This week many of us will pause to participate in what we call “Thanksgiving,” for the blessings in our lives. There is a text called the “Mangala Sutta,” the Buddha’s discourse on Blessings. At the beginning of the sutta, he asks: “What is truly auspicious, truly a blessing?” His response (perhaps surprising) is how to craft an empowered life that is in harmony with, and supportive of, our deepest values. The thirty-eight enumerated blessings in the sutta remind us that we are a part of something greater than a small sense of self. Connected to all of life through integration of deep wisdom in our lives, we give and receive blessings.
What he describes as blessings is essentially an integrated way of living in the Dhamma—fulfilling individual spiritual and communal requisites for success such as education, attaining a craft, discipline, virtue, fulfilling family responsibilities, generosity, as well as the elements of a spiritual life—respect; humility; contentment; gratitude, patience, the ability to take criticism. Through these come the blessings of a mind unshaken by changing worldly conditions, “sorrowless … stainless … and secure.”
Can we this week of Thanksgiving look at the world with “quiet eyes,” (as expressed by the Theologian Howard Thurman) and remember these deepest gifts with which we are blessed? Can we give and receive such blessings by our quiet—acknowledging the turmoil of the world, remembering its many injustices, and yet blessing it with our peace, loving kindness and compassion?