Give Thanks For God’s Divine Blessings
It has become a tradition in our society to say “thanks” whenever someone has done something good to you. Not only is this considered an expression of good manners, but it is a wonderfully simple way to show your appreciation for little things as well as big things. From a spiritually advanced point of you however, your thanks should not be limited only to things normally considered good, but should also extend to the negative occurrences in life. The day that you thank someone for showering you with abusive words or for splashing mud in your face, is the day that you have stepped onto the path of saintliness!
Although this may seem initially difficult to understand, situations like these make it possible for you to watch your mind, and to observe your reactions. They give you the opportunity to reflect within yourself and ask the question, “Am I practicing advanced religion? Am I practicing Vedanta?” For only during negative occurrences do you have the opportunity to control your temper, anger, hatred, and to clearly observe the workings of your ego.
Appreciating Divine Blessings
Suppose you were in a desert dying of thirst without a drop of water to be found anywhere. Then, lo and behold, someone comes by and graciously gives you some water. Your eyes would light up and sparkle with immense gratitude, and your thanks would come from the depths of your heart.
Much in the same way, this world process is like a desert, with every individual thirsting for the true meaning of life. However, the situations that you will encounter in life, both positive and negative, have been well planned by God to eventually lead you to the Waters of Immortality that will forever quench your thirst. Should you not then thank God from the depths of your heart for that Divine drink, for all the experiences that were so compassionately given to you? In this process, the highest expression of your thankfulness is the attainment of Enlightenment, God-realization.
The Secret of “T-H-A-N–K–S”
In order to enjoy thankfulness from a spiritual point of view, reflect on the points that I have outlined with the letters of the word, “THANKS.”
T is for Truth
Your life should be a constant pursuit of truth. By truth we are referring to that knowledge which transcends the normal human intellect, the truth which has been revealed by the intuitive intellect of sages and saints and made available to us in the scriptures.
By studying the scriptures under the guidance of a spiritual preceptor, an aspirant will gradually be led to understand the highest of all truths. According to Sri Shankaracharya, the great exponent of Vedanta, “Brahma satyam jaganmithya jivo brahmaiva naaparah” – “Brahman alone is the Truth. The world that you experience in the realm of time and space is illusory in nature.” All your experiences are based upon how your mind reacts to perceptions drawn by your senses, and they are illusory.
H is for Harmony
The great secret of spiritual advancement is to evolve a harmonious pattern in your daily life. Set aside a little time for all the important aspects of spiritual sadhana, but do not overdo anything. There must be a time for meditation, for the purification of your intellect through reflection, for the study of the Scriptures, and for the development of devotional feeling to God. In addition attention should be given to your health, and for the performance of your daily chores.
Harmony is also of supreme importance in another aspect of your life – in the inter-interpersonal relationships within as well as outside of your family. Promoting harmony is a great secret for enjoying peace and joy in this stressful and complex world.
A is for Aspiration
Kindle the light of aspiration for Self-realization within your heart. It is the greatest opportunity and privilege to be born in a human embodiment, for only in a human embodiment do you have the possibility of allowing your intellect to advance and the light of aspiration to grow ultimately leading to the attainment of communion with God.
It is this possibility of unfolding aspiration which really distinguishes a human being from other creatures and lifeforms. It is aspiration which links one with the Divine Self. Although the moon is high in the sky, certain lotuses turn to the moon, commune with the moon, and bloom. Similarly, although God transcends time and space, every individual in the lake of the world process can turn his face to the Divine Self through aspiration and bloom into Self-realized sage. No matter how transcendent God appears to be, by the force of your aspiration becomes your innermost Self.
N is for Negation
Ahamata and mamata, the sense of I-ness and mine-ness, must be negated. One of the most subtle points in Vedanta philosophy is to understand that ahamata and mamata are projections of a mind which is conditioned by ignorance.
Most people possess a completely erroneous idea of their true identity. Through many embodiments you have said, “This is me.” Suppose through some form of psychic power you were able to see one hundred of your previous incarnations lined up before you, with each one saying, “This is me.” Well which one are you? Are you this body or that body? Are you this personality or that personality? Each time you enter into a new embodiment, you completely leave the old “This is me” behind. Yet, in each embodiment, the ideas that “This is me” and “This is mine” seem totally real, final, and irrevocable.
Each moment that one exists in the jungle of “I” and “mine” he or she is threatened by tigers, lions, jackals, and vultures – the impurities of the mind which take the form of anger, hatred, greed, fear, etc. However, during deep sleep everyone is pushed beyond the sense of I-ness and mine-ness and is therefore, able to completely relax. The only problem is that in daily life you cannot remain in that peace of deep sleep for very long. You must always wake up and see your peacefulness fly away. Only in a state of Enlightenment can that state of peace be maintained at all times and under all conditions. An Enlightened mind soothes the rough edges of the world process, converting thorns into flowers, adversity into prosperity. If the nature of your mind were such, you would have no reason to be under stress or to ever be in pain.
In an interesting story told about Alexander the Great it is said that when Alexander was a young boy, his father possessed a mighty horse that no one could tame. Alexander studied the horse, and realized that it was afraid of its own shadow! Whenever he saw his shadow in front of him, he would jump up and down, and create great havoc. So Alexander tried riding the horse in the direction of the sun and once the horse saw its shadow was behind and not in front, he became very calm and came under control.
The implication of the story is that as long as one maintains a sense of I-ness and mine-ness, the mind can never be tamed. However a mind which has turned away from these shadows and faces the sun, the Divine Self, will easily come under your control.
Thus the sense of I-ness and mine-ness must be patiently and persistently negated by an aspirant. The more you are able to do so, the greater is the possibility of enjoying peace.
K is for Knowledge
When you listen to the teachings of Vedanta with a receptive mind, your intellect begins to grasp the Vedantic truth that you are not the transient body. Deep down you are the immortal Self, and nothing in this world can touch you. The idea that you are being hurt by the world, that you depend on the world, is confined to your mind.
When you first begin to acquire this Vedantic knowledge in satsanga (study of scriptures under the guidance of a spiritual preceptor), it is difficult to accept it as true because all your experiences in life seems so real. However, if you reflect upon your experiences in dream, you can understand the assertions of Vedanta more readily.
In a dream you may be sliding down a slope, terrified that you may break your neck or injure your whole body. But, the moment you awaken you realize that you are perfectly safe and sound. So too is the situation with the apparent realities of your waking life. Your body and personality may seem thrashed by situations and circumstances, yet on a deeper level, the innermost Self within you is ever untouched. The mind goes on creating dramas, projecting pleasure and pain, prosperity and adversity, but the innermost Self remains untouched. These projections continue on the basis of different karmas, but the projections do not affect the screen. The innermost Self in you is like the screen, unaffected, untouched.
This sublime knowledge is first grasped in theory, intellectually. Then, as you meditate upon it, and assimilate it, ultimately the intellect becomes intuitive. It is through intuitional intellect that there is a direct experience of the truth that brings about Enlightenment.
S is for Surrender
Surrender is a mystical term which implies that inwardly you feel the Divine Hand guiding you, sustaining you. Thus, you need never worry. In order to attain the sublime height of Self-realization, learn to develop devotion to God. Just as a child surrenders in the hands of the mother, feel the Divine Hand of God sustaining you. As you develop an awareness of Divine compassion sustaining every fiber of your life and personality, you learn to surrender.
However this does not stop your activity. Rather, it simply refreshes you. You have an abundance of energy in all your activities, because you know that deep down you are sustained and nourished by an inexhaustible fountain of Divine Grace. Subsequently, surrender leads to samadhi, or super consciousness, and samadhi leads you to Self-realization. Thus, in our analysis of the word “T-H-A-N-K-S”, S really refers to surrender – samadhi – Self-realization.
Therefore, remember the formula “T-H-A-N-K-S”. T is for Truth. H is Harmony. A is Aspiration. K is Knowledge. And S is Surrender to God. By following these guidelines you will be practicing thankfulness towards God at all times. May God bless you with his boundless Grace!
Hari Om Tat Sat!