Gratitude is a wonderful thing to cultivate especially when we express gratitude for our spiritual blessings: the knowledge that we are eternal spiritual beings; the fact that we are not the temporary material body we are inhabiting; nor are we the mind, which plagues us with troubles and disturbances; the knowledge that in this very life we can experience full self-realization and God-realization; that we can become completely happy and find perfect spiritual love; gratitude for receiving these wonderful and purifying spiritual sounds (mantra) which make spiritual experience possible.
Leading off our day with such prayers of gratitude helps us experience being in the world but not of the world. They keep us focused and enhance our appreciation of our true purpose.
My dear Lord, by Your causeless mercy I am awakened to consciousness …. For this causeless mercy of the Supreme Soul, the friend of all fallen souls, there is no way to express my gratitude but to pray with folded hands. – Bhāgavata Purāṇa 3.31.18
Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya
Earlier in the week I had a very nice call. I was in a meeting, a conference call with a friend from Canada who works in layout and artwork on publications and promotions for kirtan events and literature and all kinds of things like that, really nice person. And his wife heard me talking with him. And so, after the meeting was finished, she came in, and asked him to call me again. And she wanted to express her gratitude.
This couple is someone I’ve known for many years, and they went through a period of unimaginable misfortune that was due to drug addiction, where the woman ended up abandoning her family. She ended up living on the streets. I mean, all the horror stories of serious drug addiction. I mean complete—you can’t even imagine how bad it gets. And all the time her husband, because of his spiritual training, was so incredibly patient and compassionate with her. Her children were utterly distressed and couldn’t understand what was going on. She was living on the streets and subjected to all kinds of violence and things. And she—I had the opportunity to speak to her a number of times when she surfaced. And eventually she entered a rehab program with some determination, after detoxing and doing this about three or four times, and this time she was successful.
And now, just over a year and a bit later, it’s just like you can’t even comprehend that it’s the same person. She is like just beaming and glowing. She looks so wonderful, and she’s so happy. And they’re very actively engaged in kirtan and meditation programs and outreach in their part of Canada and different places. And she said that she wanted to thank me for the help, but she said the thing that really turned it around for her this time was that she became focused in “leading with gratitude.” Her days started, and often there was a revisit, of this very humble and deep gratitude for things which made it so that she could stay the course.
In yoga teachings we know that one of the biggest obstacles to your happiness is your own mind. It’s just like, it’s a mind-blowing idea. It’s extraordinary. They talk about how the mind can be one’s greatest friend or one’s greatest enemy. The idea that your own mind can be your greatest enemy actually is quite, quite far out.
And of course, the foundational understanding of all yoga practice, or meditation practice, leading a spiritual life, is, number one: this body which I am currently inhabiting is not me. This is not who I am; which, of course, is quite mind-blowing, considering where things are today with social media and the selfie, you know, this massive dive into embracing the idea that the body is the self. This is the foundation of all unhappiness. This is a profound idea, but this appreciation that the body is not the self: I am an eternal spiritual being, residing within the body. Stimulating my body and my mind with different experiences does not fulfill me. It does not give me the happiness that I actually desire. It doesn’t lead me to the experience of great transcendental love that I also desire within my heart of hearts.
So, her practice of gratitude was not founded upon simple and obvious things, to most people. They were actually founded on some deep spiritual principles. She really began to appreciate, in the midst of her addiction, remembering what she had previously learned in her sadhana, her spiritual practice, that the mind is also not who I am. I am not obliged to follow everything that arises in the mind. That is a choice.
And the more I’m grounded in a spiritual understanding of my actual spiritual identity then the greater is the impact of that reality. I can actually really step back from all the emotions and all the stuff going on in my mind, and I can make a decision of how I am going to be affected by things. I can actually deeply connect with this great spiritual truth of my identity.
And that has a powerful effect on my mind, to the degree that even something like, I mean if anybody has known anyone that’s been heavily addicted, particularly to these highly synthetic substances like methamphetamine, crack, cocaine, anybody that’s developed a heavy addiction or you know anybody that’s had a heavy addiction, it’s just like, the depths to which people can be pulled and the difficulty to get out of it is just like monumental.
But, for these eternal spiritual truths that she was able to bathe in every morning, in this practice of gratitude, that she started, along with her other sadhana, her meditation. This word sadhana means, it actually is a means to an end, the means of the practice that produces a certain outcome. So, for one that is engaged in the yoga process of bhakti, it is the practice of devotion. And so her sadhana bhakti is an absorption in a mood of devotion, and where she recalled these eternal truths. She contemplated on that unimaginable patience and love and kindness of her husband, the tolerance of her children, the support from people that she knew and had helped her, for the great truth that she had received from her spiritual practice, from this unconditional love that she was receiving, and of course, the eternal connection with the sweet Supreme Soul.
And bathing in this practice of gratitude, it, what it does is allow you to stay in the more present, in a really spiritual way, and to remind you that you don’t have to be constantly swept away by desires and emotions. You can actually take charge of your life. You can learn to make really, really good choices in life that produce wonderful and transcendental outcomes. We all have this capability, but it really is very much centered upon being the driver of the bus. We need to take control of our life rather than being simply enslaved by our desires and our mind (and who knows who’s got control of that!) and then that’s dragging me all over the place. And so, her practice of gratitude, she said, it so grounded her every day, and it was like this persistent and constant reminder of her unimaginable fortune even in the most dire of circumstances.
And so, I thought it would be good to share that and this idea of leading with gratitude, where in your life you develop such a practice, where you actually contemplate upon and express gratitude for all of the good fortune that you have. And as one grows in spiritual understanding, then of course, that gratitude is so much tied to that spiritual understanding and the spiritual vision that is cultivated. Self-realization is a process by which one’s view of the world of others and oneself completely changes, completely changes, and one becomes very much—or they experience a deeper purpose in life, a really a deep sense of purpose and meaning that is tied to this spiritual cultivation and the experience that arises from it.
So, I can only express my own feelings of great thankfulness when I hear this woman speak about this, because it is a wonderful reminder. If you want to experience a wonderful life, and at the end of this journey, a wonderful death, because this is where it’s all going, then the need to cultivate spiritual understanding experience and vision is the highest priority. There is nothing more important. This is actually the purpose and goal of human life, to attain self and God realization.
So, beginning the day with such a practice, leading our day with gratitude, and even ending it with gratitude, is a tremendously grounding experience that can only benefit us all.
So that’s about all I got, but I think that’s really far out. Spiritual or transcendental truth is amazing. And in my 50 odd years of spiritual practice, I have seen so many people, ordinary people, and people that have come from really dire situations, attain the most wonderful spiritual outcomes and experience. So, I encourage you to integrate this into your life.
And of course, we know that the thing that brings the greatest internal transformation, that which spiritualizes our mind, our heart, that which draws us into spiritual truth and experience, is the use of transcendental sound, of spiritual sound, and adopting, embracing, such a practice is truly going to be transformative.
So I will chant. I think tonight I will chant the Mahamantra also, and invite you to join with me.