Skip to main content

Fundamentals

Gratitude Is the Driving Force for Unlimited Development

Nikola Ilic/GettyImages

One who studies the teachings of Buddhism must not fail to repay the four debts of gratitude.
According to the Contemplation on the Mind-Ground Sutra, the first of the four debts is that owed to all living beings. Were it not for them, one would find it impossible to make the vow to save innumerable living beings. Moreover, but for the evil people who persecute bodhisattvas, how could those bodhisattvas increase their merit? (“The Four Debts of Gratitude,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 43)

Let us consider once again why it is that gratitude is so important. The reason is that it can serve as a springboard to help us overcome our lesser self and the narrow confines of self-interest.

In teachings expounded before the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni cited a lack of gratitude as the reason why persons of the two vehicles—that is, the voice-hearers and cause-awakened ones—could not attain enlightenment. In “Letter to Horen,” Nichiren Daishonin writes, “People of the two vehicles are referred to as those who do not know how to repay their debt of gratitude, and it is taught that they will never be able to attain Buddhahood” (WND-1, 512).

Lacking gratitude, persons of the two vehicles could not transcend their self-centeredness. They could not recognize that all people possess the Buddha nature. Consequently, they could neither reveal their own Buddha nature nor experience the joy of helping others do the same.

■  ■  ■

Our Buddhist practice is, in one respect, a struggle to overcome such self-centeredness. Without a sense of gratitude, we can neither break through our own shells nor hope to accomplish our human revolution.
At any rate, life presents us with an unending series of challenges. In the saha world, we need to have endurance and persistence sustained by a rich and profound spirit of appreciation and a deep wish to repay our gratitude. …

Genuine disciples never evade their responsibility for kosen-rufu, no matter what unfounded or unfair criticism is directed at them, or whether their efforts are recognized or not. Carrying on an inner dialogue with their mentor, they care about the happiness of others and strive tirelessly to show their gratitude to their mentor.

Through striving in this way, they can develop into people who can feel appreciation for everything in life; they can attain the expansive life state of Buddhahood and enjoy unsurpassed happiness. (Learning From Nichiren’s Writings: The Teachings for Victory, vol. 3, pp. 107–08)

Peace, Culture and Education: The Purpose of Buddhist Study–Part 3
(Chapter 28)

Ikeda Wisdom Academy: May 2020