1. What is gratitude?
God is our creator and has given us all the various things in our life including our life itself. Everyday we wake up in the morning to live another day due to His grace. This life on Earth is precious as it is the only region where spiritual practice can be done to attain the ultimate purpose of life. When any person does something for us we feel gratitude. However most of us are not used to expressing gratitude to God for all the things He has given us. Expressing gratefulness to God for all the various things He does for us is called gratitude in spiritual practice. The ability to live in this feeling of gratitude is an important and intrinsic part of a seeker’s spiritual journey.
The reality is that while most people accept God as their Creator, they do not feel the need to express gratitude to God. This is mainly because they think that all the things that happen in their lives, or at least most of the mundane things in their lives – good or bad, happen of their own volition. It is only in extraordinary turnarounds after intense prayer like a miraculous cure of a very sick child suffering from an incurable illness that one would think of paying gratitude to God. However even here memories of being helped by God in such a dramatic way are short-lived and as time goes by a person goes back to his same old ways until the next big issue strikes him where he begins to pray for divine intervention.
At a lower stage in our spiritual evolvement, in current times, on an average 65% of events happen as per destiny and 35% happen as per our willful action. As we evolve spiritually, we begin to feel God’s presence in our lives. As we experience His presence in our lives, we experience His grace and that everything happening in our lives is happening as per His wish. It is only after the 60% spiritual level that one begins to really appreciate and experience this fact. Along with the experience comes the gratitude in the true spiritual sense of the word.
A seeker and a true student of the Science of Spirituality develops a learning attitude in all situations, good or bad. From the various situations and issues of life he begins to learn about how he can understand his defects and qualities. This way he learns where he must work to shed his base self of personality defects and has a greater understanding and awareness of his qualities. From all situations in life, he gets a clue to improve upon himself, by not only enhancing his current set of qualities but by replacing personality defects with new qualities. He perceives that God is helping him through all situations good and bad to enhance his seekership. Accordingly he feels gratitude to God in all situations good or bad as he feels God’s subtle-hand in his life presenting him with situations and also providing him with the capability to grasp the spiritual lessons and learning.
In most cases this gratitude is directed to one’s spiritual guide or Guru. Please refer to the article on who is a Guru and how He guides a seeker.
To grow spiritually a seeker needs to rise above the emotions (both positive and negative) that a non-seeker is steeped in, to develop spiritual emotion (bhāv), which is experiencing God’s presence everywhere. Gratitude helps to increase spiritual emotion.
2. Superficial gratitude and spiritual emotion of gratitude
Gratitude expressed only in words is superficial gratitude. In the initial stages of one’s spiritual practice, one has to make an effort even to think of words to express gratitude to God. Still for our spiritual progress, it is important that we do make the effort to inculcate the habit of paying gratitude in us.
At this initial stage, paying of gratitude comes from the heart mainly when we can very clearly see divine intervention in our lives. This may be in the case of a loved one getting miraculously cured after doctors have given up hope or a long-standing problem suddenly getting alleviated after intense prayer. In almost all other cases, we pay gratitude for the various things in our life and even for our life itself at a superficial or intellectual level.
As we immerse ourselves more and more into spiritual practice we open up a whole new world that was up to now veiled from us. We get spiritual experiences and these spiritual experiences are God’s way of talking to us. There are myriad small pleasant coincidences in our lives where we slowly but surely feel God’s guiding hand in our lives. Gratitude begins to build for even the smaller events in our life and the constant divine help and encouragement we are receiving in our spiritual practice. When we feel gratitude and express gratitude repeatedly throughout the course of the day, one gradually develops the spiritual emotion of gratitude. Here as explained earlier in this article there is continuous realization before, during and after the action that ‘everything happens as per God’s wish, He does everything’. Hence one’s gratitude is continuous and is automatically expressed in heartfelt thoughts. Thus in this state, gratitude is present and is reflected in every action, movement and thought.
This higher stage of evolvement is activated when ego has reduced and once one attains this state, the ego remains low.
Actually spiritual emotion of gratitude is activated by Guru’s grace and hence remains constant.
3. What is the importance of gratitude?
A seeker begins by effortful expression of gratitude. However over a period of time by repeatedly expressing gratitude and also through spiritual growth he develops the spiritual emotion of gratitude. Once this state is attained, as one constantly realizes that ‘God is the Doer, I am nobody’, his subtle-ego starts reducing. He starts appreciating his limitations and lack of capacity. Hence in any difficult situation he humbly surrenders before God and only then does any action. This is called ‘surrender to God’. When he starts surrendering to God not only in difficult situations but even in small-small incidents in day to day life, his spiritual emotion of surrender increases. God promptly fulfils prayers made with spiritual emotion like ‘God please look after my spiritual growth, please tell me what my next step should be, You only guide me’. A seeker having spiritual emotion of gratitude and surrender is always close to God. God bestows everything that is required, i.e. spiritual experiences, guidance and knowledge to such a seeker even without asking.