While having dinner, I asked my younger sister Liza, ‘Don’t we have a beautiful life now?’ She agreed to this. We were discussing how our maternal grandmother brought us up very lovingly (and gave us the life of queens) when we both lost our parents in childhood. My grandma never made us feel alone. When she passed away, our guardians treat us the same way now, with love and care, due to the grace of my Beloved Swami Ji. I always think about my life and feel so grateful towards God. Gratitude is such a beautiful and divine feeling.
I repeatedly tell this line to my sister, ‘You have many reasons to complain but please find at least one reason to be grateful for’. On that note, this is one of my favourite lines in Hindi, ‘Na karne ki toh bahut wajah hai and ek haan karne ki bhi socho’ which when translated into English means ‘You have many reasons to do nothing but find one to do something.’
A few years ago, I was sort of a person who complained a lot and my life guide taught me to be grateful. She said a very important thing to me repeatedly which took me a few years to comprehend. She said to me, ‘Riya when you complain about something repeatedly, the Universe will take that thing away from you. On the other hand, when you are being grateful, then the Universe will bless you with more’. With the passage of time, when I started practising gratitude, I am indeed receiving more in life. Now, the feeling of gratitude is beginning to blossom naturally in me.
The attitude of gratitude plays a vital role to lead a peaceful life. This attitude can be built like every other attitude. I probably was a grateful person earlier but I wasn’t aware of this feeling consciously. When I first heard this term ‘gratitude’, I started to ponder over this quite often. For instance, in my childhood, my grandmother used to teach my younger sister and me to pray before having food but we never took that seriously.
But as I grew up and started visiting Sri Badrika Ashram, I observed that all the people recite a prayer of gratitude before having food there. Since the ashram itself is my family, I am blessed enough to have food with the saints. So one day, out of curiosity, I asked an ashram resident (although I don’t remember who it was exactly) which mantra she usually recites before eating. With a kind smile, she told me that she would tell about the mantra in some time. Very soon, I observed that pretty much everyone in the ashram recites something before they ate. But, I never asked anyone again. Instead, I made up my own simple mantra of gratitude and started saying, ‘Thank you, Swami Ji / Hari ji, for food and everything else’. That became my own mantra although I do forget to recite it sometimes. For example, when I am extremely hungry and gobble down food, I forget to thank and hence I seek forgiveness remembering the story which I heard during Ram Katha that happened in the ashram. In this context, I will try to narrate it from my memory (to the best of my ability).
There was a person who used to sit outside the temple and savour the extra food which was leftover by the saints. He always prayed to God (out of gratitude) before eating. One day, he forgot to pray and accidentally took a bite of food. That food bite remained in his mouth and he did not swallow. This went on for days and the Lord appeared before him. The ever-compassionate Lord asked the man why he hadn’t swallowed his food for so many days. The man narrated the entire incident to the Lord. With mellifluous laughter, the beautiful Lord partook the same food bite from the man and ate it. The man was shocked and dumbfounded. Then, Bhagwan told the man that He always ate other people’s leftovers and hence did not mind eating the man’s food too. This is such a beautiful story of faith, love and gratitude. I use this story many times as an excuse when I forget to pray, but honestly speaking, the mantra of gratitude always comes into my mind whenever I eat. This is because I have practised the mantra subconsciously and reciting it has become my habit.
Any attitude can be built with dedicated practice and this ‘attitude of gratitude’ has changed my life for better. Last year, my wonderful life guide gifted me a diary called ‘Gratitude Journal’. This journal is available in our ashram’s bookstall as well. My guide told me to write a few words of gratitude in the journal every night before going to bed. I continuously wrote for a few months and left the practice of writing in it because I was bored. I have only a few people to be grateful for and repeating their names and kind deeds towards me brought no new feelings in my heart.
But I started to feel guilty every night since she is my life guide and I disobeyed her. I felt ashamed that I stopped writing. At that moment, I did some introspection about why I stopped. The reason was that I did not understand her concept entirely. The Gratitude Journal is built date wise which meant that I have to write about being grateful on that particular day only. I realised that even on the worst possible days, I have at least one reason to be grateful for. Hence, I started writing again in the journal and honestly I do not get bored now. I have truly started understanding the feeling and meaning of ‘gratitude’. I am thankful for this ‘attitude of gratitude’ that my life guide has taught me.
Small steps can easily bring this attitude. You can start by just saying a simple ‘thank you’ for the small kind act of anyone. I would suggest you all write a ‘thank you note’ in your diary for one thing of your day. You will feel good after writing that.
I am deeply grateful to Swami Ji for this beautiful life and sending the most loving and kind people in my life.
Thank you so much Sanjana Didi for editing my write up :).