America celebrates Thanksgiving each year on the fourth Thursday in November. Canada, whose holiday preceded America’s in history , celebrates it on the second Monday of October. It has it’s faith aspects for many, but it can easily be viewed as a time to express gratitude to anyone and anything that has made one’s life better. For my family it comports as comfortably as a Buddhist holiday as to others of Judeo-Christian heritage or any of the many other faiths practiced in America.
Nichiren, the 13th century founder of the Buddhism that I practice, frequently expressed gratitude to followers in letters he sent them. He took pains to acknowledge in detail his thanks for food, clothes, money or other support they sent him while he was in exile or living in a remote location. In those days, things could get lost or stolen in transit. So in addition to showing appreciation he let them know he received what they sent.
For me, I owe gratitude to countless people in my life. My parents, who brought me into the world, especially my mother who did her best to care for me after my father passed away and until she too passed away. My brother and his wife who took me in at age 16 after my mother passed away (my father died years before). Another brother who, along with the one who took me in, offered many life lessons. Teachers who inspired and gave me tools I use today. The person who introduced me to Buddhism and all those who have guided and inspired me in continuing to grow in that practice which has enriched my life. The master sergeant in Vietnam who was the bane of my existence the entire year I spent there. Why him, who treated me so badly?
My book, Waiting for Westmoreland, details the odd link to my future father-in-law, who so opposed my marriage to his daughter that he threatened to kill us. To him as well I have great gratitude. It was that threat that so motivated me in my Buddhist practice that my life and that of his daughter has been so joyful and successful. I didn’t hate him for it at the time; instead I prayed for his happiness. A happiness that he too achieved. So it matters not whether someone has given support, criticism or worse–in the end it’s possible to find a reason to appreciate all. Gratitude and thanksgiving are essential to living a happy and fulfilling life.