A Time For Thanksgiving

All life has suffering. This basic Buddhist teaching, known as the First Noble Truth, has been sadly evident during the past year. Tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, war, terrorism, and the threat of a deadly flu have filled the daily news. Amidst all this turmoil, we sometimes lose sight of the things for which we should be grateful.

Autumn is in full swing and soon the holiday season will begin. Thanksgiving signals the start of this season of celebration. Amidst the food, drink and fun we take time to be thankful. How can we make every day a day of gratitude, a day of thanksgiving?

“Every day is a good day.” This Buddhist saying seems to make no sense. We have all had “bad days,” haven’t we? But, is it the day that is bad? If the weather and the events of the day meet our wishes the day is good. If our wishes are not met, the day is bad. Is the day any different? Unfulfilled expectations cause us to suffer.. Buddhism teaches us to change our expectations.

Buddhism has a long tradition of gratitude. For many centuries, monks followed the example of Gautama Buddha and his disciples. Their worldly possessions consisted of three robes and a begging bowl. The only food they ate was that which the people of the town gave them. If they received no food they did not eat. Depending on others for survival they were grateful for whatever they received. This tradition of gratitude still exists today.

The temple I attend in Chicago is a Japanese lineage of Buddhism. It is customary to recite the word “Itadakimasu” before eating. Roughly translated this means, “I will receive.” The deeper meaning is one of gratitude. Buddhism teaches that all that exists is the result of cause and effect. Everything depends on what went before. Nothing exists independently. When we say, “Itadakimasu” we are expressing our thanks to those responsible for providing the food. The farmer, truck driver, store owner, cook and even the animals killed so we have meat are recipients of our gratitude. We are thankful and humbly receive their offering.

During our busy, stressful lives we often forget what we have and instead focus on that which we think we need. If only we had more money, more possessions, more friends, more of everything then we would be happy. Our ego drives us onward. Buddhism teaches that this is the world of illusion caused by our ego. How can we truly have anything when everything is impermanent? The only thing we have is now. We must appreciate the moment.

As you take the first bite of food at your Thanksgiving dinner, your anticipation is rewarded. You savor the delicious taste and feel happy. Carry this feeling into your everyday life. Savor every moment and the opportunity for happiness that it provides.

For more information about Buddhism and Tuesday night meditation contact me at BASEWI@aol.com.