November 1, 2020
In this month when the Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated in the U.S. and many other places in the Northern Hemisphere, I’ve been reflecting on what gratitude is. When asked what we’re thankful for in our lives, what often come up are those things that are easy to enjoy and that fit our notions of what is good or right. Yet there is much more. We could practice recognizing the many forms divinity takes in our lives. A part of gratitude is seeing life itself as a blessing—even when a blessing seems to be hidden in a challenge. It may be that this situation benefits our spiritual growth and opens our mind to new vistas.
My experience is that if I catch how my mind is creating an inner melodrama because of something I may have reason to dislike, I can turn things around by becoming more aware of the circumstance and then naming what I’m grateful for in this situation. Such an attitude resets my outlook and supports me in moving forward. In this way, I can shift my inner state toward contentment and gratitude in that very moment.
In this month of thanksgiving, let’s take a look at the meaning of gratitude on the Siddha Yoga path. As Siddha Yoga students, we are naturally grateful for Gurumayi’s grace and the Siddha Yoga practices and teachings.
Gurumayi has taught that we can cultivate gratitude in our hearts by remembering the experiences we have been given of the inner world. What an extraordinary perspective to live by!
My first notion that there even was an inner world came in September of 1987, when I began attending the Siddha Yoga Meditation Center in Eugene, Oregon. We sang Jyota se Jyota Jagao, and in the meditation that followed, I became aware of a space in my inner consciousness that was vast, calm, and quietly alive with something I had no words for. It was somehow both a deep part of me yet much, much greater than my personality or my mind. Years passed, and then, at some point, I understood that I could go back to that experience just by thinking about it. It was like choosing between two different “addresses” in my awareness: my calculating mind or this vast space of silence and subtle light.
Over time, I’ve learned to practice shifting my attention more and more from the enticing dramas in the smaller part of my awareness to the subtle elation of this light, which I began to know as my innermost Self. The interesting thing is that this space is by no means static. By accessing the Self, I seem to be enhancing my experience of it—or deepening my experience. I don’t really know which. But I would say that expressing my gratitude for the Self by remembering these experiences has become the most significant focus of my sadhana.
Expressions of Gratitude
In this month of cultivating an ongoing sense of gratitude, I would like to point you toward a timely collection of pages to explore on the Siddha Yoga path website.
- Reflections on Gurumayi’s Message: Each of the Reflections on Gurumayi’s Message for 2020 is a powerful expression of gratitude from a Siddha Yoga student for a personal transformation that came through his or her engagement with one teaching from Gurumayi’s Message talk. More reflections will appear throughout the month.
- Shares on Thanksgiving: One way to enhance your own sense of gratitude is by reading expressions of gratitude from other people. The Shares from Siddha Yogis in Honor of the Month of Thanksgiving convey appreciation for the bounty of the Earth. After reading these shares, if you are so inspired, you can write and submit your own experience of gratitude for the abundance of nature.
- Proverbs on Gratitude: Throughout history, many thoughtful people have expressed their deep gratitude for life’s beauties and God’s blessings. Proverbs on Gratitude is a collection of these inspirational expressions, treasured in cultures around the world.
Deepavali and Indian New Year
November 11-14 (12-15 in India) and November 15 (16 in India)
Deepavali, the Indian festival of lights, is a celebration of the inner light and the many forms of illumination it provides. The symbol for this holiday is, appropriately enough, a deepa, the Sanskrit term for “lamp,” or a diya, which designates a small oil lamp, often made from clay. The holiday’s name, Deepavali, conveys the image of a row of illumined lamps. The final day of Deepavali celebrates the homecoming of Lord Rama after his fourteen years of exile in the wilderness, and tradition has it that the pathways to the Lord’s home in Ayodhya and the whole of the city itself were ablaze with rows of lights.
This holiday does not always occur in the month of gratitude, but there is a particular resonance when, as in this year, it does. One of the highlights of Deepavali—also known as Diwali—is a puja on the final day honoring Mahalakshmi, the goddess of beauty and abundance. Each of the four days of celebration from November 11 to 14 (November 12 to 15 in India) has a different way of expressing gratitude for divine support and abundance.
The day following Deepavali—November 15 in the West, November 16 in India—is celebrated as the beginning of the new year in Gujarat State, parts of Maharashtra, and a number of other sections of India. Reflecting India’s vast cultural diversity, various communities have designated their own New Year’s Day, yet this particular day has come to be known, generally and even internationally, as Indian New Year. It is a day of new beginnings and is considered one of the three and a half most auspicious days in India.
Recently, I’ve become more aware of the deep connection between gratitude and giving. Not only does the experience of being grateful nourish my heart, it naturally inspires me to be generous with others. Isn’t this a remarkable alchemy of the mind and heart? I am reminded that in one of her Blessings to Treasure, Gurumayi encourages us to be generous. “Give to give,” she says. I see this as an invitation for us to give for the sake of ourselves and others—to give so that we can be of service to another, to give because it’s needed, to give because by doing so we can help to uplift our world in ways large or small.
It may feel, in this time of challenge that we’re going through, that each of us as an individual has less to share. I think it’s important for those of us on the Siddha Yoga path to remind ourselves of how much we truly have. I find that when I make a list of my blessings, I always begin with having Gurumayi and her grace and the Siddha Yoga path in my life.
Making my own list of blessings also helps me to become aware of those who have needs that are going unfilled—and I am then grateful that I have the financial or practical means to support others in some modest ways, that I can sometimes make a difference.
In this month of being thankful, perhaps you might choose to reflect on your own experience of gratitude and to find ways to give from your heart—and thereby serve the world and expand your own sense of joy and peace!