“As stated in the Vedas (Katha Upanishad 2.2.13), eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman: the supreme one is supplying all necessities to the living entities. The living entity who is therefore grateful to the Supreme Personality of Godhead is certainly qualified with good characteristics.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.21.44 Purport)Download this episode (right click and save)
A wise person is grateful. This only makes sense. Wisdom in this regard is directly linked to memory. One would have to say that an intelligent person remembers. Forgetfulness means that important information won’t be retained. You would rather trust a person who remembers than a person who does not.
“O best among the glorious ones, all of this has been achieved by me through the divine grace of You and Your brother. One who does not repay the favors offered to him certainly is considered a disgrace among men.” (Sugriva speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 38.26)
To think that every outcome is due solely to my own effort is silly. A quick way to disprove the false notion is to make a simple observation. Does every person who puts in the same effort achieve the same outcome? Indeed, based on the limitations of the material world we know that this can’t be true. If two people apply for a job opening at a company, giving a great interview in the process, there is still only one person who can get the job.
The rational conclusion is that outside factors play a role. Some call this luck, but there are so many identifiable people to whom a debt of gratitude is owed. They rendered services which continue to pay benefits.
1. My parents
I wouldn’t be in this world without them. It’s as simple as that. I may not think they are very smart; a sentiment only natural for children to have. Not everyone is born into the same circumstances. Some people never have the fortune of meeting their parents. Still, I am grateful for them for bringing me into this world. In the rarely attained human form of body, I have a chance to achieve the perfection of living.
2. My teachers
Parents can fall into this category, as well. We’ve heard of the geniuses, who are able to do amazing things. Still, they needed someone to teach them the basics. They had to learn to read and write. The teachers give the foundation of knowledge, and without the underlying support there would be no potential for reaching a higher stature.
3. My enemies
Why should I be thankful to people who are inimical toward me? The enemies keep my ego in check. They are a stark reminder that I cannot be loved by everyone. I will never be universally adored. Neither am I perfect. I am grateful to my enemies for reminding me of my limited ability in a material existence.
4. The Supreme Lord
The Upanishads relay an important truth about God. One way to define Him is to say that He is the one who is supporting the many. He is supplying the necessities of life. Not just to me. Not just to everyone in my community. To every living thing, from the tiny ant to the creator of all beings - God is the maintainer.
Life itself is proof of His existence. He is the life of everything that lives.
“I am the original fragrance of the earth, and I am the heat in fire. I am the life of all that lives, and I am the penances of all ascetics.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.9)
As mentioned previously, remembrance is a sign of intelligence. You can’t perform well on an exam if you can’t remember the material. You can’t solve complex mathematical computations if you forget the basics. Gratefulness is a sign of wisdom tied to remembrance.
“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)
From the Bhagavad-gita we learn that remembrance comes from God. He gives forgetfulness, as well. Sometimes it’s better to not remember a traumatic incident. The concept of time healing all wounds works in part through forgetfulness.
Everything that we have, the good and the bad, comes from God. He is the person to whom the most gratitude is owed. He is the very reason for an existence, and the more one connects with Him the more their problems diminish. The source of all misery is forgetfulness of the relationship to the Divine, and so if there is a sincere desire to rekindle that relationship, then the one who supports the many offers help directly by taking away forgetfulness and strengthening remembrance of Him.
To teachers and parents debt too,
Outside help needed by me and you.
But God to whom the most is owed,
This body and everything else bestowed.
Life of everything right now living,
As Supersoul witness most forgiving.
For devotees remembrance to lengthen,
And perseverance in task to strengthen.