Giving Thanks for Life Itself

Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.  

Luke 15:31&32 

Dear members and friends,

When I arrived in New York City 30 years ago, the very first thing my cousin told me was, “You should know how to use these two phrases very well in America, “Thank you” and “I am sorry.” Ever since I have used those two phrases many times as well as observed people using them. However, after 30 years of using them, at times I wonder what we really mean by “thank you” and “sorry.” Today, I would like to focus more on “thank you” because Thanksgiving is just around the corner. The word “thankful” is defined as “pleased and relieved” or “expressing gratitude and relief.” Psychologically speaking, “to be thankful” could be defined as “being conscious of benefits received.” It seems that we feel “thankful” when we become conscious of receiving something beneficial and/or relieved from something challenging or troublesome. The father in the story of the prodigal son could be a good example of a person feeling thankful. He was relieved from his long and painful agony of worrying about his son who ran away, and thus also was feeling pleased. In expressing his gratitude, he was willing to offer a feast to the people of his village. 

Thankfulness is a healthy state of being recommended by many spiritual practices. However, some people may pause and ask, “what have I received to be thankful for?” or “how could I cultivate thankfulness while living a life that is filled with challenges and problems?” To those people, Buddha may point out the importance of acknowledging the universal and essential gift that is shared with all living beings: life itself. Though at times we may at times feel lost, unfair, unpleasant, and even angry, all those feelings are emotional reactions to things that happen to us. According to Buddha, this means we have a choice in how we react to such happenings instead of letting instinctive arousals lead our mind astray. Afterall, such emotional turmoil is all happening within or because of our own minds. 

My brothers and sisters in God, let us take a moment and reflect on the very preciousness of our life itself. Let us bring our minds to the many gifts that we cherish every day, and cultivate thankfulness in our hearts for all the beings and matters that sustain and support our life. 

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee