Cultivate the Virtue of Gratitude

The poet Mirza Ghalib wrote, “I have a thousand desires, all worth dying for. Many of them have been fulfilled, yet they are not nearly enough.” The substance expressed in these lines is not ordinary. It expresses the feelings of dissatisfaction and lack of contentment. “A thousand desires, all worth dying for.” A human being has endless desires. He tries tirelessly to realize them yet remains unsuccessful in many an attempt. “Many of them have been fulfilled, yet they are not nearly enough.” He says that when compared to his effort, the outcome has been closed to nothing. “I have not reaped the fruit of my labor, my intense hard work.” To see people immersed in this bitterness is a common occurrence these days.

Disappointment is spread all over. Economic distress, loss in business, and other uncertainties abound. Relationships and relations are witnessing widening distances. People living under the same roof experience an immense disconnect. Dignity, prestige, status, etc., seem to be diminishing by the day. The imprint of loneliness in the individual’s life is becoming more pronounced. Anxiety, stress, and worry for the uncertain future sometimes even lead to blaming God Himself. What form does this blame on God take? One says, “Oh Lord! If you had to put me through so many trials and tribulations, why did you give me this life in the first place? When you send us to this Earth, you have the power to bless us with this joy and bliss. I have never witnessed joy in my life.”

Such a person usually has a long list that is full of complaints and grudges. He says, “I feel like my life resembles the scene of weighing frogs on a weighing scale. When one is under control, the other leaps away.” No sooner than one situation comes under control than the other flips out of it. Caught in the web of these circumstances, one becomes so negative that one’s ability to act competently is the first thing that suffers. When such a person is overcome by despair and frustration, he often wonders as to where he can go, whose refuge he can seek. Perhaps a wise man has rightly remarked – if you cannot see very clearly, then place your trust completely in one person. That person will teach you such a lesson and open your eyes in a way that your vision will become sharp enough to see far and wide!

Does there exist such a mold or parameter which can be used to imbibe the feeling of gratitude in oneself? Is there such a lesson that can be used as a continuous reference so that gratitude becomes a way of life? Your mind may have often faced these questions. Is there anyone in the world whose faith has not been shaken? Is there anyone in the world who has not swallowed an insult? Is there one who has not experienced the untimely demise of a loved one? Who has not endured that pain? Is there anyone who has not experienced the upheaval of circumstances in this world? That is why these thoughts seem unfamiliar to us. When we are told to cultivate the virtue of gratitude, it seems like an impractical thing to do. If nothing in life is worth being grateful for, then what should we be grateful about?

Let us look at this example. The workplace is full of jealous and contemptuous people that use inhospitable words. How can one be grateful in such an environment? Let us take an example from the present context.

A little girl from an ordinary household begins to learn to speak in English and takes this up as her passion. The people around her, those who know her well, began commenting with sarcasm, taunting her, but through discipline, hard work, and continuous practice, she became very fluent in speaking English. Then the same people around her mocked her saying it was no big deal that she knows how to speak in English as numerous people around the world speak this language very well. The girl thinks, “They are right. Let me do something different.” So, she learned the specific accents prevalent in different countries. Once she could deliver the accents well, there still was no mercy in the criticisms on the part of other people. The girl marched forward and invested herself in learning the technical aspects of several languages. There came a time when this girl began to be searched on Google by the title, “Wonder girl of India.” She is a mere fourteen-year-old. She is in the second year of graduate studies at Delhi University. She began to deliver motivational lectures before highly placed functionaries. She gave several interviews, and in one of these interviews, she revealed this. She said, “Many people have inspired me through my life. But if I were asked as to whom I would like to thank first and foremost, it would be my critics. I took them as helpers in my progress. So, I would like to convey the first thank you to them.”

We can see how clear and poignant this example is. It is from the present context as well. These days, one comes across several people that are immersed in the fire of jealousy.

Persons from one’s own family, colleagues, competitors, etc., sometimes use such vitriolic words that pierce the mind to its very depth. This girl was in a way discouraged from moving forward by all those around her. Had someone else been in her place, and was subjected to the same sarcasm and mockery, they may not have been able to even think of making it so far. But she took all these things in her stride and benefited from them in her progress and advancement, giving sincere thanks to her critics for helping her progress. We can see from this example that a sense of gratitude was imbibed, and bitterness was never allowed to taint the steadfast determination to reach the goal.

Each criticism was used as a stepping stone to reach higher, to be persistent and unwavering while maintaining internal harmony and faith. This is the parameter that can be used to imbibe the feeling of gratitude in oneself.