Why gratitude is especially difficult in today’s world

Even when we have enough of the things we need, we don’t always feel grateful for them. Why is that? Because we don’t see the things we have in isolation; we see them within a frame of reference that we are often unaware of. One common frame of reference is our social circle. Within that circle, if many people have far more things than what we have, we just don’t feel grateful for our possessions, even if they are enough for us. 

Today’s hi-tech world has enormously, unprecedentedly enlarged our frame of reference. The media shows us the most glamorous objects from almost everywhere in the world. We may have a phone that works perfectly well for our purposes. Yet, if we see a newer, flashier phone, we may start feeling dissatisfied with our phone. Dissatisfaction and gratitude are poor bedfellows.  

In this contemporary setting, how can we cultivate gratitude? 

  1. Don’t let the culture define our frame of reference: We can’t always control what the culture displays, but we can control whether we dwell on it. Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita (02.62) outlines how contemplating indiscriminately on tempting objects leads to distress. 
  2. Redefine our frame of reference by finding a meaningful purpose: Aiding us in such redefinition, the Gita’s worldview reveals how our life has a magnificent purpose. When we focus on such a purpose, we value things based on how they matter to us, not on how the culture glamorizes them. The more we strive purposefully toward the things that matter, the less we crave for irrelevant temptations paraded before us. Over time, as we move closer to the things that matter, feelings of gratitude enrich our heart. 

One-sentence summary:

If we let the culture define our frame of reference, gratitude becomes nearly impossible; if we pursue a meaningful purpose that redefines our frame of reference, gratitude becomes eminently possible.

Think it over:

  • How does today’s culture make gratitude nearly impossible?
  • How can you change your frame of reference? 
  • Contemplating which objects makes you feel dissatisfied? When encountering those objects, how can you redirect your thoughts?

***

02.62: While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.

Author: Chaitanya Charan

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4 Comments

  1. Thank you, Prabhuji, for another brilliant post.

    I especially loved the application of the scientific term – “frame of reference”, to explain the spiritual message.

    You’re truly a wonderful spiritual scientist and an inspiration to many.

    Hare Krishna, Prabhuji! Dandaavat pranam!

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    • Yes, it’s an multivalent term that works well here. Thanks for your thoughtful appreciation.

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  2. Thank you for this post Prabhu-Ji. Sadly, we are currently living in the age of merchants, where everything is defined in material terms and monetary value. While the price of everything is understood, the intrinsic understanding of the worth of what truly matters has been lost. The capitalists and merchants who shape this prevailing culture persist by creating a constant state of lack. This is done not only by misguiding our desire to belong but also through telling people that they will be happy if they buy the latest ‘thing’. People realise when they buy whatever this thing is that it is empty and does not bring happiness but, due to prevailing delusional thinking, they then rush out to buy another ‘thing’, desperately hoping this one will fill the emptiness in their hearts. So it goes on. A self perpetuating hellish state of misery and disconnect. Gratitude cannot exist within this mindset. Only when people are reconnected with God will the emptiness be filled. This is why daily reminders such as Gita Daily are so essential. Day by day they gradually bring us back to who we are and where our true being resides.

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    • That’s a succinct summary of our current predicament – you should also start writing (if you aren’t already). Yes, Gita daily is as much a reminder to me as it is to it readers.

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