Monday Morning Greetings 2018 #2 – The Yoga of Thank You

January 8th, 2018

When I first read the second canto of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam a particular section in the fifth chapter struck me. Nārada inquires from his father, Lord Brahmā, about who is God and Lord Brahmā thanks his son profusely for doing so.
 
“My dear boy Nārada being merciful to all (including me) you have asked all these questions […]” (Bhāg. 2.5.9)
 
Śrīla Prabhupāda elaborates on the deep gratitude a spiritual teacher feels when an eager student gives that teacher an opportunity to speak about Krishna. He goes so far as deeming this the foundational principle of being a spiritual teacher:
 
“[…] Thus the devotee feels satisfied when such an opportunity is offered to him. This is the basic principle of missionary activities.” (Bhāg.  2.5.9, purport)
 
Every first Monday in January I ponder whether it is possible for me to come up with a new inspiration every week for the coming year and then find the time to write a quality essay on it? I become inspired to continue, however, when I consider the eagerness of my audience to read my weekly posts. So I thank all of you for engaging me in this service of writing Monday Morning Greetings.
 
I wanted this posting to be the first of the year because I feel there is no better subject to begin the New Year than gratitude. I miscalculated the date so I am posting it today, the second Monday of the year. Anyway, here are some thoughts on gratitude to begin the New Year.
 
Gratitude is the first budding symptom of the true self.
 
The goal of yoga is to live in the self. What is the self and what are its symptoms? We know the symptoms of the false self, the myriad of selfish desires and concerns connected to the conception of enjoyment and control. I thus think one of the symptoms of the true self must be genuine feelings that express the opposite, feelings such as gratitude. In gratitude we humbly acknowledge the mercy of receiving something that we value that is beyond our own control or ability to attain, an attitude that is the antithesis of the mood of false ego. Therefore I think gratitude must be one of the initial symptoms of the true self.
 
Śrīla Prabhupāda himself recognized gratitude as the foundation of spiritual relationships.
 
When I first became a Hare Krishna monk at the ISKCON ashram in Dallas, Texas Śrīla Prabhupāda soon came to visit. After Śrīla Prabhupāda’s morning lecture, a very tall devotee, around six foot five (apropos for Texas) named Jñāna-gamya, stood up and from his heart sincerely asked, “Śrīla Prabhupāda, how can we repay you?” I loved Śrīla Prabhupāda’s simple but profound answer that highlighted gratitude as the foundation of spiritual life: “Just remain obliged!”
 
Gratitude is the foundation of tasting the holy name.
 
Arguably the singular most important verse for followers of Śrī Caitainya[1] is the third verse of the Śikṣāṣṭakam:
 
“One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige and should be ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.” (v. 3)
 
Śrī Caitanya here equates humility with the ability to always chant. What’s the connection between the two? The only activity that one can do without break is one done in pure love or devotion, for every other activity eventually gets hackneyed or stale. But how to get such devotion? The answer is gratitude—the ability to appreciate and feel love when mercy is bestowed. A simple way to understand this correlation is to consider a spoiled child who feels proud and entitled. No matter how many gifts the parents bestow on the undeserving child, the child never feels or reciprocates its parent’s love because he feels entitled. Similarly, unless we are humble we will never feel God’s mercy in the form of the holy name, nor reciprocate that affection by chanting in devotion. Gratitude born of the mindset of humility is thus the foundation of tasting the holy name.
 
Chanting with gratitude.
 
Krishna hears our heart through the quality of our chanting and that, not just the syllables, is what actually pleases Him. Śrīla Prabhupāda thus instructed us that we should listen to the sincerity of our chanting. Therefore, when chanting, I try to hear myself expressing my gratitude to Him. “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!” then becomes the meaning or voice of my mantra.
 
Count your blessings! Happy New Year from Monday Morning Greetings.
 


[1] Śrī Caitanya personally told one brahmacārī to wear this verse around his neck and it is the instruction he gave to Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, the prayojana ācārya (the great teacher of prema-bhakti), when he wanted to know the goal of life and the practice to attain it.
 
 

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