Be grateful to myself

Apr 5, 2019

Our usual way of understanding “gratitude” is to be grateful to someone outside ourselves for something that we have. And that’s marvellous: we need to develop that.

But there’s another way we can look at it, which is a great method to counteract our low self-esteem and instinctive sense of never having enough, never being good enough, or even just taking for granted the good things we do have.

As we discussed last month, the Buddhist view is that whatever we are is necessarily the result of our own actions in past lives: literally so: this is the law of karma, a natural law that plays out every second in the lives of all beings.

Take the fact of our being human. If we’re Christian or Muslim, we’re grateful to God; if we’re materialists we assume our parents are the cause.

But from the Buddhist perspective we are the creators of our own present reality. This is an interesting take on things, and certainly not one that occurs naturally to us. In fact, it’s almost shocking to think that we have anything to do with who we are. For the Buddha, we have everything to do with it!

In fact, it would blow our minds if we realized just how hard we must have worked in past lives to be who we are right now.

Our consciousness finding its way to our present mother’s human womb was no random event: we must have consciously practiced morality and goodness in the context of a strong spiritual practice.

To be born into a world where we can get a job, get credit, receive nice things, we must have practiced generosity and consciously not stolen.

To have friends who are kind to us, who love us, we must have practiced kindness and patience.

For people to believe our words, we must have consciously practiced not lying.

For the food and air and water to nourish and sustain us, we must have not harmed the beings of this planet and the planet itself.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Thinking like this, there’s no way we’d just take it all for granted or assume it’s our right to have these things. I worked so hard for this life! Therefore, how grateful I am for my own past practice, my own morality, my own goodness.

From this understanding of this precious human life of ours comes a deep respect for it and a strong wish not to waste it.

Just like the simple example of those few pounds in our pocket, let’s say: because we know how hard we worked for them last week, there’s no way we’d want to waste even a penny. Same here. How tragic to waste this life that I worked so hard for in past lives.

And how would I waste it? By doing the opposite of kindness, goodness, morality, patience, non-stealing, non-lying and the rest. It’s logical.

And not only would we want to not waste it, we would want to actively use this human life of ours for the sake of others as well, all the beings we share this planet with.

Because developing this kind of gratitude to our past selves soften ours hearts and just naturally leads to gratitude to others for their kindness, their goodness – and patience and compassion for those who show the opposite.

More blog posts

The buddhas and bodhisattvas come where they’re needed

A question came up recently: Since Lama Zopa passed away and there have been prayers for his swift return, is that to be taken in a literal sense? Will he only reincarnate if there's prayer? It’s a really good question, and the answer is completely logical and simple...

Big surprise! Attachment is the main source of our problems

As far as the four noble truths are concerned, the main source of our suffering is attachment: this is what we have to understand. This is surprising: we don’t think like this. This is not Jung's model of the mind, or Freud's. And you don't get attachment from your...

Neuroses are not at the core of our being and therefore can be removed

Let’s talk about the fundamental point that underpins all of Buddha’s teachings from A to Z – all of Buddha's teachings from A to zed, as we say in England and Australia. According to the Buddhist analysis, the neurotic states of mind, the unhappy states of mind, the...

Share this article