We are essentially pure souls temporarily living in a physical body. We can and should use our God-given gift of free will encased in love to make a difference in the world today, even if it is in a small way. All of us making the same difference together do so in a big way. Íishyas should be grateful to their gurus, husbands to their wives, wives to their husbands, parents to their children, children to their parents, students to their teachers and teachers to their students. It's far more effective to praise others and appreciate what we have than to find fault and complain about what we don't have!
Gratitude and appreciation are the key virtues for a better life. They are the spell that is cast to dissolve hatred, hurt and sadness, the medicine which heals subjective states of mind, restoring self-respect, confidence and security. Shall we review them one at a time and consider a practice, a sâ dhana, for each?
First, gratitude. It is a feeling within the heart that we cannot suppress for long when overcome with abundant memories of all the good that has come into our lives. Most often, people remember the bad happenings, perhaps because they make the deepest impressions in the subconscious and are not expected. Good happenings are expected and therefore tend to be overlooked.
The sâdhana here is to take out paper and pen and list all the good that has come into your life during the past five years. The list will grow as memory is stimulated. Should it not be possible to think of even one good thing, then write the affirmation several times, "I am a spiritual being of light maturing in the ocean of experience." Soon a good memory will come up, followed by more. Feelings of loving appreciation will begin to flow toward those who participated in the good times. Forgiveness then wells up for the bad times. Amazingly, on the day I was writing down these thoughts about gratitude, a Kauai islander handed me a paper on which was written the following wisdom from the Catholic mystic, Meister Eckhart: "If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough."
Now let's look at appreciation, turning our thanks toward the people in our lives. The sâdhana of appreciation is to approach those you are grateful to and tell them, to their face, while looking deep into their eyes, how much you esteem and value them. Be specific. Find details to share so they know this is not a shallow compliment. Explain what each one has done to inspire this loving confrontation and convince each in turn that you are sincere. The look of a full smiling face, eyes shining and heart full of love, perhaps followed by a big hug, is convincing enough in itself. Words of appreciation are words people do not often hear. These loving confrontations do not happen nearly often enough among friends and relatives in today's world.
Loving appreciation is a life-changing force just waiting to be used. Express appreciation to community leaders, business associates, spiritual mentors, family members and friends as often as you can. Loving appreciation is a magic formula that works both ways. When we commend another, we are automatically uplifted.
Hindus believe in each individual as a soul, a divine being who is inherently good. We all have a threefold nature: instinctive, intellectual, intuitive. Develop the intuitive/spiritual/soul nature with compassion, devotion, penance. Use the intellect to help subdue the instinctive mind. Guilt is not a part of Hinduism. There is no eternal hell. You have a continuity of consciousness when you transition to the inner worlds. There is no devil, but there are mischievous "asuras."