gratitude in Buddhism

Updated On — 11th Oct, 2022



Even though it’s not the end of the year yet, Thanksgiving has always been a time of reflection for me. I look back with chagrin at all my failures and aspirations. And I think about our world.

We don’t have to look too far to see how much pain we have been through so far this year with so much gun violence, acts of racial injustice, growing economic disparity, environmental calamities, the North Korean crisis.

And yet we move forward, to keep on giving and loving.

Buddhist monks begin each day with a chant of gratitude for the blessings of their life. In Tibetan Buddhism, the monks and nuns offer prayers of gratitude even for the suffering they have endured:

Grant that I might have enough suffering to awaken in the deepest wisdom and compassion.

It’s easy to take for granted our life. The Shin Buddhist monk Ho Sen’s haiku:

Another year passed.
Empty rice sacks remind me
how lucky I am

You would think Ho Sen would feel lucky and grateful if his rice sacks were full, but instead he reflects on his good fortune. The empty sacks lead him to think about all the food he has received that kept him alive. It’s easy to forget how fortunate we are to be alive.

Is it possible to actually feel gratitude for our life just as it is with all of the stuff we add on this this thought, like am I missing out on any Black Friday deals?

The lovely, elder Cambodian monk, Maha Ghosananda, a witness to unthinkable atrocities in his country one said:

If we cannot be happy in spite of our difficulties, what good is our spiritual practice?

The opening paragraph of Thich Nhat Hanh’s beautiful book, Being Peace comes to mind:

Life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby. To suffer is not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life. They are within us all around us, everywhere, any time.

Remember, these are words from a man who watched as his country, Vietnam, being torn apart by war and as his family and friends wounded and killed by bombs, Agent Orange, and other devastations.

On this day we give thanks, can we share a little of our safety, well-being and relative privilege with others, by radiating loving-kindness to the less fortunate?

May all beings be happy, be safe, be liberated from suffering and the causes of suffering.

Have a great Thanksgiving.


Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), The Meal, also called Bananas, 1891




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About Tom Davidson-Marx

Former Buddhist monk, now father of two and full time registered nurse, my passion is sharing what I have learned from a life-long love, study and practice of the early Buddhist teachings. Thanks for reading.

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