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I'm looking for early Sutras that talk about gratitude. I'm especially interested in if there are lists of things that we can be grateful for, and there are sources that deal with gratitude for lay people.

(So far I've seen the Maha-mangala Sutta, which in the translation linked to talks about "blessings", but in another place ("Old Path, White Clouds" by Thich Nhat Hanh) is translated as "observances", so I'm not sure if it's relevant)

Thankful for help and with kind regards, Tord

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The Pali is 'kataññutā' & also 'kataññutā kataveditā'. 'Kataññutā' means 'what others have done for us'. 'Kataveditā' means 'what we must do in return'.

Kataññu (adj.) [cp. Sk. kṛtajña] lit. knowing, i. e. acknowledging what has been done (to one), i. e. grateful often in combn with katavedin grateful and mindful of benefits

Kataññutā (f.) [abstr. fr. last] gratefulness (defined at KhA 144 as katassa jānanatā)

Kataveditā (f.) [abstr. fr. last] gratefulness:

Pali dictionary

SN 20.12 states:

Tasmātiha bhikkhave, evaṃ sikkhitabbaṃ: ''kataññuno bhavissāma katavedino. Amhesu appakampi kataṃ mā nassissatī''ti. Evaṃ hi vo bhikkhaveva, sikkhitabbanti.

Monks. You should train yourselves thus: "We will be grateful & thankful and we will not overlook even the least favour done to us". This is how you should train yourselves.

AN 2.31-32 state:

Now what is the level of a person of no integrity? A person of no integrity is ungrateful & unthankful.

I tell you, monks, there are two people who are not easy to repay. Which two? Your mother & father. Even if you were to carry your mother on one shoulder & your father on the other shoulder for 100 years, and were to look after them by anointing, massaging, bathing, & rubbing their limbs, and they were to defecate & urinate right there [on your shoulders], you would not in that way pay or repay your parents.

Mother & father do much for their children. They care for them, they nourish them, they introduce them to this world. But anyone who rouses his unbelieving mother & father, settles & establishes them in conviction; rouses his unvirtuous mother & father, settles & establishes them in virtue; rouses his stingy mother & father, settles & establishes them in generosity; rouses his foolish mother & father, settles & establishes them in discernment: To this extent one pays & repays one's mother & father.

As for the word 'mangala', it means 'luck' or 'blessing' (rather than 'observances')

Mangala (adj.) [cp. Vedic mangala. Expld by Dhtp 24 with root mang, i. e. lucky; see also mañju] auspicious, prosperous, lucky, festive Nd1 87, 88; KhA 118 sq.; SnA 273, 595; Sdhp 551. -- nt. mangalaŋ good omen, auspices, festivity

  • Thank you for your time and effort in writing this detailed answer. Would you say that the Maha-mangala Sutta has the most comprehensive list of things that we can be grateful for, or are there other Sutras that you would recommend that I look at? /Tord – sunyata Dec 20 '16 at 13:06
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    These suttas above are the only one's i know. The word 'gratitude' does not appear very much in the suttas. However, having gratitude is the most basic form of Right View. MN 117 defines the most basic Right View as the view that your life is the recipient of gifts, offerings & sacrifices from your mother & father. Read the link: accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.117.than.html where it states: "And what is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions? 'There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed....There is mother & father. " – Dhammadhatu Dec 20 '16 at 19:56
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Householder Tord, interested,

first of all here, let us chant the preliminary passage in homage to the Awakened One, the Blessed One:

- Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammā-sambuddhassa -

if having read the Maha-Mangalsutta gratitude appears where the blessing become blessing on the path, right after the virtue section.

Althought the word gratitude is not so often a mentioned in the text, gratitude is a very factor of right view:

He has right view and is not warped in the way he sees things: 'There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed. There are fruits & results of good & bad actions. There is this world & the next world. There is mother & father. There are spontaneously reborn beings; there are brahmans & contemplatives who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.'

...seeing that there are gifts, giver... and seeing the dependency on others, which, if clear, serves strongly toward the wish for an escape from debts.

The Blessed One said, "Now what is the level of a person of no integrity? A person of no integrity is ungrateful & unthankful. This ingratitude, this lack of thankfulness, is advocated by rude people. It is entirely on the level of people of no integrity. A person of integrity is grateful & thankful. This gratitude, this thankfulness, is advocated by civil people. It is entirely on the level of people of integrity." (Kataññu Suttas: Gratitude)

Proper gratitude is the very reason for absence of stinginess, which is a quality of all Noble Ones (8 people on the path) and the absence of ingratitue a very requirement not only to even gain Jhanas but also to be able to gain path and fruits (=right view).

"Without abandoning these five qualities, one is incapable of entering & remaining in the second jhana... the third jhana... the fourth jhana; incapable of realizing the fruit of stream-entry... the fruit of once-returning... the fruit of non-returning... arahantship. Which five? Stinginess as to one's monastery [lodgings], stinginess as to one's family [of supporters] {, the sixth: stinginess with Dhamma}, stinginess as to one's gains, stinginess as to one's status, and ingratitude. Without abandoning these five qualities, one is incapable of entering & remaining in the second jhana... the third jhana... the fourth jhana; one is incapable realizing the fruit of stream-entry... the fruit of once-returning... the fruit of non-returning... arahantship.

"With the abandoning of these five qualities, one is capable of entering & remaining in the second jhana... the third jhana... the fourth jhana; capable of realizing the fruit of stream-entry... the fruit of once-returning... the fruit of non-returning... arahantship..." (MACCHARIYA SUTTA — STINGINESS)

While ordinary people also feel such as gratitude, such is mostly, or only toward sense-object (kāmaguṇa), not even toward the giver, supplier.

On a higher level goodness (guṇā, (skillful) giving) of others, would be possible perceived and gratitude for the giving of sense pleasures felt, if one understands that there are sacrifices behind. Being devoted toward, falling for, a popstar or a cook or a romance, might be traced as such.

The next higher level is giving of the lives needed means, such as beginning by giving birth, food, shelter, clothes, medicine and further the teaching of skills to provide ones live and without dangers between others. Those people, starting by ones parents, up to those guiding toward good, are called Gods, Brahmas. Integrity starts there where a person has great gratitude beginning by ones mother and father which is the previous drive to success in doing good and lighten ones debts:

"I tell you, monks, there are two people who are not easy to repay. Which two? Your mother & father. Even if you were to carry your mother on one shoulder & your father on the other shoulder for 100 years, and were to look after them by anointing, massaging, bathing, & rubbing their limbs, and they were to defecate & urinate right there [on your shoulders], you would not in that way pay or repay your parents. If you were to establish your mother & father in absolute sovereignty over this great earth, abounding in the seven treasures, you would not in that way pay or repay your parents. Why is that? Mother & father do much for their children. They care for them, they nourish them, they introduce them to this world. But anyone who rouses his unbelieving mother & father, settles & establishes them in conviction; rouses his unvirtuous mother & father, settles & establishes them in virtue; rouses his stingy mother & father, settles & establishes them in generosity; rouses his foolish mother & father, settles & establishes them in discernment: To this extent one pays & repays one's mother & father." (Kataññu Suttas: Gratitude)

On the point where one changes to a "child of the Noble Ones", the main gratitude falls all but toward those who provided the possibilty toward liberation from the near endless net of debts, while of course the gratitude toward parents, teacher and supporter, as giver of the prerequisites (birth,..) for liberation, are not forgotten at all, yet could be repayed by helping them toward path, while such as gratitude toward supply of sense-pleasure fades rapidly, soon even seen as danger.

There are finally those hardly ever to repay (although all debts would fade with highest liberation):

Has done much

  1. "Bhikkhus, these three persons have done much to a person. Which three? Bhikkhus, the person gone to whom this person takes refuge in the Enlightenment, in the Teaching and the Community of bhikkhus.

"Bhikkhus, the person gone to whom this person knows as it really is, this is unpleasant, this is the arising of unpleasantness, this is the cessation of unpleasantness and this is the path leading to the cessation of unpleasantness.

"Again, bhikkhus, the person gone to whom, this person destroys desires, releases the mind and released through wisdom, here and now abides having realized. Bhikkhus, these three persons have done much to this person.

"Bhikkhus, it is not possible that these three persons could be thoroughly repaid with gratitude, by this person revering him, attending on him, clasping hands towards him and honouring him with robes, morsel food, dwellings and medicinal requisites."

Even an Arahat does not abound gratitude.

Yet in relation toward all other beings such as karuṇāguṇaja, goodness out of compassion, which do no more really carry and debts for such, is what might be best expressed with the meaning of Bhagavato, a liberal, a real giver.

Most of you live in a world that tries to reject all kinds of debts for the sake of more and easier consume and that even in relation of Dhamma and practice, yet traditional the most focus would be making aware of debts and to develop deep proper gratitude, all aside toward sense-pleasure and their giver.

Wishing all to recognize that repaying is not only necessary to spend a good life here and after, but also to be clear that there is only one path to escape the wheel of debts, my person ends here, letting the relative tiny but not less powerful gifts of teaching Dhamma on gratitude, that he could collect till this days in western language for further share here behind, and no, Dhamma is not without strings, one received, but pulls one toward liberation:

Every ceremony, teaching on Dhamma, entering a practice, would start with Namo, for a heart released and it's possible good to try another time to make such more common also here, where thing of reality in the world are often total ignored, yet so importand to see clear and understand the power of vision, pasada, clear.

So may you feel a lot of respect and gratitude also for all the many sacrifices you must must have done in the past, to be able to come till here and the debts of them, an possible a single missing skilfull choice right here, may left behind a lot never needed to bear another time.

mudita

A possible extended answer as well as given space for discussion and question can be accessed here: [Q&A] What did the Buddha say about gratitude?


(practical) Edition in regard of practice:

[Q&A] How to develope, learn and maintain gratitude (right view)?

(Note that this is not given for trade, exchange, stacks, entertainment and akusala deeds, but as a share of merits and continue such for release)

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    Thank you for taking the time to answer the question, for my benefit and for the benefit of all <3 – sunyata Jun 23 at 19:40

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