What are the common/widespread wrong meanings that people associate with or assign to the word 'gratitude'?

As we know, the society is made up largely of families, and those in turn are made of up relationships, which most commonly are underlied by sexuality, in turn often being related to guilt, as well as guilt based manipulations and control mechanisms. At the same time, we are inclined and even obliged to feel grateful towards our loved ones. So it is safe to assume that the obligation to be grateful and patterns of guilt (or other) based manipulations co-occur, and therefore can and probably tend to interact. And therefore it is also safe to assume that at least some part of the human species if suffering from views and actions rooted in a wrong understanding of gratitude.

Now, gratitude being such an important pillar of Enlightened teaching, what are some common roots and symptoms of false Gratitude which we should mindfully observe and then root out?

4 Answers 4


Gratitude conventionally manifests in the context of gift-giving.

AN8.31:1.1: “Mendicants, there are these eight gifts.
AN8.31:1.2: What eight?
AN8.31:1.3: A person might give a gift after insulting the recipient.
AN8.31:1.4: Or they give out of fear.
AN8.31:1.5: Or they give thinking, ‘They gave to me.’
AN8.31:1.6: Or they give thinking, ‘They’ll give to me.’
AN8.31:1.7: Or they give thinking, ‘It’s good to give.’
AN8.31:1.8: Or they give thinking, ‘I cook, they don’t. It wouldn’t be right for me to not give to them.’
AN8.31:1.9: Or they give thinking, ‘By giving this gift I’ll get a good reputation.’
AN8.31:1.10: Or they give thinking, ‘This is an adornment and requisite for the mind.’
AN8.31:1.11: These are the eight gifts.”

The first seven of these ways are somewhat "transactional" and often driven by assessment of gain/loss. Identity is therefore involved along with all attendant suffering. Indeed, there is a certain wrongness about suffering. And with such gifts one might say, "thanks for the gift" while feeling, "I wish for better and I will never wear that". Conventional gratitude is often entangled in wrongness arising out of attachments.

However, the eighth way is quite remarkable. Thinking "this is an adornment and requisite for the mind," one might be grateful for a single breath and live without wishes in this very moment.


Good householder asks in an enviroment where even gratitude for low goodness is denied. What does he expect to be capable to grasp the topic rightly if bond to such circumstances? How ever, for those capable to get healed:

The gratitude toward being given sensuality, is a gratitude that bind one in the world, makes one the servant of Mara. The gratitude toward wrong views, a gratitude that honors the food for defilements, is a gratitude that turns one downwardly. The gratitude toward giving sort lasting happiness is a gratitude the leads one to go after such...

If interested there are some points of kinds of giving, goodness, guṇa.

Proper respect and veneration means understanding gratitude: Respect and veneration

And it's because ordinary people feeling gratitude in regard of what has no essence, doesn't lead to essence, that essence and what leads to it isn't seen.

Much done is there, not really possible to repay:

  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."

[Note that this isn't given for trade, stacks, exchange and not for use for Vollkoffer, but for an escape from this wheel]


You should feel grateful to the circumstances which led to your freedom from Samsara. Within the samsara you should be grateful to those who led you on the path of liberation like Buddha. Wrong gratefulness will include gratefulness to the circumstances which led you attachment towards the samsara. Within the samsara , wrong gratefulness will include being grateful to those who led you astray from the path of liberation like Mara.


The first thing that comes to mind is that people might be going out of their way in the name of gratitude.

Also the notion of gratitude or a perceived lack of gratitude is something that can be used as leverage.

Ie a person can do something for another which is not easy to repay or they might actually make themselves unavailable to be repayed in many ways.

I believe that some people might be more comfortable being owed more so than being payed back because the dynamic of the relationship changes quickly if they lose that lender's status.

It might even happen that a person will hassle one about a debt and when one attempts to repay they will forgive it right there & then.

Another circumstance is when one might do something for another and damn near use it against him and even if he has been repayed or if attempts at repayment have been made, the lender might not agree that he has been compensated in full.

Ive read that Buddha said something like; "Don't sacrifice your own welfare for the welfare of another, no matter how great. Clearly know your own welfare and be intent on the highest good".

Therefore it is crucial to be certain about what is owed and how it is to be repayed.

I've read in a Buddhist text something close to that one's parents aren't easy to repay and rather impossible to repay by means of carrying them on one's shoulder's. However if one ie was to establish a stingy mother in generosity then one more than repayed them.

I think this is a good example of having a strong constitution.

If one's parents ie say: "We don't want you to be meditator doing asceticism. You owe us. We don't want to listen to your preaching, who do you think you are thinking you will teach your parents and why don't you just marry a good girl, it would be good for you and we can have grandchildren.."

Another thing i recall from Buddhist studies is something like: "it is foolish to pick up a burden which isn't one's to carry and it is likewise foolish not to pick up a burden which is supposed to be picked up."

Another example of how gratitude might be used in manipulation is if a person goes to some general population prison and is housed with some big dude who shows kindness as he gifts items like chocolate, smokes & coffee and then one day asks for some sexual favors, saying something like: "i scratched your back, why don't you return the favor? You aren't ungreatful, are you?".

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