How do you experience gratitude? Gratefulness, as David Steindl-Rast writes, happens when the heart flows over and must be expressed. Gratefulness arises like the surf or a fresh breath, natural and in accord—a basic, personal awareness that something good has happened. When we look at our lives for these moments, we find them filled with gifts: a sudden smile; caring and being cared for; meeting a teacher of the Dharma; finding our way through the twisted tangles of our greed, anger and ignorance; and, being in the company of good friends and guides.
This issue of Mountain Record, we turn toward gratitude as an integral part of spiritual practice. Sometimes it’s not so easy—when gratitude is not present, when resentment or bitterness holds sway—and there are Buddhist teachings to help turn and free up these states of mind. “Everything in our lives comes from the kindness of others,” says Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche. “We will only go beyond our confusion and become fully at ease with our lives if we receive the kindness of others.” Seeing even difficult relationships in a new light, be they our intimate family or strangers, we can live more freely and at ease by acknowledging the good we receive. Thanissaro Bhikkhu explores the early sutras of the Buddha and his foundational teachings on gratitude; Sayadaw U Pandita describes the counter-points of ingratitude and conceit, and how practice can transform our grasping and arrogance. In Sangha Reflections, a range of student voices express the nuances of receiving and appreciation, taking up every opportunity to face our own minds and transform what appear as barriers into opportunities. Writings by Jack Kornfield and Jan Chozen Bays offer ways to meet every opportunity with appreciation, and in his discourse, Shugen Roshi explores giving and receiving in the teacher-student relationship as fertile ground to help us see and realize our true potential.
Deeply felt gratitude arises even while living in a culture of excess, selfishness, and fear. Taking our questions to teachers, bringing wise sincerity to all that we encounter, we can recognize that in sharing our hearts we open up, breathe more freely—becoming capable of receiving more than we know.
Suzanne Taikyo Gilman
Mountain Record Editor