Gratitude Is an Essential of Life
A Dharma Teaching by Grandmaster JinBodhi
Every family has its own problems, troubles and worries. The more you think about them, the more they multiply. Conversely, if you don’t think about them, they may diminish. If you were at home now, you might be picking a fight with a family member or worrying about some issues. But while you are here at Bodhi Meditation Center, do you feel troubled? Most people would not. Everyone you meet here is unrelated to you or your problems, so there is no one to pick a fight with. However, some of you came with family members. It may be best for you to sit apart as you share the same energy fields, affecting one another.
Identify the Root of Your Problems
Elderly couples who often argue are prone to falling ill. This can be partly because they are affected by each other’s negative energy. Hence, some time after their marriage, some couples begin to occasionally sleep in separate beds or separate rooms, which can be a healthy thing to do.
When two people under the same roof breathe the same air, air that is made worse by closed windows, the germs of one person can easily spread to the other. Couples affect each other constantly. Often the two will think alike, and even have similar personalities. Without having different compositions of nutrients in their bodies or varied life-energy fields to offset their energetic similarities, couples may find that illnesses eventually arise. I suggest a long-term couple introduce a “third party“ into their household, like a plant – perhaps this could change the energy field. Since a plant isn’t a person but a neutral object, it will not spark any kind of disagreement.
A Couple’s Tale
A disciple in Taiwan wrote me a letter expressing her gratitude that after chanting for her parents in the hopes that they would stop arguing, the husband-and-wife relationship has really improved.
Prior to this, her 92-year-old father was unable to live independently. Her 88-year-old mother could hardly look after herself, let alone tend to her husband. Desperate, they hired a foreign domestic worker to take care of the father.
Before this arrangement, her mother would constantly yell at her father, “Who’s going to take care of you now? I’m too frail to wait on you! You probably can’t walk now because you criticized me for years.” She constantly cursed at her husband.
After the domestic worker arrived, however, the elderly woman developed a whole new host of problems: She had insomnia, and would keep watch of every movement made by her husband and the domestic worker. It got to the point where her husband was afraid to ask the worker for help even when he needed it – for instance, to go to the bathroom, or to the kitchen to have a meal. Every time he did, his wife would be overcome by jealousy: “You lecherous old man!” Her behavior irritated him to no end, but he couldn’t speak clearly enough to retort. Neither was he strong enough to run away. What a torturous existence! To the man, the source of all his suffering was his wife. To the elderly woman, the whole fiasco was due to the domestic helper, who couldn’t understand Mandarin and often wondered what was going on between the couple.
Each time their argument escalated they would call up their daughter, who tried to stop them from fighting. When mediation failed, she would resign herself to listening to their bitterness.
Eventually, their daughter participated in a Bodhi Meditation Retreat. She started chanting for her parents, hoping they would reconcile. After seven days of sincere chanting, her parents went an entire month without an argument. Chanting for her parents was extremely effective in her case.
Treasure Your Union
Sometimes family members are the reincarnations of past-life rivals. It’s like historical figures Yue Fei and Qin Hui: After being archenemies in a past lifetime, their debts to each other had not been cleared. Hence, by the law of cause and effect, they were born into the same family in their next life and continued to settle their debts to each other. Debts can make two people husband and wife in order that they can continue to settle their scores. They fought with swords in their past lives, but fight with words in this life.
What’s the cause of their marital anguish? They have yet to learn to treasure the good fortune that they have. Think about it: Marital partners are two halves of a whole. If someone hurt your spouse, would you protect your loved one? If yes, why do you fight?
People often say couples are the reincarnations of old enemies. But, in fact, those closest to you are rarely your enemies from a past life. We are united in our present lives because of deep connections, love and gratitude. Unfortunately, we don’t know how to cherish our union and are unable to see the value in our other half.
Instead, we hurl hurtful words, attack each other’s flaws and rub on old wounds. We initially got together because of love, but as time passes, we become enemies, filled with malice toward the other person. Especially for those yet to cultivate a Buddhist practice, or those who lack wisdom, the easiest person to hurt is the one closest to them.
Gratitude: First Lesson in Buddhism
Many couples, whether they have lived together for 30 years or just three years, have accumulated a good amount of gratitude between them. So why are they always at odds? It’s because they don’t treasure their relationship. They don’t see that they are fortunate to have each other. All they know is hurting others to gain immediate personal satisfaction.
When you fight with your spouse, the harsh words hurt your parents and your children. What do children learn from watching their parents fight? They feel a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. They may be traumatized and develop emotional problems, and begin to avoid their parents. Ultimately, they fear getting married. These are just a few examples of the problems created. If there were compassion in your heart, you would want your parents to be happy and your children to grow up in a healthy and close environment.
You have come here to learn Buddhadharma. You stand before our Buddha of infinite compassion – compassion is a quality that many, regardless of age and education, lack. Thus, the first step of Buddhadharma is the cultivation of gratitude.
Give Love, Receive Love
Once, in a class of young people, a 20-year-old woman told me she planned to have three children. I said: “That’s good! But are you mentally prepared for parenthood? Physically, you are capable of having three children, but will you be able to nurture them with compassion, tolerance, respect? Have you gained empathy and generosity of spirit? Can you love with all your heart? If not, you’re not ready for marriage, and certainly not ready to have children, because you’re still a child at heart.”
Perhaps you are 65 years old. But if you do not love your spouse, how can you love, care for and help others?
Young people looking for a partner should not focus on appearance. Observe a person’s character, which is the most important aspect. Character develops through your self-cultivation practices. A Buddhist understands compassion and tolerance. A person with such qualities is ready for marriage. Among those who have achieved a high level of education, some have become as insensitive as rocks and constantly attack their family with facts. It is preferable to be around a television set, which can at least bring some happiness, than to be around such insensitive people.
In short, if you want beauty and love to fill your life, if you want to be loved, then you must truly love others and have a heart of compassion and gratitude. Only then will you be sorely missed and fondly remembered after you have left this world. When you are alive, people near and far will feel your warmth in their hearts – how wonderful that would be.