motive. Yet …

An elderly friend has helped so many people. She paid for many boys and girls to go to school and college, found them jobs, paid for wedding expenses and enabled them to rise above the poverty line. Sadly, now that she is old and house-bound, she does not exist anymore to them. A few weeks ago I found her particularly agitated. A young boy she had helped had found his first job, earning over Rs. 25,000. She bought a few formal shirts for him, as she knew that he could not yet afford good clothes and she did not want him to be stigmatised because of his shabby clothes. She called him a few times, then there was silence. Months went by and no sign of him, though she heard that he was doing very well.

“What did I do wrong?” she asked angrily. I felt so sad for her, as she did not want anything from this boy — she just wanted to rejoice in his good luck.

I realised at that moment that being grateful is such a large part of living the ahimsa way. Ahimsa means not hurting anyone or causing pain. Being ungrateful causes deep pain. Being grateful brings new life and love to relationships — it is ahimsa behaviour.

Interlinked web

I remember a story my grandmother told me when I was young. A little boy was so happy to have a glass of cold water on a hot day that he impulsively thanked the glass. “Don’t thank me,” said the glass, “thank the tap where I came from.” So he thanked the tap, and the tap said, “Don’t thank me; thank the well.” So he did that. The well replied, “You should thank the rain, not me.” So he thanked the rain, and the rain said, “Thank the clouds.” The clouds said, “Thank the sun.” The sun said, “Thank the ocean.” The ocean said, “Thank the one who made me, the sun, the clouds, the rain, the well, and the man who made the tap and the glass.”

The little boy realised that everything he had came from God, and so thanked God with all his heart. It is a simple little story, but one that always stayed in my heart and pricks at my conscience whenever I am ungrateful for all that life has given me.

For inner peace

Today we hear an increasing number of stories of adult children who turn away from their parents in ingratitude, forgetting the love and care they were once raised with.

Being grateful, whether it is to parents, teachers, mentors, helpers and those who make our lives easier, makes our hearts open, loving and peaceful towards the one we are grateful to.

Relationships become harmonious, beautiful and alive. Being ungrateful makes us hard, uncaring unloving and selfish — all himsa traits.

Many young people take the services of lift operators, sales people, drivers, maids, those who run errands, office and street cleaners, garbage collectors… for granted. It is as if it is their right to be served and waited upon and to be rude and surly instead of being grateful. The word “thank you” is slowly disappearing from our vocabulary.

Being grateful brings people together; ingratitude separates and hurts. One of the first steps towards living the ahimsa way has to be having a grateful heart.

Ask yourself, to whom are you most grateful today? Have you expressed your gratitude to this person? When you do so, you will be surprised to see and feel the warmth of love. You will be surprised too at how easy living the ahimsa way is.

If you believe in an ahimsa way of life and wish to share your story, e-mail ushajesudasan@gmail.com or visit www.ushajesudasan.com