As November draws to an end, it brings us closer to a favorite American holiday – Thanksgiving. A time when families travel far distances to get together, cook meals, celebrate and give thanks. A colleague once told me how this was her favorite holiday because it came with all the delicious food and no expectations of gifts – hence no stress and pressure to shop or meet all the myriad demands and expectations of family and friends. Amidst the food, the frenzied shopping for black Friday, the pardoning of the turkeys and the mangled history of the holiday itself, let’s not forget the spirit of why we celebrate this – to give thanks.
While we use this holiday as a ritual reminder to be grateful for all the wonderful blessings received this year, let us also remember to be grateful every single day and moment. In my eLearning lecture this morning, Swamiji spoke about gratitude in the context of devotion. The purpose of Bhakti (devotion) is to develop humility and gratitude, he says. As we progress on our spiritual path, one of the early benefits of this knowledge of Vedanta is the understanding of the relative absurdity of this material world. Experiences that you once enjoyed and reveled in (over-indulging, drinking, over-consumption, extreme attachments, futile acquisitions) all seem to become pointless.
But although we develop this half-baked knowledge, we still retain the mighty ego – the insufferable feeling of ‘I know’. The ego clouds the mind, our judgment and stands as a huge barrier on our path of progression. Bhakti (devotion) is the tool by which we disarm and subdue this ego. Folding our hands and bowing our head in prayer – we acknowledge the insignificance of our presence in this magnificent creation of God.
In our morning prayers, we thank the Sun for rising yet again without fail. In our prayers after bath, we thank God for the miracle of another day. Before eating, we again thank the fire that cooked our food, the hands that made it, the perfect mechanism that is our body for consuming and being nourished by it. In our evening prayers, we thank the Sun again for leaving to make way for night fall. Despite all the knowledge we claim to have acquired, there are still zillions of unanswered questions. In Bhakti (devotion) through prayers, through acknowledging the presence of a higher power and a higher knowledge – we surrender to this ignorance.
“The moment you are born the good world provides you with everything you need. Oxygen to breathe, mother’s milk, the right temperature within and without, pressure inside and outside and countless other things. You become totally indebted to the world. You must therefore maintain a sense of gratitude all through your life. And serve the world, serve society, serve one and all. This is the first of the elements of right living.”
“The blog above are thoughts of a student of the online weekly lectures”
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