Gratitude and Religion, Part 2

Today we will continue our exploration of how religions view gratitude by taking a look at Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism.

“There are two persons who are rare in the world. Which two? First the person who volunteers to help others selflessly, and second, the one who is grateful and helps in return.” – Buddha

While Buddhism does not acknowledge a God or creator, it nevertheless places great importance on the idea of gratitude. Instead of thankfulness to God for blessings received, however, it generally is directed to those around us who are kind to us as well as those who cause us difficulties, as those difficulties are often the motivations for our greatest growth. In Nichiren Buddhism, there are four great debts of gratitude we should all endeavor to repay: to all living things, to our parents, to our rulers, and to the “Three Treasures” (the Buddha himself, his teachings, and his followers.)
The first debt of gratitude, to all life, exits because without life we would be unable to practice the altruistic lifestyle that is the basis of Buddhist teachings. It even goes so far as to explain that we should feel gratitude even to our enemies, as their persecutions of us allow us to grow emotionally in learning to deal with them.
The second debt of gratitude is owed to our parents, for the obvious gift of bringing us into existence and the less obvious opportunity to work on improving our own karma.
The debt of gratitude to our rulers makes sense because he rulers were seen as a parental figure for the nation, whose role was to guide and protect it for the benefit of all the people and allow them a safe place to practice their beliefs.
The Three Treasures are the object of the fourth debt of gratitude. These are the foundations and basis for the whole idea of Buddhism and of course, the practitioner should feel grateful to and for them.

Also call to mind when your Lord proclaimed: “If you give thanks, I will certainly grant you more…” (Quran, Ibrahim 14:7)

Gratitude is certainly a highly regarded virtue in Islam. There is great emphasis given to expressions of gratitude to Allah for all of the blessings we receive. The good Muslim should also be thankful for times of trial because at those times he should turn to Allah for guidance and support, and anything that brings him closer to God is a good thing.

Many times the Quran teaches that followers should be grateful to Allah, no matter the circumstances. Over and over it is emphasized that the primary objective of followers of Islam is to praise God and to be grateful to him for everything they have.

Another important element of the Islamic view of gratitude is the view of being thankful to others for things they do for us. By thanking others, we are also thanking Allah.

And one last interesting point. One of the names of Allah in Islam is Ash Shakur, commonly translated as “the appreciative”. It is used to illustrate that Allah returns the gratitude of people with greater blessings for them to be grateful for.

“Whatever I am offered in devotion with a pure heart — a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water — I accept with joy.” -Bhagavad Gita

The idea of being grateful for all that they have, as we never truly own anything but all things are gifts to us from God, is also an element of Hinduism. However, generally gratitude is directed to others who have helped us gain understanding. The gift of knowledge is considered the greatest thing one person can give another and Hindus should be grateful to everyone who has helped them in this way.

Another interesting element in the Hindu view of gratitude is that its followers should not expect gratitude in return for favors done to others. The act of doing something for someone out of pure generosity, not in return for something or in expectation of gratitude, is considered the greatest gift that can be given. No matter how small the act, it can never truly be repaid.

Thank you for exploring the views various religions have on the subject of gratitude with me. Please join me tomorrow and we’ll take a look at what modern science has to say about the parent of all the virtues.

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