Be Thankful For All Your Wondrous Gifts!
A Special Thanksgiving Message by Swami Jyotirmayananda
For a spiritual aspirant, Thanksgiving implies understanding the innumerable gifts that God has given to you, and being truly thankful to God for those gifts. In this world-process, every individual has been given the wondrous gift of embodiment. Embodiment consists of one’s physical body, the pranas, the senses, the mind, the intellect, and the ego. This Divine Temple is the gift that has been given to the soul so that it may attain freedom and experience infinite bliss. When you develop a deep understanding of this great opportunity that has been given to you, your heart will flow towards God in true thankfulness.
Those who are not spiritually sensitive give thanks to God every now and then, or perhaps only at special occasions, or sometimes, not at all. You may think that the things for which you give thanks to God are counted, but the truth of the matter is that you should be thankful to God for all things that are presented in life. Not only should you give thanks for the positive situations that arise in your life, but also for those developments that are viewed as being very negative. The reason for this type of deeper understanding rests in that what may initially appear to be negative, may actually be a blessing in disguise.
One who has developed this deeper spiritual insight will realize that there is a purpose behind every negative development, behind every frustrated desire. The following illustration of a parrot and the attachment to his cage will help to make this more easily understood.
Imagine for a moment that there is a parrot in a cage. Now and then he dreams of being free and flying gloriously in the sky. If the bars of this cage were to show any signs of breaking, the parrot will be delighted and thrilled at this development. The parrot will think that soon there will be enough room for it to escape and fly away.
But let us suppose that the parrot is too attached to his cage. It has been watching the cage closely since infancy, and has grown to admire every part of it. Suddenly, one of the bars breaks due to the rust that has accumulated over many years, and the parrot’s heart also breaks. It now begins to feel rather despondent and begins to think that life is going to be completely desolate. Everything that gave the parrot comfort and a sense of security is now breaking down and disintegrating.
You can easily see the two angles of view. For the parrot that is attached to the cage, every change in it is a form of frustration, a tense and uneasy experience. But for the parrot who is not attached to the cage and who wants to fly, every breakage in that cage, even the tiniest fissure, is greeted with joy. Each crack delivers a message of drawing ever closer to freedom. An aspirant must not allow his mind to be dominated by negative thoughts that develop from attachment. Like the parrot with the vision of freedom, an aspirant must have insight into the fact that all developments, even the apparently negative ones, have profound meaning and present an opportunity.
From the ego’s standpoint, negative situations are rather frustrating. However, by deeper analysis, you should realize that every negative situation will also help you to reflect upon what you should, or should not, depend upon. If you confront a negative situation in the right way, you will grow in mystical wisdom.
Thus, one must give thanks to God not just for those positive situations that arise in life, but for the negative ones as well. In this way, you will develop a more profound spirit of thankfulness. As this spirit grows within, increasingly try to fully utilize all the gifts that God has bestowed upon you, and in doing so, to nurture the perpetual awareness that God is always with you.
Mira, the great Saint, and Hindu poet, sang:
God has given you eyes, so that you can behold His beauty;
God has given you hands, so that you can serve Him;
God has given you ears, so that you can hear the Divine praises;
God has given you a tongue, so that you can utter His Divine name;
God has given you a mind,so that you can meditate on Him;
God has given you an intellect, so that you can enquire into His nature;
God has given you a heart, where you can commune with Him.
If you develop this type of spirit, you will begin to live a life of being truly thankful. This leads you to become fully aware of the Divine meaning behind your life, and to realize that God permeates your entire existence. With a true appreciation of all the blessings in life and a deep sense of gratitude, you become joyous and enjoy profound ecstasy. How wonderful it is to be embodied as a human being!
The Great Blessing of Human Embodiment
Sri Shankaracharya writes that there are three things which are unique in this world: the first is Manushyattwam – to be embodied as a human being; the second is Mumukshuttwam – to develop aspiration for Self-realization; and the third unique thing is Mahapurusha Samshraya – the guidance of a spiritual preceptor. These three things are the most blessed attainments that one can develop in life.
It is a profound opportunity for a soul to acquire human embodiment. Do not let this opportunity slip by without attaining the goal of life – Self-realization. The vast majority of people are not aware of the implications of being a human being. As you observe animals and other forms of life, reflect upon the condition of countless souls that are in different embodiments. This will help you to realize just how wonderful it is to live life in a human form.
Unfortunately, time passes by, and people do not pursue the goal for which their human embodiment was given. To better understand this, recall the story of the poor fisherman and the bag of jewels:
One evening, as a fisherman sat in his boat gazing at the horizon which was lit up by the bright light of the full moon, he looked down into the shallow water and saw something that resembled a bag. He picked it up and opened it, and inside he found a large number of shiny stones. This made him chuckle, but at the same time his mind was extremely burdened by his many problems. He was not able to catch enough fish to make a living, and was deeply worried about just how was he going to provide for his family?
Simply to distract his mind from his worries, he began tossing the stones one by one so that he could see how they splashed over the water. He continued doing this until only a few of them were left. It was only then that he looked more closely at them and realized that they were pearls. Each one was worth enough to make him immensely rich. The moment that he realized their value, he began to treasure them and would use them for the money that he needed to provide for his family. He soon began to prosper.
The situation is similar with every individual. As a human being, you have the possibility of recognizing the value of your resources; which, if utilized correctly, will bring you the highest treasure in life, realization of the Divine Self. Due to illusions and the pressures of past karmas however, the majority of people just let time continue to slip by. Year after year passes by, the same illusions are pursued, and the mind continues moving in the same vicious circles. Life continues rolling on until you suddenly realize that much of your wonderful time has been wasted.
However, the moment a correct understanding of the goal that must be accomplished begins to develop, you will begin to properly utilize whatever time and resources that you have remaining. By utilizing these things efficiently, you will experience just how wondrous human embodiment truly is and attain God-realization – oneness with God!
May God Bless You! Hari OM Tat Sat!