Dove-colored Bones, Gratitude and Grace

sun and moon over the north pole.jpg


Dear friends 
journeying together through this time of the lunar anniversary of the Buddha's birth, enlightenment and final passing,

This Memorial Day now brings us to a meditation of silent gratitude.

The Buddha, enlightened, having spent a full week sitting in meditative bliss, is then said to have spent the three watches of one final night in contemplation of paticca samuppada  - the interdependency or dependent origination that was to become the crux of his teaching.  Then, have risen from his seat, he walked away from the site of his enlightenment, and then turned and looked back.  Looking back he took a long moment of pause, profound gratitude rising in his heart.  And he stood there, flowing in Cosmic time, he remained immersed in this meditation on gratitude for another seven days, through to this coming dark moon, now just a sliver remaining before. 


flickriver.com "Buddhist pool"

The Buddha Standing Immersed in Meditation on Gratitude Looking Back Upon the Bodhi Tree
Haw Pha Kaew - ancient Buddhist capital Vien-tien, Laos


I am deeply impressed by the sense of this seven-day standing meditation in heart of profound gratitude, for what it is to have awakened, and for all the very long story of myriad causes and conditions that supported it -- even the roots, the trunk, the bows and leaves of the pipal cum Bodhi tree that served as both enlightenment seat and shelter -- that we still so revere in gratitude as memorial symbol of the teacher's awakening.

The Buddha was later to speak very supportively of gratitude as one of the key causes and effects of a life of personal integrity.

In coincidence of time, it seems a fitting meditation for our US Memorial Day, as this day was originally begun by freed slaves in memory and tribute to those who had given their lives for their freedom.  And now it has become a tribute to all who have given their lives for the welfare and wellbeing of others, including our friends, family and loved ones.

It is said that there is no greater gift.  


5_21_italy_skeleton_hug.jpg 
5-6,000 year old human skeletons found in Italy in 2007  

Heap of Bones in the Itivuttaka and pile of bones image
Satipatthana Mindfulness of the Body Meditation - Bones (1f final)


Natural gratitude is a loving, caring and deeply knowing response to seeing and understanding the interdependency of our lives.  Knowing that we all live physically and emotionally supported by and responsive to one another.  

And with this realization, there is an opening, unfolding and expanding of the sphere of love and compassion, and of a caring and generous responsiveness that, beyond our very small spheres, opens to embrace the whole of life.

understanding causation/inderdependency --> gratitude --> compassionate generosity


In Anguttara Nikaya (2:118) the Buddha encourages, commends and exemplifies not only reciprocal gratitude or grace afterwards -- the knowing the good done to us and wishing to pass on these benefits and share then in return - katannu katavedi (one kind of "pay it forward") --  but also the even more radical kind of pay it forward ~

~ of offering help first, unselfishly, without knowing that one has received anything, and without any expectation of anything in return - pubbakari.  

Sanskrit krat (Pali kat) ~> English gratitudegrace and gratis (free :-)


I am stirred by both, but especially by this mysterious second kind of grace in giving, as it seems to have a different quality to it, unbound from tit for tat and from the chain of needing something from someone else first or back again afterwards -- it is a freedom.  A freedom both to follow and to go ahead in gratitude and grace.  A kind of perfect compliment. 


In remembrance to all those known and unknown who have given, are giving and will give of their lives for others, 
especially all of our parents, teachers, benefactors and friends,
all of our spiritual teachers and exemplars,
and to the Buddha for his great sharing of the Dhamma
and amazing gift of his life to the Sangha,

Tathaaloka Bhikkhuni

Memorial Day USA


Comments